Am I Comfortable?
I saw a graphic (or meme, if that’s the right word) not too long ago that sought to remind men not to get “comfortable” in their relationship with the special lady in their life. Of course, I get the point. Don’t take her for granted; treat her well always; be the man she deserves, etc. This is a good message; I have no problems with this message.
I am interested, though, in this notion of comfort.
The Oxford dictionary defines comfort as:
A state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint
The easing or alleviation of a person’s feeling of grief or distress
It appears that comfort is explicitly a good thing.
Here’s another context where the word “comfort” gets negative press: when we talk about comfort zones. We’re told that if you are accustomed to something, if you’re good at it and derive some sense of familiarity with being good at it, then you need to expand your horizons. You need to LEAVE your comfort zone.
You Deserve to be Comfortable
But, in defense of your own well-being, why would you want to leave something that brings you freedom from pain or that eases your grief and distress? Let’s not be overly dramatic; you don’t have to quit everything that brings you comfort. I think what people are trying to say is that we need to GROW our comfort zone. You shouldn’t be ashamed of being comfortable with certain things in your life; that’s not going to help you grow.
If you’re an adult who only likes to eat chicken nuggets and fries and you’re seeking change, then don’t hate on the chicken nuggets. Instead, strive to become a person who is comfortable eating chicken nuggets AND salad. Viewing change in this way will seem less harsh, like the change has a subtleness about it that seems more manageable. After you’ve made forward progress enough that eating something other than chicken nuggets isn’t a total disaster for your comfort, then if you want, you can do more work on reducing the number of nuggets you eat or eliminating them from your diet entirely.
Change and Comfort
If you’re considering “getting out of your comfort zone,” you may first find benefit in examining if you have some unconscious negative beliefs about change in general that go beyond a particular change effort. A big reason why change is so scary for people is because we have identities built around certain activities or roles that become threatened when we consider changing our behaviors.
While I do think it is possible to change these identities as I mentioned in Paradox in Change and The Agile Change Agent, I also recognize that this is sort of an advanced concept, and regardless of its level of depth, it may not work for everyone in every situation.
The best first step toward changing behaviors is to change mindset, and the best way to change mindset is to show yourself compassion. It’s perfectly fine to seek comfort. The behaviors you are comfortable with now have served you well to get you to this point in your life, and in order to move forward, it may be necessary to find comfort in new behaviors.
Can you be a person who eats chicken nuggets AND a person who eats salad?