We are obsessed with comfort.
How do we avoid physical discomfort?
Escalators and elevators (of course, referring to people who are able to use stairs safely)
8 minute abs (and any short workout that promises results without actually putting in significant effort)
Diet pills (no need to deny the pleasures of sugar and fat or exhibit any self control, just eat whatever you want and then pop a pill)
Electric scooters (what happened to bikes and leg muscles?? Again, of course only referring to those who are able to walk/ride)
Packaged foods that leave us 1000 steps removed from the process of growing, harvesting, hunting, preparing our food
The ability to press a few buttons and have a full meal, dense with calories and dangerously satiating, delivered right to our hands. We barely have to get up off the couch.
I'm not demonizing all of these inventions and innovations. I eat some packaged foods, I take the elevator sometimes, I use meal delivery apps. The problem arises when we rely heavily or entirely on these types of innovations, and stop relying on our own bodies and a little bit of effort to get what we need.
How do we avoid mental discomfort?
Numb ourselves with endless apps - social media, games, movies and more on our cell phones, never more than a few feet away.
Binge Netflix or Hulu or HBO rather than sit and read, meditate, play with our children, engage with our friends and family or partners sitting just beside us...
Binge alcohol or drugs to avoid feelings
Avoid introspection and self growth at all costs, opting instead for coddling and praise wherever we can get it
Refuse to hear other points of view, and rather criticize and cancel those who may have a different one than ours
Cancel anyone who opposes the mainstream narrative, rather than listen with empathy and compassion to where they are coming from
Now some of these? I am demonizing. I also use my phone and look at social media and have a glass of wine... or a few. But when it comes to numbing, avoidance, refusal to grow and cancelling over compassion...I draw the line. These are all means to stay comfortable and safe. These are the ways we avoid growth.
We do do everything we can to avoid discomfort. And that’s because it’s in our nature. It helped us survive to look for safer, more comfortable dwellings, find and eat calorie-rich foods, and relax and rest whenever possible. When we were being constantly hunted by predators, trying to build shelter and source water and food, and fight off enemies...
Seeking comfort when it's there, makes sense.
But that was also at a time when discomfort was inevitable a majority of the time. Without fail, we’d have to face challenge throughout each day. So it made sense to seek out comfort and ease whenever possible in those moments in between. We had too conserve energy and preserve life.
But today, we are generally a lot safer as a default. Comfort comes pretty easy to many of us - especially in the US and especially when related to our hunter/gatherer ancestors. But still we avoid, avoid, avoid. But actually, now, we don't need to seek comfort at every turn. Instead, we need to seek discomfort in order to balance the scales a bit.
This avoidance of any discomfort is causing us to be less healthy, more ill, less equipped to deal with stress and challenge (that will come in life), less capable of being creative, innovative and inventive, and generally less interesting people.
I challenge you (and I challenge myself daily) to seek some discomfort. To challenge my mind and body. To be able to sit in silence or sit fully engaged with a friend or partner without a phone or a TV for distraction.
Let’s bring the pendulum back to center.