The Trouble With a Comfortable Life
It’s something that, whether we realize it or not, we spend our entire life gravitating toward.
Yes, all of us.
It’s in our nature. In our DNA, if you will.
Just as there’s a force of gravity pulling all objects toward the earth, so too is there an invisible force drawing us all toward a state of increased comfort.
Think about any object. Given a choice, it will prefer falling towards the earth over flying up into the sky, every time. That’s gravity at work.
Similarly, when any person is given a choice, she’ll prefer the more comfortable alternative over the more difficult, more challenging one. She’ll take the easier, softer option, every time.
OK, maybe not every time. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
So that’s why the so-called “standard of living” – basically an intangible measure of how comfortable our life is, is such a big deal. And why it’s always increasing.
We work hard to get ahead, and to enjoy the trappings of life. A nice, big comfortable house. Elegant, comfortable furniture. A fancy, comfortable car. Appliances, gadgets and devices to make our life easier, safer, more convenient and more entertaining. Stylish, comfortable clothing.
OK, so maybe you’re not the materialistic type, and all these things don’t really much matter to you. Even so, you’ll find that there are still other ways in which you’re actively seeking comfort in your life.
You’ll drive or catch a bus to the store rather than walking. You’ll use an umbrella when it starts raining. You’ll choose an office job over one involving manual effort. You’ll sleep in a little longer during the cold winter months. And so on.
It makes sense, right? I mean, why do things the hard way?
So then, am I about to suggest that all this is a bad thing? And that you need to denounce modern life and become a pilgrim, leading a meagre existence and walking the earth to find happiness?
Of course not.
But like all good things, you can have too much comfort.
And by having too much comfort, I’m not talking about living an extravagant life of opulence, wealth and excess, or wasting your days away doing nothing. It can happen even in the most ordinary life, to ordinary people like you and me.
In fact, it’s most likely happening in your life right now.
Years ago, I spent time backpacking in South-East Asia. Seeing how people lived in poorer, underdeveloped countries and what their everyday life is like certainly made me appreciate how lucky I am to live in such a modern and comfortable country as Australia.
But it also taught me a valuable life lesson. And that is that our comfortable life comes at a huge cost.
And I’m not talking about financially.
I also learned that they’re rich in something that we’re generally poor in. And again, I’m not talking about money here.
In Asia I saw large families crammed into tiny homes with virtually no furniture, living on dirt floors. I saw entire families of four people or so travelling precariously on motor scooters.
And what perhaps made the biggest impression on me was seeing a family taking part in a funeral. The coffin of the deceased was sitting in the rear of a small, rusty, white pickup truck, part of it hanging over the back edge, with the family members riding alongside it as the truck made its way down the road under the hot, humid afternoon sun.
And yet I never heard a single soul in the place ever complaining about their lot in life. I’m sure they would have preferred a nice, clean, spacious home with furniture. And a safe, comfortable car to travel in. And no doubt, a fancier way to send off their departed loved ones.
But they simply didn’t have those things. So they did the best with what they had, and got on with it.
When I saw that family funeral I was so shocked – it was a Saturday afternoon and I’ll never forget it. The first thought that came into my mind was, “My God, these people are so strong.”
I couldn’t help but think about how mentally tough their normal, everyday life made them. And how many people in our modern Western society would simply crumble to pieces should they be forced to endure some of these same conditions and situations.
And that is the price we pay for our comfort.
Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.
It makes us mentally weak, and vulnerable to the inevitable cruelties and harsh surprises of life, big and small.
Relationship breakups, betrayals, loss of loved ones, medical crises, accidents, physical assaults, emotional and mental abuse, financial failures, struggles in business or work, and so on. These are all challenges that many of us can expect to have to face in our lifetimes.
And how well we do that depends largely on our attitude and our mental toughness.
For some women, these hurdles will cripple and destroy them. Or at very least, tarnish their life and hold them back in some way from being all that they could be.
For others, they’ll be nothing more than challenges that they face bravely and overcome, to keep going as better, stronger and wiser individuals.
Again, it comes down to attitude and mental toughness.
Anything in life that we come to rely on compromises our mental toughness. That’s because it causes us pain when it’s taken away. So we change our behavior and who we are to avoid that happening.
Look at women who depend on companionship, or money, or alcohol, or material possessions, or even coffee, to survive. What happens when those things are suddenly gone? They fall apart, or cease to function effectively. Or perhaps worst of all, they make unwise decisions to either get them back or compensate in some way.
Comfort is weakness entering the body.
Comfort is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s warm and fuzzy and makes us feel, well . . . comfortable.
But deep down inside, we need to be wary of it. Because it seduces us, and makes us want more and more.
And then, when we’re used to it, we become less and less prepared to do without it.
The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.
For women who become too attached to comfort, their life becomes one of excuses. “It’s too hard”, “It’s too cold”, “I don’t feel like it”, “I don’t feel well”, “It’s impossible”, and so on.
They limit themselves from being something tomorrow because they’re not prepared to give up something today.
But what about women who don’t have that choice? Women who are forced to overcome hardships each and every day. Women who keep going even though they don’t see much hope of a better life?
They don’t have time for excuses. For them it’s simply a case of “Whatever it takes.”
You get on with it, or you lay down and die. That’s their choice.
To build mental toughness you have to inconvenience yourself. The early morning runs, if you hate early morning. The late night runs, if you hate late night. The snowy, cold, the worst conditions you can get. Put yourself in those and really make it inconvenient, and you start to get a genuine expectation of winning for the price you had to pay.
But as I mentioned before, I’m not suggesting you go to live in a third world country to build your mental toughness. Like so many things in life, the best place is to be is in the middle ground.
There’s rarely any joy to be found at the extremes.
You can be a strong, capable woman in the modern world.
The message here is that comfort is nice, but only in moderation. It’s no different to alcohol, or even food. While you’re calling the shots, everything’s fine. But let it get the better of you, and that’s when your heartaches begin.
So how much comfort is too much?
Well, only you can decide that. The important thing is to be aware of your daily habits and choices, and think about how much they’re being influenced by your desire to be comfortable. Not just physical comfort, but mental and emotional as well.
Staying comfortable means never extending yourself, never growing, and never experiencing all that life has to offer.
A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.
Make a conscious effort each and every day to step outside of your physical, mental and emotional comfort zones. Everyone is familiar with the concept of doing hard work or working out in the gym to make their body stronger.
But not too many women think about making themselves mentally stronger.
This is far more important though. If you ever need to carry a physically heavy load, you can easily find someone to do it for you. But for mentally and emotionally heavy loads, you’ll be on your own, kiddo!
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Here are 10 simple ideas you can implement every day to help build your mental toughness and show comfort who’s boss . . .
- Work out. With intensity. Like you mean it.
- Stand up for yourself. If you want to say something to someone, then say it. Don’t get angry and emotional, remember, control is a sign of strength. But don’t be anyone’s punching bag or yes-girl either.
- If you hate the cold, do something in the cold. If you hate the heat, do something in the heat. Embrace the misery.
- Start a conversation with a stranger.
- Do something that scares you. Stare down your pet fear and crush it.
- Go without sleep for an entire night (make sure you’re not driving or doing anything dangerous the next day!)
- Intentionally get lost somewhere and find your way back on your own. No phone, no GPS, no maps – leave them all at home.
- If you’re not used to it, tell someone close to you how you feel about them and what they mean to you. Apologize to them if you need to. These are actions of strength, not weakness. But you’re a woman, so you already knew that!
- Go out somewhere on your own – a restaurant, a movie, the theatre, dancing . . . whatever.
- Embrace some old-school. Do the laundry by hand. Use bicycle transport for a day. Have a “no air-con day” in the car during summer – just wind the window down instead. Chop some wood for heating. If you don’t have a fireplace, chop some anyhow, it will warm you up. You get the idea.