Both our bodies and minds crave comfort. We are all drawn to things that are comfortable and pleasurable. Every single one of us. As a result, we have to be on constant guard against living our lives in the pursuit of pleasure and comfort.
Comfort and Pleasure are Good
To be clear, comfort and pleasure are good things. I’m thankful that our bodies and minds can experience them, and they’re part of what makes life wonderful. Good food, good drink, good sex, good music, a warm bed, a cool breeze, cold water, a long hug with a loved one, a big smile with a good friend – I’m thankful for every single one of those things and plenty of others. I’m thankful for times to play, rest, relax, sleep, laugh, and be entertained. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that pleasure and comfort are to be avoided. They’re not. In their proper place, they are some of the best parts of life.
But they must be held in check. They must be limited to proper times, places, and amounts. Otherwise, we’ll miss out on the other good things in life, such as love, peace, capability, skillfulness, and accomplishment. You can’t have those things if you pursue a life of unchecked pleasure and comfort.
Toughness, Discipline, and Character
But keeping pleasure and comfort in their proper place takes discipline and toughness, as both are required in order to face discomfort. In order to limit pleasure and comfort, we must be willing to face discomfort and, sometimes, pain. No matter how tough we are, there will always be a voice telling us to ignore or turn away from discomfort. Always. Our job is to build the internal toughness and discipline to reject that voice and do what needs to be done. How do we build that internal toughness and discipline? By rejecting the call to embrace comfort and doing what needs to be done. Yeah, I get it, it’s a circular thing. You need internal toughness to consistently turn away from your desire to be comfortable, but you need to turn away from your internal desire to be comfortable in order to build internal toughness and discipline.
“No matter how tough we are, there will always be a voice telling us to ignore or turn away from discomfort. Always. Our job is to build the internal toughness and discipline to reject that voice and do what needs to be done.”
It may be a bit circular, but it’s true. In fact, it’s the essence of what we call character or self-discipline. The more you make the right choices, the stronger you get inside, thus making it easier in the future to make right choices. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. The more you make bad choices, the stronger the influence of comfort/pleasure/etc., on you, thus making it harder in the future to make the right choices. This is why few people start out as hardened criminals, but many end up there. In fact, it’s the reason we call them “hardened” criminals. Their consciences are “hardened” to what is right and their character is solidified to choosing what is wrong. That’s a bit simplistic, but you get the idea.
So what does that mean for us? It means we need to be aware of the pull, the influence, that comfort has on our bodies and minds. And being aware of that influence means that we must remain vigilant to protect ourselves from that influence.
Practical Ways We Avoid Discomfort
Here are some ways that we avoid discomfort:
- We skip our workout because we’re tired or we’d just rather lie on the couch and watch football.
- We screw our diet because we had a bad day or we’re bored, so we ate 10 extra cookies, the whole cake, or the whole pizza.
- We’ve avoided changing our oil/brakes/etc., for several months because we just want to relax.
- We don’t have a conversation with our kids that we know we need to have because we’re not sure what to say, we don’t want to rock the boat, or we’re just not comfortable doing it.
- We don’t ask our boss for a raise, a promotion, to work from home, or to lead a cool project because we’re embarrassed or afraid.
- We don’t step on that scale in the bathroom because we don’t want confirmation that we’ve been eating way too much and because we don’t want to stop eating way too much.
- We don’t want to have that growth or that pain checked out because we don’t want to get bad news from our doctor.
- We ignore that home repair that’s been needed for months because we’re just not sure what to do about it.
- We refuse to look at our bank account or design a budget because we don’t want to face the fact that we spend too much money.
- We go to bed after we know our wife is asleep because we don’t want to be intimate.
- We avoid real conversations with our wife because we don’t want to acknowledge that our relationship is distant and perhaps in real trouble.
- We won’t return our friend’s phone call because we know he’s going to ask some uncomfortable questions about our behavior and we really don’t want to deal with it.
- We won’t try anything new because we don’t know how to do it and don’t want to look foolish.
- We won’t ask questions because we’re embarrassed that we don’t already know the answers.
- We won’t set boundaries with our wives because we don’t want to upset them or deal with their response.
- We won’t start conversations with people we’d like to meet or get to know because we’re just not sure what to say and they might think we’re weird, stupid, etc.
These are just a few examples out of thousands. If you’re like me, you saw yourself in more than one of those statements. Capitulating to comfort and pleasure rarely means that you’re leaving your family to snort cocaine with strippers and prostitutes. More typically, it means that you’re ignoring an area of your life that you know needs to be addressed and changed. That’s how comfort and pleasure take hold of people, little by little. Refuse to face discomfort in one area, and it eventually bleeds over into another area. The good news is that the opposite is also true: the more you choose to face discomfort, the easier it becomes down the line and in other areas.
Here’s your challenge for this week: take inventory and see where you’re giving in to comfort, where you’ve been unwilling to face discomfort and address an area that you know needs to be addressed. My guess is that, for most of us, we won’t even need to take inventory; we already know an area that we’ve neglected. If that’s the case, there’s no need to wallow in guilt, just get moving and get the ship righted. We all know how liberating it feels to conquer an obstacle, how much lighter our load feels when we shed a burden that had been growing and growing. Dealing with that unaddressed issue will ultimately reduce your stress, bolster your character, and make life better for you and your family. This is the man’s life.
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