IRENE BECKER – Constructive Discontent – A Critical Life and Leadership Skill

Constructive Discontent- A Critical Life and Leadership Skill



Purpose, meaning, contribution are the drivers that build our best selves, best work, best organizations. Having a keen mind, a positive attitude and the aptitude for disciplined thought, action and resiliency are critical, but they are no longer enough. Accessing purpose, meaning and our ability to contribute in the face of unremitting change, challenges and opportunities demands a whole new focus. A focus that starts with building what I call constructive discontent; a positive, purposeful and a somewhat counterintuitive strength that can be learned.

Living, communicating and leading smarter, faster and happier means developing constructive discontent. While the traditional definition of constructive discontent is one’s ability to stay grounded in conflict, I believe that constructive discontent is MUCH more. Constructive discontent is a learned skill that can help you feel an emotion that is stressful, anxiety provoking or painful while not being held hostage by them. It means developing new ways of reframing/thinking that will retrain your brain to not react or run away from painful or difficult emotions but to move through and past them.

Tips for Building Constructive Discontent

1. Expect change to be stressful, but know that you can use them to move forward smarter, faster and happier. Part of accommodating change is doing what you can to get additional help or support, using effective delegation, dedicating daily time to recharge, repurpose and reinvigorate. Find effective ways of putting your brain into an alpha state during the course of the day.

Here is a quick 2-3 minute exercise I call THE PA– USE that is easy to learn and really effective.

2. Understand and limit crisis orientation. Our brains are automatically set to go into fight or flight in reaction to fear. We live in a world where we are surrounded by negativity, fear, change and fear of change. Learn to understand when you are going into fight or flight mode, so that you can move past the 90 second window of reaction and respond rather than react or flee. Develop your ability to move past fight or flight, and not be held hostage by primal reactions that are no longer effective.

3. Be gentle with yourself. Get rid of the negative self talk, the should have, would haves. Notice any signs of stress in your body. Take a few moments to breathe deeply because it is impossible to maintain the same level of stress, anxiety or tension after breathing deeply.

4. Resist negativity because it will not take you forward. Develop positive habits of thought, positive coping styles that will allow you to build constructive discontent. Take positive steps to alleviate the pressures, the stressors you can do something about. Establish personal boundaries and priorities that work for you not against you. Offset pressures with time for relaxation and activities that bring you pleasure.

5. Develop habits of thought that will help shift your perspective and discover new options. Eliminate burnout factors by strengthening meaningful relationships with others and meaningful time with yourself.

6. Develop flexibility by simply identifying one rigid pattern of behavior/coping and turn it around. Observe yourself for one day. Notice how you react to compliments, to demands, to angry co-workers. Pick a habitual or rigid pattern of behavior, and turn it around in small consistent ways. Each small step, repeated consistently is a power step forward.

Developing constructive discontent may be one of the most powerful things you can do. Yes, YOU can re-train your brain to not resist negative, painful or anxiety provoking emotions, but move through and past them. You can become a participant observer and just watch the emotion without judgment, without reaction, while learning to really focus intently on your true goal and objectives.

MORE? My story and mission, and lots of great stuff on the blog about leadership, communication, career transition, happiness as well as self quizes-EQ/EI, career, life/work satisfaction



Do you want to hire me to speak/write? Build constructive discontent? Learn more about 3Q Edge™ coaching, consulting programs and services?


( The Coachable Moment for the Week ending April 27, 2012


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