The Joy (and Adaptive Value) of Discomfort

June 5, 2015

Don’t get me wrong about feeling discomfort.

Once or twice, I’ve seen authors of fiction comment about how sometimes their characters don’t behave according to plan. That is, having fully fleshed out the individuals populating their works, the authors occasionally find it difficult or impossible to make the characters act according to a planned plotline because the actions just wouldn’t come naturally to the characters in circumstances written around them.

Notwithstanding this blog’s (generally) nonfictional nature, I have found that even writings without characters can still develop minds of their own, and turn out in ways unexpected. Specifically, my entry of last week. While I clearly had no issues with it (else presumably I would not have allowed it to run), the overall tone was somewhat grimmer than I had originally intended.

The other side of the “don’t get too comfortable” coin, which I ultimately left out lest I double the length of the piece, was that I’ve found myself to sometimes be at my best when I haven’t been thoroughly comfortable with my circumstances, professional or otherwise. Comfort all too easily blends into complacency. One becomes increasingly capable of operating on autopilot, and then either doing less than one’s best or simply not fully experiencing/enjoying what one is supposed to be doing.

Think, for instance, of a relatively newly licensed driver. He’s just been turned loose on the road. All of this is pretty new to him, and he’s really still learning. Nerves aside, he’s hopefully enjoying the new experience. He’s (again, hopefully) got a healthy respect for what can happen if he isn’t vigilant to what he’s doing and the world around him. Fast-forward about 10 years, though, and he might well be sufficiently comfortable behind the wheel that he’s willing to distract himself with text messaging. Ask him if he enjoys driving now, and he may now regard it as a necessary evil than an enjoyable activity.

Life intermittently changes things up, displacing folks from their comfort-zones and presenting new circumstances. One might resist the change and grumble about it, but, if embraced, it can be a wonderful opportunity to grow: Honing existing skillsets, gaining new ones (or just shaking the dust off those unused in recent times)…even just retaining an ability to adapt.