“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” – M. Scott Peck
It is the most natural thing – the most fundamental trait of a human being – for us to strive to remove ourselves from any situation which could knock our happiness or unsteady the boat of life as it is has always been known to us. We build, mostly in our minds, sanctuaries in which we restrict ourselves to operate within; but again, it is self inflicted and the irony remains, in that our minds are really the only things we are capable of changing at whim. Oftentimes, we become so accustomed to everyday life, we accept what we need to do each day and we do it, just to keep the ball rolling, and in doing so we lose sight of the bigger picture. We think of ourselves as maturing, growing individuals, with each day taking us one step further to the bearded, wise and virtuous old man image we concoct in our minds; the old man who has accomplished things, the old man who has ‘lived a life’. Yet, this linear view of how we ‘grow’ as people is simply not true. The 20 year old vagabond who uses each day as a chance to challenge him or herself is no less, if not more, accomplished than the 60 year old hermit who knows and can predict every event of his or her life down to a tee. We live our own lives as self-parameterized robots, whilst marveling at other people’s triumphs and their challenges taken- it is a strange paradox indeed.
But, what does it take; is it really a beautifully hand written New Year’s resolution list, or a mounted and framed photograph of some mountain or ominous looking cliff face? Of course not; a comfort zone is something we have always known to keep us safe – it’s the blanket to the baby – and even the natural inertia of life, let alone fear, is too strong to be overcome by some photograph alone. Instead, it is true in that it is only when we are the most confused or at our lowest points do we seek for something extraordinarily ‘better’.
Whilst I’m not suggesting that all kinds of suffering is good for the soul, it is often in these moments when we desperately try anything to elevate ourselves from that situation. With this desperation often follows our sudden usage of extra effort and force to rebuild ourselves that was previously buried under the sense of comfort, that has since been lost. It is only then do we truly grow.
I can liken this to a smaller, less dramatic situation; I’m sure we can all remember the first day of nursery school- the first instance of regulation in our previously unfettered toddler lives. We didn’t know this at the time, as we fought tooth and nail to hang on to our parents whilst screaming blue murder; but we were really just leaving our comfort zones. The process was an (albeit small scale) struggle, but a struggle nonetheless; and after we overcame the initial fear and attachment we managed to embrace the ‘gift’ of education, leading us to go on to doing greater things with our lives. As we were young then, and hence unable to make informed decisions, the example isn’t exactly accurate. But the idea, adapted, is the same- in the midst of unhappiness or limbo, comes a chance to push ourselves in an unfamiliar way; it won’t be a smooth or easy process but from the struggle we attain something invaluable. So, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of change. Don’t be afraid of hardship. And don’t be afraid of struggle. After all, the phoenix wouldn’t have risen stronger from the ashes had it not been burned to a cinder before.