Prioritising comfort over joy

Comfort and joy. They go together, like the song says, right?

Hmm, but what if our comfort is stopping us from experiencing joy? What if our fear of potential discomfort is getting in the way of us feeling more joy, fulfilment, satisfaction, achievement and happiness?

And here's the thing: it's potential, it's not even that we're guaranteed to feel discomfort before we can feel joy – it's only the idea of it, the possibility that we might feel discomfort, which might not happen!

But there's the fear it could. The concern that we might feel awkward, we might make a mistake, we might find it hard, we might get it wrong, we might be embarrassed. All the stuff our inner perfectionist hates and works so hard to avoid.

comfort over joy gabrielletreanor.com

Because we don't want to risk the possibility of feeling uncomfortable feelings we stick with the safe option. We stay in our comfort zone. We don't have a go at doing the thing, even if we really want to.

And so we stay in comfort and don't give ourselves the chance to experience more, to feel joy.

We prioritise comfort over joy.

We don't give ourselves the opportunity to discover if on the other side of potential (not guaranteed) discomfort there is life-affirming, confidence-boosting, rib-tickling, energy-boosting, soul-nourishing, heart-swelling joy.

Not by leaping so far out of our comfort zone that we go into the panic zone. But by stepping out of it into our stretch zone.

And we all do it.

I'll share one example with you of how I've been prioritising my comfort over joy.

Prioritising comfort over joy

I've wanted to try horse riding for years. Nothing major, just a walk around a patch of the countryside on a horse. It looks like it could be a really lovely thing to do. There's a riding centre near me where you can pay to go on a horse trek with a group.

But I don't know anything about horses. I don't know how to handle one or control it, how to make it move if I want to, how to make it stop if I need it to.

What if I make a fool of myself because I don't know what to do? What if I get it wrong? What if it's really hard to learn how to ride a horse? What if I'm awful at it?

So my desire to try riding a horse stayed a dream for years because the potential discomfort of finding it hard or getting it wrong stopped me from trying it anyway.

By sticking with comfort I didn't take the chance of finding so much more joy on the other side.

But what if I loved it? What if riding a horse turned out to be an utterly joy-filled experience?

Comfort feels good but what if I could feel the greatness that is joy?

Plus, for bonus points, a boost in confidence, satisfaction, exhilaration, achievement and self-trust because I stretched myself in this way.

Well, let's see, shall we?

me and max

Yep, that's me – on a horse! It was utterly, beautifully, wonderfully joyful.

And I nearly fell off just trying to get on the horse (his name's Max) in the first place. Max didn't pay much attention to my attempts to keep him still, I didn't remember all the instructions I was given, my dismount was extremely awkward and undignified AND it was okay!

Better than okay, I LOVED it. We trekked around the farm and through wooded paths (trying not to get smacked in the face by branches), we got rained on and I enjoyed it so, so much.

All that time I prioritised comfort over joy I denied myself this fantastic experience. And all the positive emotions that went with it which didn't evaporate but have seeped into my mind and body.

This one experience doesn't mean I can permanently live in my stretch zone, not at all. (It wouldn't be much of a stretch zone if I was comfortable living in it.)

Our comfort zone is a good place, I'm not knocking it. It's the safe space we need to be able to stretch out of and return to.

But this experience is another piece of evidence for me that on the other side of potential discomfort joy can be waiting.

When in the past have you stretched out of your comfort zone and found joy, as well as a wealth of other benefits like building your self-trust and sense of achievement? (Look for the evidence.)

Where are you currently prioritising comfort over joy? (Identify where you're holding back.)

What would help you to take steps and see if joy is waiting for you on the other side? Along with self-trust, fulfilment, satisfaction… (Taking action takes you closer to how you want to feel.)

I'd love to know…

gabrielle april 2021
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