Isn’t comfort supposed to be good?

I wanted to leave my comfort zone to see if the magic would finally happen, and swung from one extreme to the other. This pendulum has left me dizzy.

It’s been some 15 years since I started going to the gym. Classes, never. I’ve always liked to exercise at the time of my convenience, and at my own pace. The flip side has been the lack of supervision, though. Around 2009, my wrists started to hurt and, after seeing a sequence of doctors without ever having a good diagnosis, I found this orthopedist that went straight to the point: your gym routine is quite wrong for you. Pursuing visible results, I wouldn’t train the necessary muscles and ended up overloading others. Hence the injuries, and the recommendation to try out some Pilates.

Instead of that strength I judged adequate for the gym, in the German technique the focus was on body awareness. I’ve learned, for instance, that sometimes the spine should be imprinting (straightened, as if completely touching a wall) and, in other moments, in neutral – where it would naturally be, provided I had a flawless posture. Quite challenging. Moving all the way to one side or the other, that’s fine. Nevertheless, finding that shade of grey where the spine is arched, somewhere in between, was something new. It took me quite a while to be comfortable with the middle, where I would allegedly find virtue. But that shouldn’t really come as a surprise, given the lifestyle I was in.

Roller-coasters are cool, but not to call them home.

A market-based organisation intends to lead its workforce to generate as much value as possible. A not so wise way of doing that is inducing them to work until they drop. Even better if via the achievement of continuous and measurable results. Maximizing results per (infinitesimal) unity of time, instead of the best result through time. Mediocre but constant and observable results are preferred to brilliant though irregular achievements.

This short-term myopia is time and again seen as imposed by the survival principal resulting from a fierce capitalistic economy. But it’s just short-term myopia. The true capitalist knows he needs to innovate, and hence creative workers cannot be lost. Nevertheless, whoever looks for intellectual satisfaction at work will not find it if they need to worry about the visible outcomes of their actions at any given moment. Same if they only need to look busy all the time.

It’s like you either deliver all the time, or you are seen as delivering nothing. Nowadays, it sounds like common sense that the successful entrepreneur is the one who allows room for mistakes. Still, the search for uninterrupted results remains quite deep-rooted in so many of our behaviors that one’s inclination to feel guilty about being idle makes him an easy prey. Just think of the appeal of the “work hard, play hard” motto. Or how we’re constantly tempted by the idea of maximizing the number of tourist hotspots we visit on a trip, or the number of books read in a year. Targets for resting. There’s no such thing as neutral.

Extremes led me to injuries. I used to think stoicism was some kind of waste of time. Move away from strong emotions, either positive or negative? That’s narrowing down the pleasures palette. Nevertheless, during a frantic oscillation between extremes, one can barely appreciate the subtleties in the middle. Roller-coasters are cool, but not to call them home. And if comfort was something bad, Adam and Eve would have run away before being evicted from Eden (it wasn’t exactly “magic” what they found outside). A comfort zone doesn’t own its name if it’s marked off by fears. Is there anything more uncomfortable than anxiety? To try and do things just for the sake of showing that you can… To show that you’re not comfortably quiet. If I were really comfortable, I would not think of changing at all! All I wanted was to jump out of the discontent with the inner me.

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