A Shift in Perspective: Finding Comfort and Achievement

Hands grasp a summit in front of the HimalayasI was recently in a yoga class where the instructor remarked that comfort is said to be the enemy of achievement. I found that quote interesting, considering many of us strive for both comfort and achievement. How can these two concepts be in conflict? Does achievement entail surrendering to agony and pain? Or does being comfortable require remaining stagnant or stuck? If comfort is the enemy of achievement, yet is something we all value, how can we ever make progress?

As the class was paused for a good period of time in a deep squat pose, the instructor went on to tell the fable about a farmer and his donkey.

The story details the fate of a farmer’s donkey that falls into an old well. Unable to find a solution to save the donkey, the farmer decides the animal is old and the well is dried up anyway, so he invites the townspeople to help him fill the well. As they begin shoveling dirt into the hole, the donkey cries out in fear. Soon, however, the donkey grows quiet. As the people look down the well, they are amazed to find what the donkey is doing. With each shovel of dirt, the donkey shakes his back and takes a step up, continuing to do so until he reaches the top of the well and happily trots off.

As the story demonstrates, life inevitably shovels dirt on us—yet every struggle can be turned into a stepping-stone. Sometimes a shift in perspective, rather than the search for comfort, is what we really need in order to advance and achieve.

When we are willing to look at our struggles from a different perspective, we open the doors to finding meaning. We may not get the relief or outcomes we were looking for, but we may be able to give purpose to our hardships. This ability to find meaning and purpose ultimately brings about a level of acceptance, and I’ve found that acceptance does provide a sense of comfort.

Many people come to therapy seeking comfort or relief from the struggles they face. Hopefully, they find some of this through the compassion and validation of a caring therapist. But truly valuable therapy that moves us toward positive growth and change involves more on the part of the individual. It requires a shift in perspective, an openness to finding the silver lining, and the ability to ask the question, “What has this struggle or challenging experience taught me?”

When we are willing to look at our struggles from a different perspective, we open the doors to finding meaning. We may not get the relief or outcomes we were looking for, but we may be able to give purpose to our hardships. This ability to find meaning and purpose ultimately brings about a level of acceptance, and I’ve found that acceptance does provide a sense of comfort.

When you find yourself struggling, stop and ask yourself, “What might the purpose of this experience be? What is the world trying to teach me? What strengths and qualities have I demonstrated (or do I want to demonstrate) amid this ordeal?”

As you seek answers to these and similar questions, you challenge yourself to explore and find more than simply comfort. You dare yourself to go beyond a comfort zone to ultimately discover a wealth of strength, endurance, and determination. Rather than resist the struggle, you lean into the possibility that the struggle is ultimately nudging you toward achievement. The triumph and result may look very different than what you anticipated achievement to be. Yet the lessons and growth you take from any experience may contribute to your greatest successes.

So comfort may in fact be the enemy of achievement, but the ability to shift perspectives, acknowledge a purpose, and celebrate your growth may be the catalyst to ending the war.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Megan MacCutcheon, LPC, therapist in Vienna, Virginia

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Patrick

    November 15th, 2016 at 8:56 AM

    aaah so true. Comfort does tend to make one a little complacent and make you stop striving to do everything that you can to reach those achievement goals

  • dyan

    November 15th, 2016 at 2:25 PM

    I started questioning myself when I was trying to lose some weight, like why am I working out and nothing seems to be working? It was because I was still staying within my comfort zone when I exercised, never pushing myself to lift a heavier weight or walk a little faster. Just the same old same old.
    It wasn;t until I broke free past that comfort that I was able to start seeing some real results.

  • Leighton

    November 16th, 2016 at 9:45 AM

    Getting out of that comfort zone can definitely be a tough transition! But so worth it in the end!

  • TED

    November 16th, 2016 at 3:02 PM

    I could be entirely wrong here but I would dare say that there isn’t anyone anywhere who has not achieved huge things in their lives without stepping up and stepping out a little. Sometimes you have to make things just a bit uncomfortable for you in order to see some results. I happen to think that this can be a good thing for you, to find something that you want that might not be in your natural state of being, but you know, what a great way to learn something new about yourself by taking a little bit of a leap and going for it.

  • bonnie j

    November 17th, 2016 at 9:18 AM

    my new years resolution every…single…year

  • Beth

    November 18th, 2016 at 11:20 AM

    I am a pretty introverted person but there are many parts of my job that force me to be contrary to what my natural personality would dictate that I am.
    I have learned to make the small talk, roll with the punches and I think that I am pretty good at what I do.
    From 8 until 5 every day I do the whole fake it til I make it and then I can go home and be quiet and keep to myself for the evening.
    That is my little time to decompress and get wired for my next day ahead.

  • trevor

    November 19th, 2016 at 8:34 AM

    I can also see the notion that there will be those who will say well f something ain’t broke then why try to fix it?

  • Melanie

    November 21st, 2016 at 3:12 PM

    I don’t believe that everyone out there actually wants to be helped. They sort of like that whole role of being miserable because that in their minds is what gets them attention from others.

  • cate

    November 23rd, 2016 at 9:22 AM

    Lean in! and let the world take you where it has planned for you!

  • terrence

    November 25th, 2016 at 7:16 AM

    But don’t you have people in your life who always make you feel crummy when you are trying to do something different, be something different, and they try so hard to make you believe that this is something that is actually bad and not a good thing?

    I am all kind of an advocate for taking a chance every now and then. At least you know then that you have tried and who knows what you may discover about yourself along the way.

  • Lee

    November 27th, 2016 at 7:48 AM

    To a certain extent I agree but at the same time you get to a point in life where you don’t want things to be difficult anymore, it is enough to just be comfortable in who you are and what you have.

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