Isn’t it nice to feel comfortable? The feeling that everything’s ok. Nothing to worry about, no physical pains, no pressure from obligation. Is life ever like that? We as a country and I would say as a species love the idea of being comfortable. Just think of comfort food, comfy clothes, or a comfortable bed. All things intended to instill a feeling of wellbeing. And honestly, I enjoy them all. Seeking comfort could be thought of as simply taking the path of least resistance. But what do you think about the statement, “Well, he/she got comfortable?” To me, such a statement clearly has a negative connotation. It infers that maybe “He” got lazy or he let his guard down which lead to a less than ideal situation or result. I really do like the idea of being comfortable. No longer feeling physical pain, not feeling stress or worry, not feeling like there is more to do than I can get done in any given day. However, I am absolutely certain that in order to grow by any real measure you must experience some degree of discomfort. If you continually do what you have always done, live in your comfort zone, you will continue to get what you have always gotten. You end up only experiencing progress by happenchance. If you find yourself wanting more (physical health, mental health, stronger relationships, greater wealth, etc.) you will have to go somewhere or do something you haven’t done before – uncomfortable.
Athletics introduced me to the concept. Those that pushed themselves improved, those that didn’t faded away. As a high school student and even in college I never liked the process, the work. I did it because it's what I had to do to “play the game.” It wasn’t until later in life when I immersed myself in cycling that I learned how to embrace long periods of time in a state of significant discomfort. It got to a point where I welcomed it because I knew that if I could stay there long enough I would be rewarded with the gains I searched for. It was on those long rides, in an oxygen deprived state, that I realized that I could intentionally apply the same concept to many other aspects of my life. The results have changed the way I look at just about everything I do. I sum it up with this simple statement. “It’s the process not the product that matters.” In other words, the true joy of so many things in life is found in the pursuit of something. Not in the something itself. When you embrace the process, the work, the discomfort, you grow and that’s the reward.
Intentionally seeking ways you can put yourself in uncomfortable situations isn’t for everyone. And taking this approach in multiple aspects of your life at once may not be advisable. But regularly and intentionally putting yourself in an uncomfortable place is healthy. I believe that it was Benjamin Franklin that said, “An investment in yourself always pays the best dividends.” No truer statement could be made. If, at this very moment, you were forced to invest some portion of your most precious asset, your time, what would you choose to do? You would be making an important allocation decision. Now, how would it feel if you found yourself on the path of achieve that objective? That’s the return, the dividend. But you are probably going to have to experience some discomfort. That’s the risk.
Like a savings account there is little to no return on comfort. Do yourself a favor and invest in yourself, today. Make a decision, create a plan, expect to be uncomfortable. In time it will produce a positive return.