Comfort vs. Happiness

I was challenged by the ocean today; she tossed me around like a sock in the washing machine, and held me under water for longer than I felt comfortable with. It wasn't the most pleasant feeling, but a necessary obstacle to face to keep progressing in surfing, a sport I love so much. Doing this has consistently helped me ride bigger waves with smaller boards, and I am more confident in situations where I once felt intense fear. I've dreamt about getting to this point for years. And now that I am here, I realize how much more room there is to grow, kind of like the tip of the iceberg thing.

This makes me reflect on other parts of my life, maybe where I’m not challenging myself so much.  Like many people, I get caught up in maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. That’s what we are programmed to do to be happy, right? I believe this is true to a certain extent, and there is a bell-shaped curve. Maximizing comfort can make us happy to a point. But after passing that point, we can get “too comfortable”, and start to feel stale and stagnant, which can lead to unhappiness in the long run.

For example: working the same job for a number of years. A lot of us have done this. Our stories are, "It’s what I know” or “I don’t have to think, I can just show up and leave at the same time every day” or "It’s safe and it pays the bills” or "It’s comfortable." Over time, this routine can get mundane and make us miserable. Why? Because we stop growing. We stop challenging ourselves. We give up progress and fulfillment for comfort and “happiness”, which is a bad investment. 

The lesson for me here is to keep challenging myself, to be ok with discomfort and a bit of pain if there is meaning and growth behind it. Sure, sometimes it’s nice to have low stress and mellow days, but it is also important to get out there on the bigger and scarier ones to become a stronger and more capable version of myself, in and out of the water. 

Leannah LumauigComment