Is Your Addiction to Comfort Holding You Back?


Is Your Addiction to Comfort Holding You Back?

Treated like a king

The Edge, in Amsterdam, is a remarkable office building – in fact, it’s claimed to be the most intelligent building in the world. Among its many impressive features is that it can read people’s minds. Well, almost. The building recognises your car as soon as you reach the building and points you to a vacant parking spot. As you enter the building, you pick up the coffee prepared for you just the way you like it. The building knows your schedule, including who you’re meeting today, and directs you to your optimal working spot. What’s more, the building adjusts the lighting and temperature to your preference, wherever you go.

In a building like this there are no distractions to worry about, and you don’t need to waste your precious mental energy on making mundane decisions. You can put all your focus into things that matter the most.

Sometimes I wish I worked in an office like this. I’d feel comfortable all year round, and I could work in a dynamic environment that’s respectful to my needs. I’d surely be able to get more done in my days. But is that really the case?

The comfort of my own bubble

Over the past years I’ve worked a lot in my own ‘bubbles’ – home offices where I had full power to set up the space to my liking, make myself comfortable and block out distractions. I didn’t need to worry about commuting, let alone parking. And while I don’t drink coffee, the fridge was always at arm’s length packed with a variety of my favourite foods. While not a dream office, it sounds like a decent work environment for an introvert, doesn’t it?

The problem was that, no, I couldn’t actually get fully settled and block out distractions. While I didn’t need to listen to the phone calls of coworkers, there were other noises coming from the street that I couldn’t escape from. Noises from traffic, construction work, lawn mowing, crying babies in the neighbourhood, you name it. These noises didn’t need to be loud to bother me. After I got used to working in my quiet home, I simply had become more sensitive to noise than ever before.

Losing our resilience.

This appears to be a common phenomenon whenever people strive to maximise comfort in their lives. Recently I had a chat with a fellow workplace expert who told me a story about two office workers who kept fighting fiercely over the thermostat. One person could only work well in warmer temperatures, while the other person could only concentrate in cooler environments. When I asked this expert what temperature differences we were talking about, he mentioned that it was +/- 2 degrees!

My first thought was, “Are you kidding?” But then I remembered that many people live in air-conditioned homes, drive air-conditioned cars and work in air-conditioned offices, spending very little time exposed to the elements. No wonder they have lost their resilience to temperature differences – just like I have lost my own resilience to noise.

It appears to me that as our lives are getting easier and more comfortable, we become increasingly sensitive and lazy – and not only in the physical sense. The more we spoil ourselves, the less we are able to tolerate difficulties and jump hurdles.

Comfort is appealing.

Products and services that are aimed to make our lives easier – saving us from unpleasant tasks and unnecessary thinking – are in hot demand.

Many of the mundane tasks in our lives can now be outsourced to machines or automated using clever software. And on the odd occasion when we actually have to do some boring job, we don’t need to be left alone with our thoughts because we have endless opportunities to occupy our minds.

Some of us are into mindfulness and meditation – and how convenient it is that our apps can remind us when to practise that. We don’t even need to be tuned into our own bodies anymore, because our Fitbits tell us what we need to know about ourselves in order to keep fit and healthy.

Escaping the ‘Matrix’.

Striving for an easier life is a driving force of innovation – that’s how humans have invented the wheel, the telephone and the light bulb. And we certainly don’t want to live without these, or many other comfort-driven products and services that are now integral parts of our lives. We are lucky to live at a time and place where our fundamental needs are easily met, and where exciting new inventions are abundant.

But we do need to ask ourselves, do we have a healthy relationship with comfort and ease? With all the opportunities available, are we succeeding in making our lives simpler and easier? Or are we perhaps slowly becoming addicted to comfort and convenience, ignoring the repercussions?

There is no escape from hardship, but we can choose the battles we want to fight. I’d love to see a future where we live joyfully and comfortably, but without succumbing to laziness. A future where, instead of always taking the easy way out, we make an effort to remain adaptable, resilient, and in touch with our environment, thoughts and feelings. For me, this looks like a more attractive future.

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