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.
Even if we step away from external rewards, really showing up and being your weirdo self is uncomfortable.
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?
Well put, Charlie! Sometimes I think I must be doing “it” wrong, but you are so right. Interesting side note about conversational anchors. I’ve been simply shutting my mouth when about to bring up conversational topics I no longer care to discuss. Feels weird. But better. I pay attention to see what might happen that wouldn’t have before. And silence can be lovely: I notice and enjoy so much more 🙂
@meganever ” Interesting side note about conversational anchors. I’ve been simply shutting my mouth when about to bring up conversational topics I no longer care to discuss. Feels weird. But better.”
Thanks for sharing this, Megan! It is weird and, at the same time, whatever we put our attention to grows. Why not grow the things that nourish us?
I am happy that I have found the post here and I thank you for sharing it to us then…Congratulations!!
Very true. Thanks for this post.
Gail Kasper says
In my self-help book, Unstoppable: 6 Easy Steps To Achieve Your Goals, I talk about how some individuals do not want to put the effort into their lives required to make a favorable change. It is easier for them to justify failure, to blame their failure to take action and get results on something or someone else, than to take steps requiring effort. They think, Why try? It’s not going to work anyway. Some do not want to bother trying the steps. They say they want more, but really they are not willing to take the steps to achieve.
Author, Another Day Without A Cage: My Breakthrough From Self Imprisonment To Total Empowerment and Unstoppable: 6 Easy Steps To Achieve Your Goals
“Engage” is my word for 2012, so I was intrigued by Catherine’s request. I appreciate your using it as a springboard for talking about comfort and discomfort.
I have a bone to pick with gurus (of business, marketing, blogging, or whatever) who promise to take the work and pain out of success. Not only is it disingenuous, it deprives their clients and customers of the dignity of work. Change and growth (in my view, the ingredients of success) aren’t always easy. One of the ways we know what we’re doing is worthwhile is by measuring the amount of effort and discomfort we’re willing to experience in the process.
@MollyGordon “I have a bone to pick with gurus (of business, marketing, blogging, or whatever) who promise to take the work and pain out of success.”
You and me both, Molly. As I’ve said earlier, selling hard work is hard sell. (Give me the pill!)
“Not only is it disingenuous, it deprives their clients and customers of the dignity of work.”
Have I mentioned how much I love you and your wisdom recently? I, for one, love to get lost in meaningful work. A recent epiphanette that I had is that I’m rather content with great work with great people in a great environment. Why on earth would I build a company that I wanted to get out of when I could build a company I could get into?
“One of the ways we know what we’re doing is worthwhile is by measuring the amount of effort and discomfort we’re willing to experience in the process.”
Boom shaboom! 🙂