In today’s world we all want to be comfortable and have access to all the things that help us lead a life of content and happiness. Common perception is that we will be happy if we are comfortable, but what comfort does is that it makes us lazy, bored and actually discontented. We fail to realize that real happiness comes from progress and growth, that it is the real inner desire of all. But can growth happen in a comfortable environment? What about the age old wisdom: NO PAIN, NO GAIN.
So we need to understand, what makes us comfortable can ruin us and only discomfort can make us grow continuously. Take the example of any athlete: Can they grow their muscles without the pain and discomfort of rigorous training, which stretches their capacity and grows them into world class athletes?
A gold fish is very safe in a small fish bowl but can it grow like the fish in pond. Safe environment can be a very limiting environment. So how exactly does this work? Let’s see.
In a limiting environment there is always stagnation and many of us can find comfort in this because stagnation has a sort of feeling of order. Order does offer comfort but there is no growth. Now whenever there is changed order it leads to complexity and that is the root cause of discomfort.
Old wisdom tells us that to grow against established players and norms, we need to cause a massive disruption. This will cause changed order, may be chaos in the beginning but ultimately will take us into the trajectory of growth.
I feel there can be 3 ways this disruption or challenge to existing order is caused:
1. Can be Forced upon us
This is one of the main triggers for most of the people. We remain glued to the comfortable and safe environment that we are accustomed to. We don’t see how much better we could become with change. And then one fine day when we are least expecting it, something happens that throws our life in a tizzy. Take example of vinyl record industry for music. The industry was there for a century when compact disc (CD) came and almost overnight the entire vinyl record industry was wiped out. What happened to the people involved in that industry? Well, after initial discomfort most of them were able to re-tool and adjust in the different environment and grow in the modern times with the new format getting higher sales volume and better quality.
2. Someone helps you get there
Another trigger could come when someone else helps us get there. I will give my own example here. I was comfortable in my sales job in a big company. Though the package was not very healthy but I was happy as there was not much job pressure and as it was a big company with dominant market presence we were always able to make sufficient sales and commissions. It was here when this nudge came from my wife encouraging me to look for some higher and challenging responsibilities. Now as my existing job didn’t offer that because of saturation, I started looking for other opportunities and started my own business. It was very tough in the beginning. The customers who I thought were my main strength didn’t feel interested in my new products and were wary of being associated with a new company which was just a startup. First two years were very uncomfortable, to say the least. I had to work double hard and still not get the results that I took for granted in my earlier job. I saw my earlier colleagues still happily working in old company. Many friends started questioning my decision but then slowly things started to change and my new small company started growing. This time changed me entirely and now in hindsight I feel, has broadened my vision. Today I thrive on challenges and look for new opportunities.
3. You trigger it yourself
Another change in order could be triggered by yourself. Take the example of Mahatma Gandhi. Think what would have happened if he had not opposed his racial treatment in South Africa while travelling in train or if he had not started the satyagraha and Civil Disobedience Movements against the oppressive regime in India. He also had the choice of accepting what was norm at that time like others did. He was a barrister and had a comfortable and high paying practice. He could have remained happy like others lived. But then the whole change in order would not have happened world wide. He looked beyond his personal comfort and figured out the real meaning of happiness. There are many such examples world over of people themselves embracing discomfort for growth. These are the people who change the world by accepting discomfort and bringing growth to the society.
It is true that we like to avoid the change, because change is uncertain and brings chaos. But during that period of chaos we look for the solutions. Our mind expands. We look for the methods previously unexplored. Our capacity to think, work and visualize expands. Strength which so far was unknown to us comes to our rescue. We find our purpose and become an individual we always wanted to be.
I would say this change, this discomfort is the seed of our growth and development. As an old saying goes “Change can be scary but you know what is scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving and progressing”
Abraham Maslow also said “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety”
So shun the safe and the limiting environment, embrace discomfort, look for growth and the glory awaits you.