Cole, a 12-year-old Labrador, was lying by his food bowl. There was still a bit of food in it. He had eaten his fill and could not finish the rest. This is not his usual resting place. The laminated floor was hard and cold. It was not painful or dire, however, it was not comfortable either. He looked longingly at his bed by the fireplace. He knew he would rather lie in his warm, soft bed. He would have done so if not for the new rescue dog that had arrived recently. The young three-year-old Labrador has taken a habit of eating from Cole’s food bowl! Cole was determined not to allow that travesty to happen again, hence lying on the cold hard floor beside his food bowl that was not empty… yet.
The young whippersnapper was nowhere in sight. Cole laid there for another 20 minutes before the discomfort got into his old aching bones. He looked at his uneaten food, made up his mind and stood up. He then cast a glance where he thought the young dog would be and at his food bowl again before turning away to slowly walk to his inviting bed. He then made half a turn on his bed before flopping down, heaving a great sigh. “Some food can be given up and sacrificed for this comfort!” he thought. He had managed to let go of his desire to hoard his food that was too much and ended up in the pleasure that he knew he desired and deserved instead.
Imagine your life on a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is being in extreme pain and 10 is being in absolute bliss, pleasure and ecstasy. Our sovereign soul and inner self knows that we should be living all aspects of life at level 10. Whether it is in our relationships, work/profession, the connections we make with others and inner feelings. We should be living our best life, creating and expressing our dreams, enjoying what the wonderful concept of life has to offer. And yet we don’t. Why is that? Why do we know where we want to go and yet do not take the first step? For some, it could be that they did not know the first step and needed guidance. For many, they actually know the first step (in fact, they may even know the entire route) but still fail to start their journey. It is not enough to know what to do. We have to do what we know. What holds people back? Is it fear? Or something else?
You may have heard of great transformational changes that some have taken. The overweight lady has lost a tremendous amount of weight and stayed slim. The unaspiring man who had survived a motorcycle crash turned his life around and became a useful citizen to his community. Or simply an ‘average’ mother who started her own company and created something from nothing. How did these people do it? What was holding other people back did not seem to apply to them. How did they release their brakes and soar through life as they have done?
The answer is comfort. They stopped being comfortable. You see, most people, are about a 4 or 5 on the life scale. It is not a 1 or 2 for them. A 1 on the pain scale would bring extreme pain that they would have no choice but to change and take action, actions they would not have taken if the pain was not so extreme. Life is not a 9 or 10 either. They know they want to get there. However, being at 4 or 5, they know they are not at 10 yet but the pain is not great enough to stimulate and motivate any action to be taken. They continue to cruise at the level of pain they are comfortable with. Yes, they learn how to be comfortable in their discomfort. This also placates their fears. There is no fear if you are doing exactly what you did before as you know the predictable outcomes.
Many people do more to move away from pain than to move towards pleasure. The irony is that our brain is constantly looking for pleasure. So when we find pleasure, the tendency to stay at that level of pleasure is strong. Like a lobster breaking out from its shell, growth can be uncomfortable. You are trying something new, you will make mistakes, you will become the rookie again, like a baby taking his first steps. God forbid, you may even fail! (A reminder: Failure is required for success and the opposite of success is not failure, it’s not trying.) It is no wonder that many seek comfort. Comfort is nice. It is warm and gives a fuzzy feeling. It is something we desire and automatically seek for. You look for the comfiest chair in the room, the softest bedding, the familiar taste of food and enjoy having others pamper you. It is all good. However, comfort is also the enemy of growth.
When you stay comfortable, it is much harder to grow. To grow is to change, whether it is mentally, physically or emotionally. To change is to leave the old familiar you behind to develop your new unexplored you. It means leaving what you fully know and understand to learn something new and foreign. Lest you are mistaken, it does not mean forget yourself and start from scratch. It is more of opening your mind to allow new ideas to come in and consider letting go of old limiting beliefs that do not serve you. Change is not meant to be comfortable. That is why not many people do it. They know what they should do but they are too comfortable to cause any upheaval in their lives.
In that case, how do you do it? Luckily, the tool we have between our ears that seeks comfort also has a strong capacity that we call imagination. Our brain is not able to differentiate between reality and imagination. That is why our dreams can seem so real and sometimes we imagine things that have taken place (like a conversation or a deed) when in reality, it had not happened. So, you can use your powerful mind and ask yourself, what would happen if you did not change and actually imagine the worst scenario. For example, what would happen if I did not lose that weight? I would get even fatter, my health would deteriorate and I will not be able to enjoy my family as much. I may even not be around to see my children’s children. The pain may be great enough for you to take action today. Find your pain and use it to stimulate change. It may sound extreme and ridiculous to do so. That is also why not many people change.
Cole decided to give up hoarding his food that he could not eat to move towards his warm cosy bed, his slice of heaven. What do you have to give up or leave to move towards the pleasure and ecstasy you desire?
‘Humans are wired to seek and maintain the familiar. Success requires you to seek the discomfort of the unknown.’ – Louise Cartwright