Day 219: Discomfort over Comfort

I get this funny feeling that a lot of people’s lives are spent figuring out how to be comfortable. How to have a comfortable home, a comfortable job, live with a comfortable person, eat comfortable food, wear comfortable clothes, etc.

And I’m all about comfortable stuff—especially clothing—but I think it’s really important to be uncomfortable sometimes. Here’s why:

Discomfort opens up entire worlds that you’d never know about otherwise.

In yoga, for example, there are lots of weird, uncomfortable postures that appear to be designed specifically to make the practitioner feel like a total failure. But if you stick with those contorted shapes long enough, you start to understand the difference between pain (which is something that should be avoided like the plague that it is) and the uncomfortable sensations that come with growth. If you’re gritty and patient, interesting things start to happen. Muscles you were certain had deserted you kick back into action. Stiff joints become relaxed. Hard stuff becomes easier. Dark things become lighter. And once you’re comfortable again, you’re ready and eager to try something new.

Discomfort challenges you to define yourself. 

I don’t mean “definition” in the sense that you can say with conviction that you love dogs and hate mean people. On a much deeper level, discomfort forces you to turn inward and conduct an actual self-examination. Determining why discomfort rears it’s ugly-ish head in certain situations or with certain people helps you learn more about your insecurities and passions. And acting on that knowledge puts you on a path to actual happiness, not the comfortable, “these sweatpants feel awesome” kind of happiness.

Discomfort helps you grow. 

Humans are magically built to morph. Our neurological systems are constantly learning, reorganizing and building new pathways, and our bodies can alter themselves based on what we consume and what we expend. We can adapt to new stimuli and make snap decisions based on information that is never, ever static. We’re amazing, growing creatures up until the day we die.

But without challenges and pressures, our growth opportunities diminish. The beautiful nuances of life are left unexperienced and unexplored. A life of comfort is the life of an orchestra playing the same song over and over—never exploring all the other harmonies, melodies, dips and dives it’s designed to play.

A life of comfort literally sounds terrible.