– a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.
When looking at the above definition of comfort you’d think that the meaning of life is the eternal search for that very thing. Everything about it sounds like the most tranquil place on earth. A place where you get showered with gummi bears while watching unicorns play catch with mermaids. Or, failing that, barbeques and ballgames.
But it rarely is the case. Pure comfort without challenges is boring and lacks a certain meaning. This doesn’t mean that it is a waste of time. Far from it. It’s an important way of catching up with people and breaking bread over a couple of beers (or gummi bears). But as much as fun as beer, bread, bbq and ballgames are, life would be boring if that’s all we would do.
I often wonder why I seek challenges and new things when I have just gotten comfortable with my current situation. When everything in life is somewhat smooth, I decide to take on a challenge that requires stretching myself in awkward directions. Whether it’s a physical challenge, mental outreach or stepping into a position that makes my palms sweat as the adrenaline kicks in.
It’s not as if I am forced into it. Nothing requires me to stretch myself in awkward way, it’s all me choosing to do so. Well, most of the time anyways. And I know plenty of friends, family and acquaintance who do the same, and take it even further by never settling.
On another level, the most successful business people could comfortably retire in the Bahamas but instead decide to take on another business idea. Athletes have a crack at a second championship, even if it requires astronomical amount of training and mental toughness. Even us mere mortals seek for growth by signing up for random things that makes us uncomfortable.
That’s why we do it, growth. To either improve either ourselves or the world with our actions.
Now, I am sure there are a lot of people who are content with being content after they reach a certain point. And to be honest I occasionally envy people who can do that instead of constantly feeling like they have to start something new that tests their limits. But then again, most of the time I am content at not being content.
If you want growth and improvement, both within yourself but also in a larger scale by improving the world (if you’re into that), it will require you to be uncomfortable. When you do things that you thought were scary, hard, maybe even impossible, it brings you happiness and contentment knowing that you can do these things.
Stretching the limits
My goal is to be comfortable being more of myself in front of big groups without giving two shits about what others might think of me.
Around 12 months ago I was listening to Jason Ferruggia’s Renegade Radio, and he was going on about improv classes and how they’ve helped him. The first time I entertained the idea of improv my palms were sweating and I would have not thought of anything more terrifying. Well, unless I’d have to do improv while being surrounded by a herd of boa constrictors, Justin Bieber playing on the big screen.
But the longer I entertained the idea the more my confidence grew and more comfortable I got with the thought. Which in itself is weird since all of this was in my head. Fast forward 12 months and I’ve finished my first eight weeks of improv theatre, doing a three hour class each week with 15+ strangers.
Although I am still often uncomfortable in the class, I am much happier for doing it, compared to if I would’ve stayed at home picking my nose. To the point that I’ve signed up for the second eight weeks and want to eventually do a performance in front of a Iive audience. Remember that I am still the guy who 12 months ago could have not thought of anything more terrifying (excluding JB and snakes).
I went through the same when I started blogging. Each time a post went live I was as nervous as a toothless person heading in for dental checkup. Fast forward 120+ posts and I care very little if people agree or not with my writing and opinions.
Don’t get me wrong, I still do care, and probably always will. But as long as I am writing with integrity about the things that matter to me, I have nothing to fear. The worst that can happen is that someone will prove me wrong. And that causes me to learn and grow.
Of course, I am not Sam Harris tackling topics that bring up heated arguments and emotions in people. So I guess that I can still push further out of the comfort.
I am not telling you the above (only) to pump my own tires. I am doing it because if I can get out of my comfort zone and do things that increase my happiness, so can you.
At a basic level, you can seek the growth and happiness with your health. It’s comfortable to stop in for croissant on the way to work. It’s comfortable to order a pizza when you don’t feel like cooking. It’s comfortable to have double Bailey’s on the rocks with a sprinkle of cinnamon when your boss has just called you a jackass because the paper you handed in was written in the wrong font. I mean, what’s the difference between Calibri and Cambria anyways?
But does any of those comfortable, pre-set actions increase your long term happiness?
Joining a gym and opening up to a personal trainer about your struggles can be extremely challenging. You might be the strongest performing mofo in your professional world, but feel vulnerable when it comes to stepping into a gym. Especially if you are trying to gel with a trainer whose personality is a cross between Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and Hannibal Lecter.
(Here I would normally go into a rant about all the things wrong in the fitness industry, but I’ll save it up for another day.)
All I can say is that when you stretch the comfort zone and repeatedly attack it by going back, the gym will become the new norm. Eventually it will be the same as buying almond milk down at the corner store, not a big deal.
Seeking for challenges and the further happiness is a double edged sword. The sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle of being content in the present moment versus living in an eternal limbo expecting the ultimate happiness to arrive after the next accomplishment. And for each of us this place is different.