If you’ve ever been caught between these two you’re witness to the breach between the comfort of routine and fear of the unknown. That’s where we end up when facing a task that requires an effort larger than we’re used to, in any area of life. And the tension strikes hardest when it comes to approaching a choice that might plunge us into uncertainty. The mind immediately charges in to fill in the blanks in the unknown with scenes of gore and guts (yours), with all the super-villains from every movie ever made, laughing, taking turns at you, your hands cuffed behind your back and your nape tied to your heels. The bigger the uncertainty, the bigger the fear. You’re gonna FAIL! You’ll be the embarrassment of your generation! Or, hey, even worse… you may succeed!
So you find yourself in a face-off between fear and comfort. A rock and a hard place. Yup. You think comfort ain’t hard? Think again. It pins you down, reassuringly, like a ton of cushions and beer and other worldly pleasures, safely away from danger. But you’re still pinned down. Comfort’s corrosive, alright. And fear’s right there, staring you in the eyes, burning a hole in your desires. And there is you, aloof, stuck comfortably between these titans.
But we’ve got it backwards: fear’s not your enemy. When you think of it, all fear really is is discomfort. Alas, of a very convincing and terrifying kind – but most of the time that’s all it is: discomfort. And I mean psychological fear, not the fear you’d feel when spotting a salivating cheetah racing toward you. In that case the danger is real. Run! Irrational fear is the product of a mind freaking out at the doorstep to the unknown. It wants to keep you safe from the possibility of eternal disgrace for asking that cute girl out for an alto-unsweetened-almond-double-shot-cappuccino (or whatever the hell they call “coffee” these days). The mind can’t deal with potholes in its timeline, so it urges you to step on the brakes, lest you fall in and blow up, sky high. Most of the time fear clicks on before any calamity it tells us will happen happens at all. And after the fact, most of those monstrosities never actually come to pass anyway. And those that do often bring with them priceless lessons, although usually in disguise.
The real enemy is comfort – what we know. What we’re used to. Comfort is what keeps us stuck, not reaching for the goodies that lie beyond the threshold of its well known zone. It’s what impels us to watch another late-night infomercial for anti-bald spray instead of starting that uncomfortable but necessary conversation with the wife.
What’s worse, comfort’s even more persuasive than fear. Otherwise, why would so many spend lifetimes in its deceptive grip in an attempt to avoid fear? Better to rot slowly while reading these mind-numbing memes on Facebook than send out that email to that hot prospect.
If you must fear something, fear comfort.
Comfort leads to conformity leads to deformity.
This is the stuff we want to steer clear of.
The elixir of life lies just beyond our discomfort – in the heart of fear – while comfort soothingly squeezes the juice out of us. Learning to live with the discomfort of approaching the desire that makes you nervous is actually the “behind-the-scenes” of long-term fulfillment. Life IS uncomfortable. Birth makes sure we get the memo on day one. No “pain” (discomfort), no gain. It’s as simple as that.
I’m reminded of Anaïs Nin’s famous quote:
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
You get off the couch only when something’s inside you bursting to be unleashed and you can’t stand to lie in excuses anymore. You cease to buy into comfort’s trickery. You step off your comfort zone – into the throes of fear. You dare to kick danger’s ass beyond the relaxing erosion of convenience. You realize that all that fear of being in the storm was comfort’s way of trying to keep you safe – but not alive. And you “get” that fear is actually the fuel that propels your desires forward.
So, is your juice decaying slowly, comfortably? As Pink Floyd would say, are you hanging on in quiet desperation? Have you become comfortably numb?
Or are you willing to be uncomfortably alive?
‘Cause that’s where life’s sweet nectar’s at.
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