Seeking the Path of Least Comfort
Brett N. Steenbarger, Ph.D.
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.
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
people conditioned to comfort/convenience lose the capacity to sustain efforts.
see this dynamic at work in our bodies, when we cease making physical efforts.
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-
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
For too many people, retirement is hardly the “golden year” experience.
they lose parenting roles; then they stop working.
Filling days with vacations, golf,