Personal Growth By Avoiding Comfort

I watched a TEDx talk yesterday called Why Comfort will Ruin Your Life, by Bill Eckstrom. Bill’s central point was that only through the discomfort of complexity in our lives can we grow.

It got me thinking about my own life and how many years I wasted seeking out comfort. Instead of achieving growth, I was largely stagnant. We seek comfort because it feels good. Sometimes we seek it out because we fear the unknown and the unpredictable. In a comfortable state, everything is in order and can be anticipated. In a state of disorder, we don’t always know outcomes.

I remember once in college my professor encouraged us to take a summer internship that promised to teach certain technical skills that could lead to a high paying career. But out of fear, I didn’t even bother applying.

I was working at a textile factory and using it to pay my way through school. I was afraid that if I gave it up, I wouldn’t have a job after the summer. In reality, the company probably would have been happy to bring me back. But even if they hadn’t, I would have found something else. It wasn’t the only job around. Or the internship might have led to a much better job.

I let the comfort of a low-end job keep me from something much better. Looking back on my life I can identify other times when I actually chose stagnation over growth. But, instead of brooding over my past mistakes, I use these observations to challenge myself today, right now.

There’s nothing I can do about the past. And I can’t predict or control what happens in the future. But I do have influence over what I choose to do right now. I can choose to be comfortable and watch time pass. Or I can choose the road less traveled by, which might be longer and harder but will bring me to new places.

The great thing about only being able to influence the present is that if you fail to choose growth, you’ve only failed at that moment. The very next moment is like a life reset. That realization takes off a lot of pressure. You don’t have to look at your entire past and pick out the successes and failures. You only have to observe this moment and challenge yourself to complicate life for a moment for the sake of growth.

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