A) Growth is the exceeding of limits.
B) Being outside our limits makes us uncomfortable.
C) Thus, to grow is synonymous with being uncomfortable.
It’s an alluring train of thought. But it’s too brazen, too straightforward. If it were really true that growth comes at the cost of comfort we’d see more people ditching their partners, friends and family. We’d see more people giving up what they own and downsizing. We’d see more people quitting their jobs and taking risks. We’d see more people destroying and separating themselves from all they’ve done and accumulated in the name of holy discomfort. But we don’t see that. To me—and I’m sure, to you and everyone else—it seems like these things are not conducive to growth. The platitude, as ever, is in need of subtle modification. So let’s divvy up our lives into four categories:
And furthermore, let’s say there’s four possible levels of comfort available in each area:
A) Extreme comfort
B) Mild comfort
C) Mild discomfort
D Extreme discomfort.
Now, which formulation would yield the most growth for an individual? Would being extremely uncomfortable in every domain be growth-inducing? Nope; more like breakdown-inducing. What about extreme comfort in every area? Again, no. Such a setup would yield happiness and contentment for a time, but eventually, stagnation and irrelevance would kick in. So the answer is somewhere in the middle. The best setup—the array of comfortableness that I believe would yield most growth is this:
Extreme comfort in most areas, with extreme discomfort in a single, desired area.
If we go with the category of work, it’s easy to see that the person whose health, family life, and friendships are stable is going to have an easier time taking on ambitious, challenging projects.
So yes, growth comes at the cost of comfort. But more specifically, we could say that the platform of comfort provides the stability which allows us to effectively tackle—and learn from—discomfort. Not as catchy, I know. But certainly more accurate.