Most of us have it made… and it’s killing us.
Modern humans don’t have to work very hard to survive. Compared to our ancestors, acquiring food and water is easier even for the most economically disadvantaged.
Struggle and discomfort used to be a way of life for humans. Now we live in a culture that is pervasively bombarding us with the shimmering appeal of comfort and convenience.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a modern human. I’m completely dependent upon the grid. Among many things, I would love to have leather seats in my car, or have a personal chef to cook for me every night.
Maybe it was inevitable for humans to become what we have. Maybe it’s in our nature to shy away from things that take longer and are uncomfortable by their nature.
But some time ago I realized that this modern lifestyle, this new “comfort programming” was sabotaging me on an elemental level. Not only was I becoming physically unhealthy, but socially and emotionally unhealthy as well. Practically speaking, I was being weakened.
I realized that If I’m not willing to be uncomfortable (you could also substitute the word “anxious” or “scared”), then I am certain to decline instead of progress. This is why I fell in love with fitness. It got me more familiar with a healthy dose of discomfort. In fact, I actually prefer it now, because I know in my bones what it’s doing for me.
Let’s look at it from a simple analogy of strength training. At first I may struggle to lift 100 pounds. But if I do it consistently, my body adapts and grows the strength to make it easier. However, If I never add more weight to the bar, I won’t increase my strength. Even worse, if I keep the same weight and just try to increase my repetitions I will actually damage my body from overuse. You’ve got to put more weight on the bar!
I work with troubled teens at the detention center. These sessions are my favorite every week. Since my time with them is brief, I try to be potent and make things simple so they might have a more lasting impression. These kids are so bright and good at heart, but obviously don’t have the best decisionary strength yet.
I tell them, “When in doubt choose the path that makes you uncomfortable.”
The phrase “No pain, no gain.” is pointing towards a fundamental wisdom, but it is inaccurate. There’s a difference between pain and discomfort. Discomfort can be tolerated at a reasonable threshold. With conditioning, that threshold has a rising ceiling. Pain is the communication signal that tells us something wrong is happening, and if continued deterioration is imminent.
When it comes to making intentional efforts to meet your fitness goals, I recommend getting behind a better version of the mantra: “No discomfort, no growth.”