Contentment demands little

I recently had a friend who quit his job after working there for almost 20 years.  When I asked him why he said, “I had just gotten too comfortable.”

Too comfortable?!  Is there such a thing?  After all, isn’t that what we’re all striving for?  What’s wrong with being too comfortable? 

As I thought about it, I think I caught his meaning.  For him, comfort had become risky because: 

  • It was sapping his drive and motivation
  • It was keeping him from taking risks
  • It was making him lazy and fearful of change
  • It was causing him to give up on certain dreams

He had a stable income and a warm bed, but he was starting to feel stuck and stagnate.  He was comfortable, but he wasn’t feeling particularly fulfilled.  Not only that, but he was afraid to do anything about it for fear that things would get uncomfortable.

Have you ever felt that way?  I have.  Comfort is nice, but it can be dangerous if it leaves you feeling overly content.  That’s because contentment demands little.  It steers you into a rut that can be hard to get out of. 

This comfort paradox can be especially worrisome as we get close to retirement.  Why?  Comfort is often a by-product of successful retirement planning (e.g. no job, financial independence, etc.).  In some ways that can be good.  After all, who wants to be worried about where your next meal is going to come from or how you’re going to pay the electric bill. 

Unfortunately, it can be bad too.  First of all, retirement is a major transition and transitions can be uncomfortable.  You’re leaving a job and a routine you’ve know for decades.  You’re dealing with unfamiliar things like Medicare and Social Security.  You may be moving to a new house or a new city.  Being too focused on comfort can cause you to make decisions during that transition that favor short-term comfort over long-term good.

Second, retirement is the time to make your plans and dreams a reality.  That means you’ll be doing new things, visiting unfamiliar places and meeting new people.  To make that happen, you can’t be content to sit back and play defense. 

In other words, both the transition into retirement and your lifestyle in retirement require you to get out of your comfort zone.  There needs to be a tension between your desire for comfort and your desire to strive for more.  If your primary goal is comfort, don’t expect great things.  If, however, your primary goals are growth, fulfillment and personal satisfaction, then you can expect a remarkable retirement, but you can also expect to be a bit uncomfortable in the process.

~ Joe

Photo by Becky McCray.  Used under Creative Commons License.

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