It amazes me every time I realize (over and over) how many lessons I learned in my teens, 20’s and 30’s, but I’m only now – in reflection – finally getting the point. A great example has to do with the toxicity of “comfort”.
Very few things came easy to me as I was growing up and growing older. Even music, the one thing I truly have a natural affinity for and ability in, even this was rarely comfortable. All of the skills I’ve learned were earned with countless hours of pain and sweat and frustration and disappointment, with an occasional sprinkle of success and satisfaction and revelation.
Back then, I didn’t consciously seek discomfort – or avoid comfort, for that matter – I simply did whatever was necessary to eek, inch by painful inch, toward my goal. And if that meant the periodic spilling of my own blood (whether from my fingers during guitar practice, or from wounds received during martial arts practice), then that was the acceptable cost.
Only now, at the age of 58, am I consciously pushing myself to learn what I used to naturally “know”. Somewhere in my 40’s and 50’s, I forgot the cost of success. I somehow, in imperceptive increments, let go of my focused search for perfection and began to wrap my arms around “comfort”. Eventually, my arms were wrapped so tightly around comfort that I couldn’t see what I was doing. I had been doing it long enough that I couldn’t feel the difference.
Only when I started learning and studying Stoicism could I finally put words to the echoes of feelings that were reminding me of my lost Self. The Self that didn’t overthink the process of success. My old Self would simply “Just Begin” toward the dim light of my goals, and would tackle each and every obstacle that slowed me down – or even stopped me for a time – and wouldn’t care at all about the cost of blood and pain and time that were demanded.
Then I saw the words “Voluntary Discomfort” during my Stoic readings. I loved the concept, but that phrase didn’t quite capture what I KNOW I needed to do to reclaim my old Self. Eventually, the phrase morphed in my head to “Seek Discomfort”.
That was it!
It expressed an action that needed to be done. Voluntary Discomfort can often be viewed as allowing discomfort to happen to you. but “Seek Discomfort” is a forward moving action. I am actively seeking that which is uncomfortable – just like I used to when I was younger… back when I actually achieved my goals.
In the last year, or so, I’ve gathered a handful of terms that speak to the deepest part of my True Self. They demand attention. They demand action. And “Seek Discomfort” is definitely one of the ones I say to myself daily – repeatedly.
Please believe me, kids. Life happens To You constantly, and – if you let it – it will sweep you along like a powerful current. And before you know it, years – sometimes decades – will pass before you realize that you somehow lost control of your course. The goals that constantly stack themselves like cordwood in the back of your mind will gather dust, even as you continue to build upon it.
Seek Discomfort – now! Don’t wait for the right day or time or conditions or money or circumstances or… anything else that throws a shadow on your forward path.