Despite being in a perpetual state of discomfort for thousands of years, humans have not only lived but thrived in it. Finally, after all this time we’ve been able to create a world almost completely void of discomfort. What an amazing time to be alive. It sounds like we should celebrate and revel in our luxuries and excess, right?! Instead I am here to tell you that comfort is an illusion. In fact, discomfort is comfort.
Modern inventions have made our lives here in the West better than ever in the history of humanity. Literally pick anyone in history and currently we probably have it easier and/or better than them. Refrigeration, electricity, A/C & heat, safety, clean water, an abundance of food and drink. The ability to have people do nearly anything for you with the click of a button or a few bucks. It really is quite amazing how far we’ve come. For the sake of this discussion, comfort is meant to also include luxuries and things in excess.
Not all comforts are bad and I don’t think we shouldn’t seek discomfort all the time. I’ll explore that dichotomy as well, don’t worry.
Magicians know how the magic trick works. Therefore, they aren’t fooled by the illusion of slight-of-hand, palming, or any other deceptive trick disguised as magic. This post is going to teach you how to see right through the magic trick I call comfort and become a magician to all around you.
Pay Your Future Self Dividends
Over the long run comforts deteriorate you faster. My biggest beef with short term comforts, like living in cities that require you to drive everywhere, is that the trade offs don’t reveal themselves for many years. Thus tricking people thinking it’s perfectly acceptable to design nearly every city in North America to NOT be walkable.
Truly, it leads people to never consider the long term side effects because a lot of these comforts are now deeply embedded into our culture. Driving is the easiest example to pick on because, for me at least, it’s easy to see the long term trade-offs.
People who live in walkable cities are healthier and generally live less stressful lives than their commuting counterparts. It’s hard to get people to understand that driving 1 mile to pick up fast food and then sitting in the drive-thru is counterproductive to your entire existence. I’m guilty of this myself, but now I actively try to avoid all three of those things as much as I possibly can (driving, fast food, and any type of drive-thru service).
This doesn’t just apply to physical discomfort either. A lot of people are afraid of giving presentations at work, leading people, reading a non-fiction book, or even working hard at work – all mental boundaries that are holding you back because you’re comfortable with your current position and tasks.Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body. -SenecaClick To Tweet
Take The Path Less Traveled
If you’re given a choice between the easy way and the hard way, chances are the hard way is going to prove to be infinitely more rewarding. You’re going to expand beyond your current comfort zone, which is imperative for personal growth. You’re going to change your baseline.
This leads to you having higher standards for whatever it is you’re doing. This is human progress in action.
My solution to this mind-set is simple. Become Comfort Independent. Just like our journey to Financial Independence, I am also on the path of Comfort Independence. Sure, it’s not as catchy or trending like FI is at the moment, but it’s a proven technique that’s been around for thousands of years.
This all comes down to one thing: EFFORT.
How much effort are you willing to expend now to attain a desired result? Typically, the more effort expended now, the less that needs to be expended later. We follow the same principles with saving money. Save more now, become FI, then your life is truly on easy-mode in many ways.
In many circumstances it’s not even that much more effort that needs to be expended, either…
Knock these dishes out right after dinner or do 30 dishes on Sunday evening. Go to bed early and wake up early, feeling rested and awake, or stay up and watch one more episode of this show. Run around the park with your children or sit on the bench and watch. Drive short distances instead of walking or biking. Read a book 30 to 60 minutes a day on a topic to further your understanding, or carry on at your current level of knowledge on the subject.
Start by being conscious of your daily decisions. They add up. You are the sum of your actions up until this point in life. Every action, good or bad, has a consequence.
When you go beyond your comfort zone you are increasing your baseline of what you can tolerate. People who are heat adapted or take cold showers tend not to complain about hot or cold weather.
These same people enjoy being outdoors regardless if it’s 100F or 32F. Monetarily, they enjoy spending less on cooling and heating their dwellings because they can comfortably live in a larger range than most people (74F to 76F seems to be the normal operating range for people in America). Imagine not needing heated leather seats, Bluetooth, or a back-up camera in your luxury SUV. Imagine not even needing a car except for special circumstances.
Examples are endless, but weather is something universal we all experience and can relate to. So are modes of transportation, so I keep picking on them.
Free Yourself From Yourself
If you are in debt you are a slave to the debtor. If you require yourself to always be 75F, you’re a slave to A/C and heaters year-round. Don’t be a slave to comfort.The more pleasures a man captures, the more masters he will have to serve. -SenecaClick To Tweet
Discomfort Now Brings Much Joy Later
I’ll admit this is a fairly radical idea for many these days. And a bit of an advanced technique for life even for the modern stoics. Nearly everyone I speak to about this has one reason or another why they can’t be a little more uncomfortable at times.
It’s not because they can’t do it… If you are a human, you evolved through countless millennia of discomforts. It’s because in their minds they believe that the effort required now is not worth the pay off they will receive in the future. Almost always it comes down to being shortsighted.
Remember that in order to live a life of intention and purpose you’re going to have to do something different than the average person out there. You will get strange looks when you tell people you ride a bicycle to work or that you frequently take cold showers. Or whatever it is you decide to do to get your mind and body to the next level. That’s OK. You know for a fact that your efforts will indeed pay off. Biking will help vastly lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and cold showers will make your body radiate with warmth afterwards, and expand your temperature threshold physically. It’ll also make you mentally tough.
An example of this for me would be exercise. The more mobile you are throughout your life, the easier you’ll be able to get around in your final years.
As someone who is currently watching three grandparents suffer from major issues with mobility the last few years, I can truly say this is something I think about very often. Sure, at some point there is only so much you can do. But it is a fact that my grandparents are completely dependent upon someone to do the most basic of things for them, the only exception for now is literally breathing. That is not something I’d wish for anyone.
Voluntary discomfort is more than a technique.
I feel it is now integrated and part of my way of life. It has helped me to expand my comfort zone and it brings me a lot of joy. It brings me joy because minor inconveniences don’t bother me whatsoever.
I plan to write another post about the power of removing small negatives instead of trying to add big positives. Being Comfort Independent through Voluntary Discomfort is a key component of removing many small negatives in your life.
It also brings me so much joy because when I do have the luxuries and conveniences of modern life, I truly appreciate it for what it is. Which brings us to…
When Comfort is Acceptable
Despite everything I just said, I actually believe comfort is truly acceptable all the time…
On one condition.
You must be able to be just as happy with or without your current comforts, whatever that may be. Then, and only then, is comfort completely acceptable.
Remember that you will die. One day it will happen. Many times this is used as an excuse to perpetually indulge in the short term comforts of life. YOLO!
Instead, let that be a reminder to prepare for the worst by constantly challenging yourself and pushing your comfort zone out further. Then even the most simple of lives lived is a life lived in true comfort.
I am writing this during the winter, but I am indoors in a heated coffee shop with three layers of clothing, a hat, and sitting in a comfy chair. I even hired someone to make me a coffee, where the beans were flown thousands of miles just so I could enjoy them. Who am I to speak about comfort when I am currently living like a king?!
The difference is that I could be just as happy without any of these things. As such, I appreciated my rare but luxurious time in the coffee shop much more than if that was my baseline of acceptable practices.
Reduced dependency is the power behind a simple life.
Comfort Independence fits perfectly in with our motto of spending less and living more. Live more by choosing hard work and discomfort to expand your comfort zone and create a newer, higher baseline for yourself.
As you can see, comfort is just an illusion. A slight-of-hand on your life and efforts, tricking you into thinking about taking the easy way out. Now that you fully understand how the magic trick works, feel free to perform it on others. But don’t worry, this time you can reveal your secret to the audience.