Nearly two years ago, Catherine Caine sent me this topic request:
While going through the idea garden this morning, I came across it again. Given some of the things I’ve been thinking about and working on here recently, it’s prescient. So, better late than never, here goes.
Comfort is over-marketed and over-rated. (Click to tweet.)
Most of the things worth doing and experiences worth having come by working through discomfort. Think about it:
A first date is awkward and uncomfortable.
The first twenty or thirty times you hit publish are uncomfortable and terrifying. The whole big bad world will see how inept you are! (Reality check: three people might see it and your family and friends already love you. Do the math.)
Your first interviews for a job worth having will be uncomfortable. Other people might actually want the job and they’re showing up with their A-game to get it.
One of the defining characteristics of being an entrepreneur is working through discomfort. To generate new sources of value, you have to question the current sources of value. (People don’t like that.)
The burden of leadership is showing up and working with others to make the seemingly impossible real and catalyzing otherwise unenjoyable tasks into inspired action. It’s a constant hot seat.
If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see that a life in which you’re thriving is one in which your engaged in meaningful projects and uncomfortable more often than not.
We’re conditioned to want to be comfortable. Better to fit in and not make any waves than attract attention to yourself. If you have some minor itch – whether physical, emotional, social, mental, or spiritual – there’s some salve you can buy … satisfaction guaranteed, act now, pay here. And don’t dare use your voice for speaking and change-making; people will throw tomatoes at you.
As a result of the pursuit – or unconscious acceptance – of comfort, we’re worse off, financially and otherwise.
Now for some ironies and subtleties:
- When you choose meaningful and engaged with the understanding that it’s going to be uncomfortable, it’s less uncomfortable. Discomfort becomes like your hair after a haircut – it feels different at first but you soon forget about it and move onto other concerns.
- When you spend your time immersed in meaningful and engaged activity, your time away from it is qualitatively different than when you’ve been spending your time in comfortable activity. You no longer need to escape; you just need to step away and recharge. To paraphrase Pam Slim, you’re spent, but not depleted.
- As Jonathan Fields noted in Uncertainty, when we observe peak-perfoming creatives, we notice that they have certainty anchors – which, for our conversation, are areas in their daily lives in which things are familiar and comfortable. These certainty anchors allow them to stretch and be uncomfortable in other areas. Their power to embrace uncertainty and engage in meaningful experiences is rooted in the comfortable and familiar.
- Michele Woodward has it right about expanding your comfort zone rather than getting out of it.
- In the areas of rest, leisure, and rejuvenation, comfort might be exactly what you need. Make that choice consciously and take care of yourself.
The crux of Catherine’s question was about the choice and it’s there that we’ll return. The choice between excellence and comfort reminds me a bit of the frog in the lukewarm water story. In case you’re not familiar with the story, if you place a frog in lukewarm water and heat it up, it won’t jump out. However, if you put a frog in hot water, he’ll jump out immediately. (So the story goes; I haven’t tried it to verify it.)
Choosing comfort is the easy default and we don’t feel the pain of it until we look back at our lives and see that there was more that we could have done. I hope you’ll choose to jump before it’s too hot.
Over to you: in what areas (that matter to you) are you choosing comfortable over engaged and meaningful? What small step can you take to interrupt the pattern?