• Shane

What is Comfort?

I think that for each of us 'comfort' means something different. To many, comfort is having a routine. Most people seek routine, even if they do so unconsciously. Normal routine is comforting because they can count on things generally staying the same. McDonalds, Home Depot, Walmart, Macy's and other chain stores rely upon this subtle human trait. Knowing what you are going to get when you walk in provides comfort to our psychological needs.

People continue to work for a particular company because they can rely upon many nuanced routines to always be the same. Many people would not work for a company for very long if they constantly changed your pay, your hours, or the location of your employment. You rely upon the same commute, because you know how long it takes to get to and from work. You know how much each paycheck is going to be, and you can plan your expenditures accordingly. You know how your bosses and co-workers will react when you leave and return from vacation or have a sudden problem and need to leave work to take care of it. That is comforting.

Opening your kitchen cabinets to reveal your dishes, exactly where you left them, opening a refrigerator full of food and drinks you placed there, sitting on your own couch watching your own TV with programming to which you subscribed in a language you understand, and sleeping in your own bed, with your own sheets, and your pillow, with the smells you recognize are all mentally comforting. Many people erroneously call this feeling 'security.'

Some people might be more adventurous and not need such stability in their lives. They may be the type to avoid chain stores and restaurants, and constantly try new foods and shopping locations. They might also be fine working at a job that moves locations, has fluctuating pay, and varying hours - like construction workers. But most of these people still seek the comfort of a house that does not move, and neighbors with which they are familiar.

There are also the wandering types who live a transient lifestyle in RVs, boats, and tents, and those world travelers who have no difficulty living out of a back pack, staying in different hostels around the world, or wandering aimlessly in search of who knows what. Their comforts might be as simple as good conversation, relaxing at sunset with a beverage, or sleeping under a dark night's starry sky.

Most people will balk at significant change from their personal comfort zone. They lose their sense of security. What they are really struggling with is lack of peace of mind. But peace of mind is self-created and self-reinforcing. If you find that you are close minded to a particular thing, it is because you have created a comfort bubble around yourself, one that you allow to prevent you from seeing and experiencing much outside of it.

"And oh as I fade away, They'll all look at me and say, and they'll say, Hey look at him! I'll never live that way. But that's okay They're just afraid to change" - Lyrics to Change, by BLind MeLoN

The thing is, comfort can be anything you want it to be. You created it in the first place, so you can change it. Comfort is what you say it is; it is what you believe it to be. If you believe that you cannot go out in public without make-up or only wearing a polo shirt, that is because you created the belief. People like to blame society, but your personal comfort level belongs to you.

I am not saying that you should be a slob, or drive a car that has parts falling off of it, or become infamous on People of Walmart. I am simply saying that you create your own boundaries in the name of comfort and perceived security. Only you are what is holding you back from your dreams.

So many times I have heard people tell me, "I wish I could do that?" You only 'wish' because you have not changed your required level of comfort to remove the 'wish I could' from the sentence. You wish you could do it, whereas I do it. The only difference is I changed what I am comfortable with.

So what is 'comfort?' It is an arbitrary construct within our own minds that we use to define what we will or will not do. It is a roadblock that prevents us from embracing experiences outside of our artificially fabricated walls. It is a measuring stick of deceit. Comfort is fear of change!

I like comfort. I like to be comfortable. For me that simply means I like to be free to choose the course for my day. I like to wake up in new places and experience new things. I like to meet new people and live in new cultures. I also like indoor plumbing, but I have lived and been quite comfortable without it for months and years during my life. However, I still seek it out as a normal, comforting part of my life. I also find great comfort in having my family around me all the time.

So after more than a decade away, I am about to re-enter my own comfort zone: a zone that many would find quite uncomfortable and definitely not normal or routine. It is a place where I have peace of mind: out there, on the ocean, in a sailboat, with my family, traveling to far away places that are completely new to all of us. I am certain there is no way we could ever see and experience everything and everyplace. We are going to try.

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