A Little Misery Goes a Long Way

What is so scary about leaving a job in search of another? A common theme I’ve written about often is removing yourself from your comfort zone and taking on some torment and torture now and then. Indeed, here are a few:

Once again, it has been on my mind as I finished the first week of my new job and began the second. This job change wasn’t just moving from one teaching gig to another, it was a complete change in careers. It was removing myself from something I have the utmost comfort and expertise doing to something with which I am a complete novice and have no experience doing.

Throughout the week, I had a stream of consciousness similar to the following:

What have I got myself into? I have no idea what is going on right now. What if I won’t be able to understand this? Oh shut up pessimism, you’ll eventually figure it out, no matter how long it takes. That’s just who you are. But wow, I get why people generally do not want to change careers. This is definitely not comfortable right now. It is super challenging. Surely, challenge is an antonym of comfort, right?

Using a thesaurus, the closest I could make this connection was through peace. A synonym of comfort is peacefulness, while an antonym of challenge is peace. Reading through some of the synonyms and antonyms made me realize why we are so fearful of removing ourselves from comfort or taking on a challenge.

A few antonyms of comfort:

  • Displeasure
  • Misery
  • Pain
  • Unhappiness
  • Depression
  • Torment
  • Torture

A few synonyms of challenge:

  • Threat
  • Confrontation
  • Interrogation
  • Provocation

If this is what most humans think, then it is no wonder why so many of us are fearful of the change. So what is it about my frame of mind that is different? Why can I say goodbye to a comfortable job and enter a confusing and unfamiliar environment without much of a fuss? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll offer a few guesses.

When I think of the above bullet points, I think that the antonyms of comfort are all good when thought of in a short time frame. The torture and misery I will feel for 30 minutes while I run in the morning along with the 3 minutes of displeasure in my ice cold shower will lead to a complete ownership of my day. Making this a regular habit will lead to a lifetime of comfort in being healthy and happy. Forgoing that torture and displeasure may lead to a lackluster day. Letting this embracing of comfort become habitual may lead to a lifetime of discomfort and unhappiness in my poor health.

I also think that the synonyms of challenge are all good when approached constructively. A threat doesn’t have to be one if you frame it as a challenge. Confrontation, which is almost always uncomfortable, can lead to an amazing resolution when the confrontation is respectful.

It is OK to be miserable for a half an hour. Indeed, it is very good for you to be miserable for this stretch of time. There is no need to shy away from misery and discomfort. It is the keystone to an enriching and satisfying life.

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