Comfort Equals Stagnation

18 Jan

“The worst curse to befall anyone is stagnation, a banal existence,
the quiet desperation that comes out of a need for conformity.”

— Deepak Chopra

If you think about it, conformity is something we’re herded into from the beginning of our school experience. Whether we started in nursery school or kindergarten, we still received our introduction to “The Schedule.”

We became indoctrinated into “Learning Time” – “Play Time” – “Cookie Time” – “Nap Time.” If we didn’t want to cooperate we were labeled as “trouble-makers.

Non-conformists were labeled as “subversives” in the sixties. At the same time, Malvina Reynolds wrote a wonderful song called “Little Boxes” poking fun at conformity. Here’s an excerpt:

“Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.” *

Conformity is its own kind of prison that traps us into believing we are “normal” – but with limitations, like the walls of that prison. It’s deceptive because we can feel “safe” within its confines – but the fact is, we’re still imprisoned.

This leads to stagnation, which is a form of living death.

In the course of our own personal development, if we aren’t stretching ourselves and moving forward, we’re most probably moving backward. For those of us on a spiritual path, there can be no “resting.” There can be a moment’s pause to refresh, or reflect, but coming to a full halt is the beginning of deterioration of what we’ve built up to that point.

In 12-Step Recovery programs there is a saying, “No Pain, No Gain.” While I don’t believe it should be necessary to experience pain in order to grow, I do know that is it necessary to plunge one’s self into chaos. “Comfort” is not a good fertilizer for growth, whether personal, professional, spiritual or whatever. “Discomfort” is an indicator that we’re living outside the constrictions of the prison of conformity – we’re in “unchartered waters” – so to speak – without a map, a compass, and possibly even a boat or water wings!

But that is the fertile ground where growth takes place. “Necessity is the mother of invention” and we are forced into new ways of thinking, acting, and relating to ourselves and the world. It is in these moments of “discomfort” that we truly discover our inner strengths and capabilities. We discover new truths and leave old myths behind us – like a grasshopper shedding its skin, leaving behind a perfectly formed outline of what it used to be but has grown out of.

We don’t generally like being uncomfortable – that’s why we tend to avoid it. But the alternative is far worse. Stagnation is living death. There can only be one way to grow – get out of our comfort zone.

In practical application, as one who depends on cold calls for prospecting, I have to encounter my resistance to “discomfort” daily – or I experience the consequences, i.e. no income. I love the rewards of successful prospecting, which results in sales. So in order to experience that end result, I have to embrace discomfort.

Same thing applies in recovery from addictions. Getting clean and sober is physically painful. It’s “comfortable” to stay high, and detoxification is a bear – but in order to clear the body of its poisons, one has to be able to get through the pain of withdrawal. Then there’s dealing with the loss of your “best friend” – your drug of choice. That hurts too, mentally and emotionally. But getting past that discomfort means winning and progressing to a better way of living drug/alcohol-free.

“In comfort you are stagnant; in discomfort you cannot control and must meet the occasion called progress and development.” –Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha

-Deborah Adler

* words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1962 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1990.

©2011 Deborah Adler. All rights reserved. (NOTE: All quotes remain the sole property of the original authors.)

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