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The Pain of Comfort

April 30, 2010

I was struck the other day by how often people are quite content to stay exactly the same.  We are comforted by the thought and feeling that today will be the same as yesterday and we hope that tomorrow will be more of the same.  We’re not interested in something new.  We’re quite happy having the same kinds of challenges as work, the same routine in the evening, the same kind of weekend. 

Biological equilibrium in humans called homeostasis is important since we want to have steady levels of all sorts of things – blood pressure, blood sugar, etc.  And, so it seems reasonable that we would want to have steady levels of experience to keep things “level”.  And, I believe that many many people work with that mentality as their mantra. 

But, I would argue that a “steady state” is great for periods of reflection or rejuvenation but not great for us as humans in the long-term.  For example, we know that stress is a two-headed beast.  If we have too much stress it hurts us.  But, the lesser known evil is that if we have too little stress it can also be as damaging.  We need a certain amount of stress in our lives to be able to function property, to be motivated to move forward, and to strengthen us.  Just like the tree that experiences the forces of the wind on its branches grows to be a stronger and more powerful tree, so do we. 

This even shows up in our brains.  Research shows that being challenged mentally is important for us to keep our brains healthy.  Patients of Alzheimer’s or other dementia are encouraged to do puzzles and brain exercises.  The reason, is just that, it exercises the brain which it has been shown will slow the progression of the diseases.

Not having a the right amount of challenge and change can show up in a different ways for different people.  You might get a little depressed.  You might become disinterested in things.  You might become less social.  Whatever it is for you, it will be true that when things get a little too comfortable, there will likely be some pain involved.

Good luck on your journey.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy a little pain from time to time.

Paul Frazer
The Performance Explorer 

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Comments (4)

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  1. Ravi Tangri says:

    Hi, Paul. It’s funny that we call it the comfort zone, because what we like to stay in (and sometimes fight to stay in) is often not comfortable at all – just familiar. I call it the familiar zone. What really suprises me is how much we will fight to stay in a familiar zone that is not comfortable, even toxic. These are the times where we have to find a way around this homeostasis to find a new balance, but it’s hard, even though we’ll be better off.

    Ah, the joys of being human, hmmm?


    • mindscape says:

      Hey Ravi,

      Thanks a ton buddy for you response. I completely agree. “Comfort Zone”. What a tragedy! Here’s to exploring the edge.

      Cheers, Paul

  2. Steve Haynes says:

    Great article, Paul. It’s so curious how we sometimes have no real plan for exercising our mind. Then when change pushes on the threshold of our experience it challenges us, often triggering resistance. It’s our resistance that is the source our discomfort, not necessarily the change itself. Time for more mind exercise!