It is often beneficial to experience hardships and discomfort. When we are uncomfortable, it agitates us. It drives us to better our situation. In this process of bettering ourselves, we grow.
There’s an old saying, “Comfort wants you dead.” I know it sounds extreme, but it’s true when you really think about it. Comfort dulls the senses. It makes one complacent. It may not kill you suddenly or swiftly, but it eats away at one’s strength one day at a time.
I’m not saying that we must eliminate all comfort in our lives. I’m simply suggesting that it is often beneficial to experience hardships and discomfort. When we are uncomfortable, it agitates us. It drives us to better our situation. In this process of bettering ourselves, we grow. At different times in our lives we might be challenged to grow physically, spiritually, intellectually, mentally and emotionally. Think about how often you procrastinate and put off until tomorrow what can be done today. There are countless examples of this in different arenas of life. This is usually a residual effect of the preservation of short-term comfort, even though in the long term the resulting anxiety creates an even greater discomfort. Think about how many times you planned to get up and get your workout in early, only to shut off your alarm and catch a few more minutes of sleep. How often does that happen, followed by a claim that you will get your workout in later, and once again realizing at 10:00 p.m. that you failed to do so? It is very easy to become caged in comfort zones that trap oneself. “It’s too cold outside, and it’s warm in here.” “It’s too far.” “It will take too long.” These are some of the subconscious and sometimes conscious excuses one might hear in their comfort zone.
But temporary comfort in exchange for commitment creates conditions of disappointment, missed opportunity, reduced health, diminished skills and often epic fails. One of my favorite movies that exemplifies this is “Rocky III.” As Mickey is warning Rocky of his unreadiness to fight an opponent of the magnitude of Clubber Lang, he makes a profound statement: “The worst thing that could happen to any fighter happened to you. You got civilized.” This theme ties in with Apollo Creed’s reflections about the “Eye of the Tiger,” and how being comfortable in a life of luxury has dulled their skills and their fighting instincts, as did Mickey’s claim that Rocky “hadn’t been hungry since he won that belt!” Rocky experienced some resulting hardships from comfort, but relearned how to face his fears, venture into the uncomfortable, and reclaim the instincts and skills that lead one to be the best version of oneself.
How do we individually break free of our comfort zone? We challenge ourselves. We don’t allow excuses to enter our psyche. We place ourselves in uncomfortable situations to test ourselves, to sharpen our instincts, to increase our intellect, to explore our abilities, and to experience the hardships and the joy of overcoming them. I stress “individually” because every individual must conquer their own wills to break free of their comfort zone. Sure, there are often “partners in crime,” who tend to poorly influence through suggestion. Stand up to those who negatively influence. Show them that they cannot drag you down, but instead stand up and inspire them to better themselves. Break the cage of conformity and experience the joy of that freedom. Instead of allowing oneself to be dragged down or slowed down by others, seek to better others. Work together as if you are going through basic training together. In basic training, one learns that no one gets left behind. Circumstances might be stressful, conditions might be cold, hot, wet, muddy … uncomfortable indeed. Those are the moments that you can grow as an individual, either by being inspired by the person beside you, or inspiring the person beside you.
Learn to test yourself. Don’t allow your skills to develop “rust.” Stay frosty, with your head on a swivel, maintaining situational awareness at all times. Place yourself purposefully in situations that you’ll learn from. When you experience the overwhelming exhilaration of overcoming something outside of your comfort zone, you will appreciate the freedom and you will know the difference. You’ll look back on the comfort of that cage and realize that it was just that – a cage. The mind, the body and the soul are tested with trial under fire. It is a wonderful freedom that I encourage you to seek in this new year ahead.