This morning I ran across this post from Jen Louden who is on a 19-day roadtrip to stay, as she puts it, "life-limber."
I’ve noticed that aging + the cosseted hush of business travel + marrying a very competent traveler named Bob has edged me into a zone of fear around heading out on my own.
Unless every element is planned and unless I have a purpose, my mind comes up with a thousand reasons to stay put.
Now this might make me sound silly and if so, fine. It’s certainly a first world problem. And yet here is what I observe: the older I get, the more I need to be on the lookout for all the ways wanting to be comfortable imprisons me. Being an introvert who gets overwhelmed easily, needing gluten-free healthy food to feel good, getting easily tired are all true but they can also be excuses to hide behind.
Of course, it’s not just around travel. It’s around reading challenging books or having a difficult conversation or making a new friend – it all gets to be “too much effort” and into the comfort zone I go.
I think this is what happens to many of us in our careers. We reach a place where we are "comfortable"--in our habits, our skills, our relationships, and the work we do on a daily basis--and rocking that boat becomes too much effort.
Comfort can be good. We don't want to live our lives in a constant state of anxiety or chronic hardship. But comfort can also be the enemy.
Comfort breeds complacency. It makes us believe that change will not come to us. It encourages habits of preservation and constriction that can, in turn, lead to lives that are small and in many ways, less alive.
Comfort also makes us less resilient, less adaptable to change. We lose our capacity to care for ourselves in different circumstances and find that our skills and relationships are more brittle than we'd realized. Stress and challenge can be good things for the human animal. They test our mettle and keep us sharp.
Reading Jen's post made me think about my own comfort-seeking habits and how they end up confining me on narrow paths. Too often I choose the known and the easy because everything else feels like too much effort. And then I'm surprised when I'm bored or irritated by the restrictive nature of this life I've built.
Comfortable work also means I'm not stretching myself, not growing and learning and making the kinds of connections that bring energy and vitality to what I do. As much as I seek comfort, it can also be a force that deadens my sense of purpose and delight in the world.
How have you become too comfortable in your life and work? How might your comfort-seeking be holding you back and keeping you from achieving your dreams? What comfortable habits do you need to release in order to keep growing? What adventures do you need to seek to shake things up for yourself?