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Seeking the Path of Least Comfort

Seeking the Path of Least Comfort - Seeking the Path of...

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Seeking the Path of Least Comfort Brett N. Steenbarger, Ph.D. www.brettsteenbarger.com One of my favorite quotations comes from the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who observed, “In peaceful times, the warlike man turns upon himself.” Comfort is a near-universal value. We seek comfortable clothes, comfortable cars, comfortable beds, and comfortable lifestyles. We want to retire in comfort, and when we see people upset, we want to comfort them. Hotels? Sofas? Headphones? All are made with comfort in mind. In fact, comfort is almost as important to us as convenience. We shop at convenience stores, take the most convenient route to work, eat convenient frozen and fast foods, take the most convenient airline flights, and download music for convenience. Delivery people bring us pizzas, bookmarks save us navigation time on the computer, and paychecks are directly deposited to our accounts—all for the sake of convenience. With all that comfort and convenience, you would think people would enjoy a surplus of free time, living a life of ease. But that’s not how it works. What is missing from a life of comfort and convenience is effort . Over time, people conditioned to comfort/convenience lose the capacity to sustain efforts. We can see this dynamic at work in our bodies, when we cease making physical efforts. In the absence of exercise, lifting even modest weights, jogging short distances, or climbing a small hill become daunting efforts. Ceasing physical activity does not bring greater well- being. Rather, people who stop exercising become increasingly unfit for even normal activity, suffering ever-greater aches, pains, and limitations. The results of lives devoted to comfort and convenience can be viewed during retirement. For too many people, retirement is hardly the “golden year” experience. First they lose parenting roles; then they stop working. Filling days with vacations, golf, tennis, and trips to restaurants and movie theaters, they essentially retire from challenge.
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