It’s impossible to feel comfortable if we’re always comfortable. This baffling contradiction, a first-world happiness blocker, is difficult to embrace. Yet, once understood, it enhances life by amplifying pleasure. It’s why I encourage my students to run in the dark.
In developing countries, where discomfort is the norm, physical comfort is evanescent. In Nicaragua, for example, hungry kids walk to school, take cold showers (with buckets) and sleep in cramped homes with spotty (if any) electricity. In contrast, many American and developed-world kids are cursed with comfort. They’re chauffeured to school and to formal, parent-planned organized activities. They settle into soft, comfy beds in homes where ample food, warm water and working everything are expected.
Not that any of us anywhere are always socially or emotionally comfortable. Far from it. Rich or poor, life beats on us all. Physically, however, discomfort is disproportionate. Those who have had the misfortune of being born into fortune (and, thus, never having to struggle to have Maslow’s lowest level of needs met), will have to learn how to pry themselves from their literal comfort zones. They’ll need to learn to actively fight every natural yet weak human instinct and embrace discomfort. If they don’t, luxury will rob them of the ephemeral joy that is comfort.
Deliberately rising from a soothing sleep at 5:00 AM to work out in the dark is an excruciating task few are willing to undertake. Yet, those who endure this sort of challenge on a Friday morning will, on a Saturday morning, feel and appreciate the comfort of sleeping in on a level never experienced by those who forever seek calm water and a smooth path.
This is NOT what this article is about! (But I like it.)
I teach at a school where students have told me, “Mr. Richards we just try to get the highest possible grade with the least amount of effort.” I doubt this misdirected ambition is confined to them. I’m convinced that it’s the depressing mantra of unfulfilled people everywhere. “Looking for easy” is an innate yet self destructive behavior. It destroys one of life’s great gratifications – battling through hard.
Our Spartan runs that take place on the Mission San Jose High School track at 5:30 AM on the first Friday of the month are now open to everyone, not just my students. Parents have begun to join us on our journey to comfort by, literally, running the road of discomfort. If you live in the first-world, I invite you to join us.