Your Comfort is Not Important

Discomfort

There are many things in life that you will take great pleasure in doing that will not be comfortable. You may dread them. You may even begin imagining ways you could painlessly end your time here on earth to avoid the task at hand.

It’s funny, isn’t it? We know security is a myth. Yet, we often act in a way that favors comfort over fulfillment.

I know that I, personally, have acted in this way many times. I do what I want when the risk is minimal. I tell myself that there are really no other choices, when in reality, there are choices everywhere. They’re just not very comfortable.

So the question is this: does feeling good really matter?

You would think so, right? But the exact opposite is true in reality. It’s often when you think you’re the most comfortable that there’s a subtle undercurrent of dissatisfaction.

You’ve settled. And a little part of your soul dies.

The main reason you settle is because the unknown is not an agreeable place to reside; you can’t predict what will happen. But most of all, you settle to protect your ego.

That’s because your ego doesn’t like it when you can’t predict the future. It doesn’t like knowing that your choice — the one that will really make you feel content — may end up failing. When your ego can’t predict the outcome, it goes into survival mode. It’s easier to take the safe, predictable path.

But we all know deep down that survival is a temporary bet, anyway. Security does not exist in reality.

So what’s the alternative?

Ignore yourself.

Choose to act in a way that may scare you, may not make you feel good, but will leave you feeling fulfilled. Choose the path that calls to your heart; the one that may be dark, obscure, and strewn with obstacles. That is the path worth traveling.

Whether you are compelled to do something comfortable or not, your job is to face the calling. Do not think about comfort or discomfort. Do what would make you feel most alive.

If you find it hard to stop thinking about the pain or difficulty a challenge may cause you, remember that you don’t have to listen to your thoughts. If you don’t like what you have to say to yourself, you have the option of ignoring yourself. I do it all the time.

The more you practice ignoring the thoughts you don’t like, the more they’ll learn it’s no use trying to persuade you.

This is what I like to call “artful ignorance.”

Once you grasp this, you’ll inherit Internal Harmony. That is the ultimate goal. When you’re in harmony internally, comfort and discomfort are not important to you. You just do whatever is most aligned with your values.

Don’t do what you think will make you happy. Don’t do what’s comfortable.

Feeling good is not important.

Fulfillment is something you can’t trade. For anything.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Clayton October 1, 2009 at 10:43 am

Great post! I’ve found that the more you challenge your comfort zone and do things that scare you, the more you find that the feeling of fear starts to become a feeling of excitement.

It’s strange. Things that used to scare me and that I used to avoid doing actually excite me now. It’s like a switch just gets flipped and all of the sudden the whole context just gets turned completely around.

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Glen Allsopp October 1, 2009 at 10:44 am

Hi J-dawg,

I usually dig your posts, but here it just seems like you’ve tried to carve a story out of a quirky headline.

You’ve settled. And a little part of your soul dies.

I know the message of your site is about change and living on your own terms, but really, there’s nothing wrong with the opposite.

Some people just love where they are. Just because they aren’t ass-kicking or making money online, it doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying life or even making the most of it. I don’t think it has anything to do with “a little part of their soul” dying.

Comfort is important for a lot of people. Don’t forget that not everyone needs or wants the same challenges or motivations as you do to be happy.

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Jonathan October 1, 2009 at 10:52 am

Hey Glen,

You make a good point. Not everyone will be interested in the same types of challenges or motivations as me. I think that’s great. It would be a boring place if that was the case.

I don’t suggest that you need to kick ass or make money online to be happy.

The point of this article was to point out that some things you won’t be comfortable with before doing. But you will feel fulfilled afterward.

Take exercise for example. It’s uncomfortable, and requires a lot of effort. But afterward you feel great.

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Matt "Ikigai" October 1, 2009 at 10:54 am

This is something that is a constant struggle in martial arts training. Why put yourself through repeated discomfort and place yourself on the edge of peril?

The answer lies in the same benefits you describe above.

great post!

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Glen Allsopp October 1, 2009 at 10:57 am

OK, I didn’t really get that from the post (I did read it twice) but now I understand from your last example.

I guess we just have very different understandings about fulfillment. I personally don’t think we need to do anything to get into the state, but that’s just me.

As far as the gym, were you referring the after example to fulfillment. If so, how long does it last? 10 minutes…30…an hour? A day at the most?

I see this kind of good feeling as self esteem rather than fulfillment, but appreciate your clarification.

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CrystalsQuest October 1, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Love your post. I was only thinking the other day about how cats can look comfortable in the most awkward positions (I was in one myself at the time), so that kind of comfort would have to be an internal job – and I was wondering how on earth I could get it!

You’ve just told me. Let go of outward comforts to discover inner ones. Seek awkward positions.
(Wonder how many funny looks I’ll get on the train this morning…)

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Nathalie Lussier October 1, 2009 at 12:14 pm

My favorite quote that relates to comfort comes from author Barbara Sher (I’m paraphrasing): Life/Biology wants us to be fat, make babies, and stay safe.

To me comfort is staying safe, and it’s something I’m always trying to push out of. Great discussion.

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Gail @ A Flourishing Life October 1, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Jonathan,

This is a provocative post, as the comments attest to. The comfort you are talking about isn’t actually comfortable. When we choose to avoid seeing the truth about our situation – we are in a boring job, our relationship isn’t working – we are opting for settling and not being fully alive. Anyone in that situation knows, in their heart of hearts, that they are choosing not to pay attention to something about their life that is calling to them. And if they are honest, this is not comfortable. It breeds addiction, mindless activity, and in some cases physical illness. It might seem like a happy life and may even be fulfilling in some ways, but there is an inner unrest that is not being addressed.

Enduring fulfillment, which is what Glen is speaking to, comes from within and is not found in the people, objects, and situations in the world. It takes the willingness to investigate everything, to move out of our comfort zones, to see the truth about our lives even if it’s not pretty. An attitude of tenderness and compassion toward ourselves is essential in the investigation. This process is one of letting go of what is not fulfilling and what is not serving us. And when we do let go, there is the possibility of inner peace, true happiness, and clarity about our life path. This cannot be attained because it’s always here, covered over by mental and emotional habits we get stuck in. And when it is realized, reality is seen as completely fulfilled with nothing lacking.

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Paul Norwine October 1, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Hey brotha -

Can’t internal harmony, the “ultimate goal,” be described by complete contentment? And, if so, is it absolutely necessary to do what’s uncomfortable just to get more comfortable? This is essentially a catch-22 -> never settling for contentment but always striving for contentment…

These questions are more rhetorical than real inquiries but I like the discussion so far and wanted to chime in…

Paul

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Jeffrey October 1, 2009 at 2:14 pm

I must admit, when I first read the title, I was thinking ‘I don’t know. I like being comfortable’.

However, after reading the post, I get what you’re saying.

It’s more in the ‘Art of Nonconformity’ style of not being complacent or comfortable with the status quo. I also like working out, so that’s not what I meant. I was thinking that I love my comfy easy chair, and would prefer that over a wooden bench any day. But mentally, that hits the nail on the head.

Being uncomfortable is the perfect place to grow.

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Gordie Rogers October 1, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Interesting idea. I guess up until now I’ve pretty much only done what makes me feel comfortable. I will read your post again and reflect on it more to see if it’s time for me to start doing more uncomfortable things to help me become more successful. Thanks for the stimulating post.

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Cheryl October 1, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Glen, Gail, and especially Paul… my thought’s exactly.

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Evan October 1, 2009 at 6:00 pm

I think there can be a process. At first I like to just wander around and see what’s what. Then I either get interested or not. If I get interested I may get excited to find out what I can do (I call this challenge) with what I’ve found. If I want to understand more it is usually best just to play (if I’m stressed then I start paying attention to the stress instead of focusing on the stuff I’m interested in – which doesn’t help).

This is the way that it is for me. But I’m no adrenalin junkie – for others who are, it is no doubt very different.

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Cath October 1, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Nice.

Another name for ‘artful ignorance’ might be awareness with attitude – a yogic notion of being contented despite difficulty – whether the difficulty is self-imposed or not.

I like how your post adds to that notion by emphasising that such discipline has a purpose – personal as well as spiritual satisfaction.

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Ron - Heroic Nature October 1, 2009 at 7:37 pm

“This is what I like to call “artful ignorance.”

From my own personal experience, I’ve learned to do this best while exercising. There’s a little voice that goes off to tell you to quit or take it easy, but while learning to ignore the “workout weakling”, it spilled over into other areas of my life. Success led to success.

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steve October 1, 2009 at 8:14 pm

this idea has not proved so beneficial to me in the long run: “Do what would make you feel most alive.”

to explain myself… i wrote this line once:

“every time i read carpe diem poems i do something i regret.”

doing stuff to make yourself feel alive is a great way to live.. for a while. but for most people it’s not sustainable. we live in a world where shelter and food are not guaranteed to everyone.. so we need money.. so we need jobs. meanwhile ‘carpe diem’ tells us to quit our job and LIVE! which is admittedly a very exciting idea at first..

i’ve shifted my attention toward efforts to accept & embrace the present world for what it is. i still work to achieve things, to change the world, improve myself, etc, but i’m done with resting my fulfillment on those things. those things are conditional. SOMETIMEs they work. just as often, however, they seem to make the pain and frustration worse by building up our desires & expectations for certain life conditions.

yesterday i watched the sunrise and i didn’t really care whether i had to go to my shitty job afterward or not.. i was happy to be alive

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alternity October 1, 2009 at 9:37 pm

I think sometimes our human nature gets into an unnatural state of self destruct patterns, I like to call it artful disconnect from some of those unnatural occurrences .

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Diggy - Upgradereality.com October 1, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Heya!!

I agree with Glen in the way that comfort is what everyone seeks out.
However, to achieve your goals it will be neccessary to move out your comfort zone, and you may have to do things that are uncomfortable or downright crappy in order to move forward and make progress, but at the end of the day, everyone strives for some level of comfort no?

Thanks Jonathan!
Cheers

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rob October 2, 2009 at 12:44 am

Stimulating post. I would only add that after 10 years of doing ‘hard’ karate I was fit but unhealthy. I started Tai Chi with a judo instructor who couldn’t stop laughing at how stiff my body was. When I had learnt the form my body/mind was in a different place. The point I am trying to make is make sure your challenges have value otherwise your on “the road to no where”.

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Jarrod - Warrior Development October 2, 2009 at 1:00 am

‘Artful ignorance’, an interesting term.

So often the mind is just spitting trash at you, most of the time I choose to just let it all pass on by. Leaving it by the wayside I can choose to just live my life the way ‘I’ really choose to.

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Revolt and Resignation October 2, 2009 at 2:35 am

I’m coming at this question from a completely different perspective — I’m bipolar, and spend a lot of my time fighting emotional suffering, depression in particular. At the same time, I’m drawn to this post. I do believe that I need to push myself constantly in order to accomplish anything — it’s just that what I accomplish — keeping a job, having a friend or two, seeking a stable relationship — may look a lot more basic from the outside. I wanted to be a superstar for many years. Now I would settle for that “normal” life, simply since it seems to be out of reach for me.

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Island Girl October 2, 2009 at 3:51 am

Gail, I think you make some excellent points. I personally am struggling with one of my businesses, more so than ever, after the unexpected death of my business manager. Many days, it is easiest to just carry on as normal, ignoring the underlying discontent. And on the days that I choose status-quo for the sake of “comfort” in the realm of the known, yes, my sole dies a little more, and I become increasingly unhappy. Two other options are to attempt to sell or close the business. Both of these paths are littered with an almost overwhelming number of obstacles. Each day, I wake up, check this blog, and look for strength to get out of my comfort zone, have faith in the unknown, and take time to explore every corner of what my heart is telling me to really do, and ignore my ego. Yesterday, I gave notice on one of my leases. This may not completely lead to closing of “the business”, but it will lessen the financial drain the brick-and-mortar business are causing and surely force a different way of operating. This is something that has been needed for a long time, and hopefully the decision will lead me to a place where I can make my greatest contribution and find fulfillment. Thank you Jonathan for the support from afar today :-)

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Justin- AlittleBetter.net October 2, 2009 at 4:44 am

Better uncomfortable and really alive, than comfortably complacent.

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Laura October 2, 2009 at 11:09 am

I agree! Change and progress demand uncomfortable situations. I wanted change. Five months ago I left my job, my home, my stuff, my country and my friends and traveled across the planet to box full-time for a bit, hehe, talking about uncomfort. Now I have moved back to where I was born (different place to where I left five months ago) and it is such a sweet feeling to feel comfortable after all that chance. Mmmm.. I think sometimes it is important just to enjoy things, to not rush and to learn to keep still. Now I don’t want to go anywhere anymore. Until I get the itch again of course.

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Robert October 2, 2009 at 12:07 pm

I’d rather be hot or cold, then lukewarm, then dulled into being numb. Good discussion. Do something to get out of your comfort zone daily and you’ll live a remarkable life. The trick is catalyzing that on a regular basis…not easy!

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Alaya Morning October 2, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Great discussion. It’s an idea I play with often.

Ultimately, I don’t like the idea of having the be uncomfortable in order to live a passionate and meaningful life. Comfort is not the same as complacency.

I’ve experienced first hand what it’s like to willingly do the “uncomfortable” thing (budget my money, eliminate foods from my diet, exercise, etc.) because I know it’s a step on the path to the life I want to live. In these moment these activities are not really uncomfortable because I am approaching them with a full and hearty “YES!”

There have been other moments in which I have tried to do the same activities (even in order to accomplish the same goals) and have been both uncomfortable and unsuccessful. The difference is that I was approaching them as the alternative to a “NO’ (don’t buy those things, don’t eat that, don’t just sit around watching TV).

I’m not sure it’s a question of comfort or discomfort. It’s a question of inspiration versus motivation. Motivation is painful, uncomfortable. Inspiration (the path to fulfillment) is never uncomfortable because your vision is compelling enough to carry you.

Just ideas. Thanks for sparking…

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Nicole Seiffert October 2, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Timing, timing, timing.

About two hours before I read this post, I’d mined the following from an old notebook (I wrote it several years ago):

Two paths diverged, and I
chose the one with the open trenches
poison oak,
and rabid squirrels.

It might not be necessary to leave your comfort zone in every situation, but the mere *willingness* to do so can lead to amazing growth.

Thanks for the thought-provoking read!

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Klaus Tol October 3, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Hi Jonathan,

Love this post.
I really like to settle for comfort now and then, but I know
that’s not the way to go.

I love comfort but I’ll settle for fulfillment

Klaus Tol

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Arsalan October 4, 2009 at 3:45 am

Great Read, I am happy that I read this today, and today I needed it the most.

I am going to change myself, which ever direction it will take me, it will be of my own choice, and it will align itself to my path.

Thank you again,
Arsalan

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Oscar - freestyle mind October 4, 2009 at 11:34 am

Hi Jonathan,
Maybe it is because I’ve been starting the Sedona method today, and I’ve been exposed more about ignoring our emotions, but I can see your point very clearly.

“Do not think about comfort or discomfort. Do what would make you feel most alive.”

This is a key factor for me. Doing that will certainly end up on more fulfillment, at least for me. Great article.

Oscar

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Michaelf October 4, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Great article I think we often forget how uncomfortable it was reaching our current level of comfort. The hard thing is finding ways to reboot and become dissatisfied all over again

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Dave - LifeExcursion October 5, 2009 at 3:39 pm

When I am not comfortable, I am having the best time of my life. I am exploring and challenging myself when I am not comfortable which leads to me being HAPPY.

Great article

Dave
LifeExcursion

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Positive Gangsta October 6, 2009 at 8:42 pm

Comfort zone totally kills the vibe for progression. don;’t get me wrong being comfortable is great, but complacency is something which kills. Its destroys your progress, dreams, attitude and motivation. Okay post

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Michael M October 7, 2009 at 1:17 am

What a crazy post!
Really – mindblowing! I’ve never read on this topic before and if I did I’ve ignored it secretly. All the time I thought that fulfillment and comfort are all the same.. and maybe that’s what made me struggle? Yesterday I realized that I’m directing towards security (even If I know that there is no real security) and tried to ask myself how I can live without this false feeling.

Now you’ve mentioned such a big point that it scares me! Is there really a difference? I want to try it out!

My questions now are: What if I don’t do what feels comfortable but what gives me fulfillment. Isn’t it another way of working for fulfillment in the future instead of in the present (like focusing only on your goal – achieve it – and focusing on another)?

Where’s the fulfillment in the present if I don’t feel comfortable doing “it” ? Hell, maybe you mean by comfortable “doing something that may scare you” or you mean “doing something that attacks your lazyness” or maybe both? artful ignorance leads to action which may scare you and .. make you leave your COMFORT zone!

I think with time I’ll get this. Now I remember that I’ve read many times to leave your comfort zone but I’ve never realized that I’m ignoring this when considering my future job / business ..

Tell me ..
If you LOVE what you do and get fulfillment AFTER having it done – do you still act with artful ignorance? Do you still leave your comfort zone? My problem is probably the fight between:
doing something you love vs. leaving your comfort zone.

an example which may fit: bungee jumping.
You are scared out of hell. But the moment you step out of your comfort zone (literally!) you feel fulfillment AND joy while doing it and afterwards.

Is this what you wanted to tell us? :)
Thanks alot!

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Seun Kilanko October 7, 2009 at 7:44 am

A heart that is comfortable with the present is a limiting one. We need to always strive for more. We have so much potentials embedded in us than we can imagine.
I wrote a lot about this same thing here http://seunkilanko.com/unlocking-your-potentials-1/
Good job, you are doing here. I just always love reading your posts.

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Chris October 14, 2009 at 7:49 am

Well said. It’s also great to know that someone who loathes structures has found a way to enjoy being productive. There’s really no way of knowing how things will turn out in the future.

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G Angela October 16, 2009 at 3:10 am

Great post,

enjoyed reading it, i am learning to move out of comfort zone to do things that are more fulfilling and meaningful. Thanks for your post.

G Angela

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Ralph October 17, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Thank-You! I was telling a friend this yesterday. He was convinced his life was already laid out for him and there was nothing he could do to change his circumstance. I had to tell him that he is where he is because he chooses the comfortable option every time.

Don’t ask a girl out because of fear of rejection= Singleness
Stay at home instead of going out to meet people=Loneliness
Sleep in and eat junk instead of fruit salad early morning run= Obese, um, ness.

Its a simple concept. I’m so surprised that most people choose comfort. Great post!

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hermes handbags July 8, 2010 at 1:45 am

Thank-You! I was telling a friend this yesterday. He was convinced his life was already laid out for him and there was nothing he could do to change his circumstance. I had to tell him that he is where he is because he chooses the comfortable option every time.

Don’t ask a girl out because of fear of rejection= Singleness
Stay at home instead of going out to meet people=Loneliness
Sleep in and eat junk instead of fruit salad early morning run= Obese, um, ness.

Its a simple concept. I’m so surprised that most people choose comfort. Great post!

Reply

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