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October 22, 2010

Are You Too Comfortable? (A Must-Read)

I used to be a voracious reader. Books, magazines, the WSJ . . . You name it, I devoured it on a daily basis. But lately I find myself consuming INFORMATION on a categorical level—blogs, tweets, Facebook updates, news feeds, the occasional guilty glimpse at Gawker—never really READING any of it. At least not in the way that consumes you for a solid 20 minutes and requires a cup of tea. And then I came across this blog post, via Twitter of course, and I actually read every word. I didn’t even take a break to check my email. It’s that good. And so very true. I’ve never heard anyone articulate the perils of getting too comfortable quite like this. With permission from writer/photographer/genius Michael Richeson, I’m repurposing it here. I hope that you’ll read it and enjoy it as much as I did. Then discuss!


We’ve been caught up in the crazy belief that personal comfort is always the goal. It’s why we try to regulate every aspect of our existence. Too cold? Crank the heat. Too hot? Turn on the AC. Bored? Turn on the TV. Work too hard? Spa day! Convinced of your beliefs? Avoid critical thought. And on and on. This has made us fat, lazy, stupid and unhealthy. Not mention that we have a chip on our shoulder and a massive entitlement complex. Creature comforts have become our god-given rights, and they’ve robbed us of our health and vitality. Of our humanity.

Here are a few examples:

• A friend of mine once dated a girl who was, generally, pleasant to be around. Unless she got hungry. Then she turned into a bipolar wreck. The world stopped until she ate. Everything revolved around her stomach. My friend dumped her. Good riddance.

• Then there was the ad rat (advertising sales) lady I worked with at a newspaper. She was a nutcase, but nothing drove her over the edge as much as the thermostat. If the temperature inside the office was a degree or two outside of her comfort zone, it ruined her day. She became incapable of doing any work.

• Last weekend, I finally experienced the grandiose awe of Crater Lake. Crater Lake is deep, unbelievably blue and cold. Very cold. Standing near the edge of a small cliff overlooking the volcanic lake, a group of men were discussing how cold the water was.

“How’s the water?” I asked one of the men.

“It’s crazy cold,” he said.

Hmm. He looked dry.

“Have you jumped in?” I asked.

“Oh, no. It’s too cold.”

“Then how would you know?”

• And I always have this type of conversation: “I’ve been going to the gym, and I eat pretty good, but… nothing seems to be happening.” Of course, what that usually means is some kind of long, slow distance running on the treadmill, and “pretty good” almost always means “pretty bad.” The solution is simple: Work harder and eat better. This elicits much weeping and gnashing of teeth. My advice, I guess, wasn’t supposed involve effort.

These brief stories all share something in common – personal comfort as the ultimate goal. In all cases, the outcome was negative: the woman’s inability to be spontaneous because of food cost her a relationship; the ad rat would lose control until I politely told her to quit whining or go home. She failed at work; the fear of “cold” kept a guy from having an amazing experience; the person who didn’t want to work hard because it didn’t sound fun stayed unhealthy.

The next time you catch yourself complaining about something comfort related, here’s a quick tip: Shut up. Stop being pathetic. Also, try some things that make you uncomfortable:

• Skip a meal. Skip three of them. In a row. Go ahead. Experience what hunger really feels like. Hundreds of millions of people spend most of their lives hungry.

• Go work out. No, I don’t mean that target heart rate crap you’ve been wasting your time on. Do something hard. Here’s one: Sprint as fast as you can for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Do that 10 times. Learn a new sport. Pick up heavy weights. Be proud of your sore muscles. You can’t improve without getting uncomfortable.

• Turn off the A/C or the heat. In February 2009, I spent the whole month in my apartment without turning on the heat. I spent a lot of evenings reading books in my sleeping bag. Why? Why not? Let yourself be cold. Feel uncomfortable. You’ll find out that you’re probably a little tougher than you thought, and you’ll realize how asinine it sounds when someone starts moaning about how it’s too hot/cold in the office.

• Get to the top of something. Go climb a mountain. Stand on the edge of a cliff. Climb a tree. Be the conquering hero once in a while. It’s extremely rewarding and motivational.

• Pick a fight. Seriously. I don’t mean go punch someone in the face, but if someone is being an idiot and ruining an experience (dinner, movie, concert, etc.), let him/her know that they should be quiet/leave/whatever. Experience “Fight or Flight” and see how you react.

• Think about something that threatens what you hold dear. What if there is a god? What if there isn’t? What if Sarah Palin has some great ideas for America? (Just kidding! She’s an idiot.)

• Stand up for something. Stick up for someone else. Do not back down. (This may lead to Pick A Fight.)

You can make your own list, of course. These are just some ideas, but if you don’t have at least one “…and I almost died!” story a year, then you’re a walking snoozefest. And the next time you find yourself thinking, “That looks fun, but…” just freaking go for it.

It’s OK to live a little.

  • Elizabeth Dehn
    Born and raised in Minnesota by surprisingly low-maintenance parents, beauty writer and lifestyle editor Elizabeth Dehn (aka Bets) spent her awkward years buying Mood lipstick and whipping up DIY face masks before founding Beauty Bets in 2009.
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