Today’s discomfort leads to tomorrow’s preparation.
Several years ago, I was listening to a podcast from the on The Art of Manliness which introduced me to the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism. Following this introduction, I found myself reading Meditations of Marcus Auerilius as a suggestion from a friend (thanks, Jeff) which deepened my appreciation for the philosophy. Other modern authors such as Bill Irvine and Ryan Holliday have repopularized much about the ways of the Stoic, and introduced modernity to the ways and, most importantly, practices of their way of living.
One of these practices was welcoming discomfort into your life.
That sounds odd to us in our pleasure-rich and pain-averse culture of today, but I think there might be some merit to it…and that’s what I’ll ask you to contemplate:
Are the highs and joys of life better appreciated through the knowing of the opposite? Can we train to better withstand the lows by periodically subjecting ourselves to less-than-comfortable conditions?
Exercise is difficult. It’s hard to choose that you’re going to do it, first of all. Then there’s the physically discomfort that comes along with actually doing it. Most often what you hear (or have said yourself) is that it sucks while you’re doing it, but you feel better afterward.
Is that not a form of welcoming discomfort?
Discipline is a trait we cultivate through delaying gratification and choosing what we want most over what we want right now. Sure, sometimes the latter is beneficial and even recommended. But more often than not, aligning our actions and choices with what we want most will lead to more fulfillment, joy, happiness, and contentment.
And, sometimes too, pain and suffering.
Developing gratitude and appreciation for the highs and lows that come along with living can be challenging at best and sometimes feel downright impossible.
Perhaps training our ability to withstand minor inconveniences and discomforts better condition our mind to handle these things in the future, when they inevitably come.
If you have purposefully gone full summer days without retreating into the AC, turning the AC on in your car, or worrying about how sweaty you’re getting (at one point in my life, I would shower 2-3 times a day to try and “feel clean”) it will likely be easier to accept that someday your AC may break and you’ll be forced to deal with those consequences. But they’re consequences you’ve gone without before, so you know you can do it again.
This isn’t to be misconstrued as giving things up you enjoy forever, but perhaps you’re just giving them up for a short while. Or introducing just a bit of the discomfort into your life such that you can appreciate what you have, and be prepared for when you no longer do.