Discomfort zone
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Rod Nepomuceno () - November 14, 2011 - 12:00am

I recently bought two “cozy” chairs for myself. They were on sale, so I decided to splurge a bit and got two: one for the bedroom, and one for my TV room/ guest room. Talk about self-indulgence.  I was really happy when the units were delivered.  I looked forward to long and lazy Sunday afternoons just watching HBO or Discovery Channel, having a beer and munching on bowls of popcorn, falling asleep, and waking up at dusk not knowing what day or time it is.  

So last weekend, I tried to do it.  I sat down, propped up the leg rest, opened up a cold brewski, flipped the remote and I said, “Ah, this is the life.”  It was all hunky-dory for a few minutes. Then, something weird happened.  After a while, I began to become restless.  I began thinking of so many things, and became fidgety.   Random thoughts started popping into my head, like:

“Hey, did I send that proposal I was supposed to send?” 

“Hmm, I haven’t changed that funny-looking FB profile picture I posted.”

“Darn, did I do that financial report correctly?”

“How could Kim and Kris divorce after just 72 days?”

“Rod, how can you be so relaxed when so many people are starving and in pain?”

Soon, what was supposed to be a relaxing, mindless, and carefree “non-activity” became filled with stress, tension, and angst. I couldn’t understand it.  All week long, I couldn’t wait to be comfortable and just lie still.  But when the moment finally came, my mind — and soul — wouldn’t stop bothering me.  I moved from “comfort zone” to  “discomfort zone” in a matter of minutes.

On the one hand, I guess that’s really my nature.  I’m the type of guy who can’t stop moving.   I can’t keep still.  But at the same time, I think it’s also my soul telling me something.   A few Sundays ago, the gospel sermon in Mass was about this man who had a good harvest, so he decided to store up all that he reaped into many barns.  Then he told himself, “All right, I’m all set. I can live it up the next couple of years without working.  I’ll drink and be merry.”  Then God said, “You fool!  Today, you’re going to croak.”  And the guy died.  I’ve heard that particular parable so many times, but for some reason, it had a greater impact on me when I heard it a few weeks ago.  It made me think more. 

I find life ironic in so many ways.  All of us work hard so that we can buy things to make our lives more comfortable.  We work hard to buy a nice, big, comfortable house.  We work hard to buy a nice, big comfortable car.   We work hard so we can go on long vacations where we can relax and be comfortable at a beach or a mountain resort.  We work hard so we can eat, drink, and be merry.  We work hard to buy expensive and comfortable clothes.  We work hard so that we can afford high-end hospitals and expensive medicine so that we can be comfortable when we’re sick.  In a nutshell, most of us work hard so we can be comfortable, and be spared any discomfort and pain.

And yet, once we have all of that, we’re still not entirely comfortable, are we?  We find the situation so comfortable that we get, uh, uncomfortable about it.   Don’t believe me?  Take a look at the top CEOs and business owners.  I’d imagine that they have everything in life to make them live comfortably for the rest of their days.  They can afford to just be in their nice, cozy lofts, their nice comfy beds, or in their sprawling vacation homes — and just spew out orders to their staff from wherever they are.  And yet, they don’t do that.  CEOs and business owners continue to stress themselves out, working in the office from early morning to late at night.  And in their free time, they don’t just lie around.  They get themselves involved in socio-civic/ community activities, or they run marathons or triathlons, or they go mountain biking in Laguna. They can afford to be comfortable and pain-free, and yet they don’t content themselves with being comfortable.  They seem to like a little “discomfort” in their life.  Why is that?

I spoke to a top executive of a media outfit recently.  His life is pretty interesting.  He started out in an entirely different industry.  He did pretty well in that industry.  The time finally came when he decided to call it “a career.”   He decided to cash in and go abroad and stayed out of the country for more than eight years, just traveling, meeting new people, having coffee in quaint cafes, reading books, and basically being a “homebody.”  But after a while, he had an “itch.”  He wanted to go back to the corporate world, and, in his own words, be in a “discomfort zone” once again. 

“I missed the feeling of being stressed — you know, like trying to meet a deadline, managing the cash flow of a business, or trying to please a difficult client,” he said.  “I wanted to feel the struggle of trying to close a deal … and the joy that eventually came with the signing of a contract.   I was too comfortable when I was abroad.  And I wasn’t happy with it.   It’s weird.  I longed to be uncomfortable again — to struggle, to fight.  It’s funny, it’s almost like the struggle is the reward itself.”

I can fully relate to my friend.  I, too, have gone through similar “comfort-to-discomfort” movements in my life.  From being a lawyer, I became a media man.  Then from being a media man, I became an adman. I liked the struggle of learning new things, and establishing myself in a new industry. There was always something new to look forward to.  My friend, however, reinforced what I knew all along, i.e., the main purpose in life is not to be comfortable.  It is not to gain pleasure.   The purpose of life is to work, and to work for a purpose.  Rest and comfort are only breaks; they are not the ends.  Rest and comfort should never be our goal.  There’s a lot of time to rest and be comfortable when we’re dead.   While we’re alive we should be involved in something.  And that something should always keep us on your toes.  Because when you’re on your toes, you will have no choice but to move.  And we are all created to move.   We were not created to lie still.

George Harrison, the quiet Beatle, was once quoted as saying, “You know what, I wish I knew how it would have been like to have a mortgage, and eventually paying it off.  I can only imagine how great that must feel.”   Here’s a guy who had all the fame in the world, who could afford practically anything he wanted, and who could afford to be comfortable his entire life, wishing that he had experienced the struggle of everyday folks like us.  Clear proof that “comfort” is one of the most overrated goals in life.

Are you feeling too comfortable?  Are you cruising along in your career?  Is your work so easy and so routine you can do it with your eyes closed?  Do you feel you’re too much in a comfort zone?  If so, beware.  That’s not a good sign.

Remember: don’t be too comfortable.  Always challenge yourself.  Always push yourself. And always move forward.  That’s the only way to live life.

Life is a journey.  And no one ever reaches his destination by lying comfortably.

Anyone want a cozy chair?  I’ve got two.

* * *

Thanks for your letters, folks!  You may e-mail me at rodhnepo@yahoo.com.

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