The human mind is a never ending battle of contradictions, uncertainty, and paradox. Take for example, the need of all humans for simultaneous security and freedom. In relationships, people gladly do things for the people they love as long as they feel they have the choice to say no, yet take that freedom away from them for an instant, and they will likely rebel against their master. People want free choice, and free choice equates to freedom in life, yet people also seek security, because we don’t like uncertainty and danger. We want to be able to do things on our own as we choose, yet few of us actually want to be in charge. We want the security of being given a set task, yet we hate being told what to do. Why is this, and what does it say about the human being’s search for happiness?
The inverse relationship between comfort/security and freedom/danger is an almost endlessly complex one, yet it is one of the most driving forces in our day to day lives. When we are hungry we eat, when we are tired we sleep, when we are angry we yell: our mind has a set routine with dealing with most of our problems, and that’s because human beings hate danger!
If you are hungry and choose not to eat, you will be hungry, and hunger can lead to your death; so we choose to eat now to end discomfort and increase our lifespan. Makes sense right? I don’t really want to starve to death and you don’t either, so far we are on the same page.
But, what happens when the comfort you seek takes away your freedoms? What then? How does it feel to wake up and go to a job each day that you hate? How does it feel to be overweight and unable to exercise, because you are too out of shape to do anything? How does it feel to long to travel the world, but your commitment to an underwater mortgage forces you to stay right where you are?
Seeking comfort destroys freedom.
When we give into our urge for comfort and security, we quietly give away our freedom of choice. We choose to let our IMPULSES choose what we do, and with each choice, we often only further immerse ourselves in oppression. Lets take a look at an example:
You wake up in a tribe of about 50 people. You have no idea how you got there, and neither does anyone else, but one thing’s for sure, you are in the middle of a forest and you are all alone. First, you enjoy the freedom of being alone in the woods, you marvel at the beauty of nature, and you bond with the people around you, but then…hunger sets in, the sun starts to set, animals start screaming out of the wilderness, and suddenly joy turns into fear as you all scramble to build shelter, capture food, and build a fire for the night.
After several weeks the 40 of your tribe that are left after all the animal attacks, malnutrition, and sickness have established a nice little base camp. You set up shifts to keep watch, create hunting parties, and even appoint a leader to oversee the camp’s operations. Pretty soon every day is planned out and you are all doing your job to keep the community safe. Before long though, people start resenting the structure of the camp. A small group of 15 of you start conspiring to overthrow the leader, because they feel he is not doing a good enough job: they long to perform safer jobs like leading and cooking.
The 15 overthrow the leader through surprise attack and establish a new government with a 5 leader council that makes decisions based off of the wants and needs of the whole camp, where everyone votes equally for new projects. The 35 people left in camp build a wall around the compound, they set up more regulations to what people are doing, and they tell each person exactly what their role will be in the new camp. Things go great for a while, until people start disliking their forced roles and eventually they again overthrow the 5 leaders.
Does this remind you of elections in America? It seems like every time we come to vote, its either in with democrats and out with republicans or out with democrats and in with republicans.
Life is a cycle of seeking comfort and seeking security.
In the example above, people looked to governance to create order and safety for the group, but as they became more secure, and as things became less dangerous, they began to resent the leaders in charge of them. Time after time throughout history, we see cycles like this: governments are built up and are then overthrown, people enter relationships then rebel against the commitment, people buy homes and things and end up resenting the bills that come with them.
You see it all the time, every day people snap at work and quit on the spot, people end marriages out of the blue, and sometimes people even go to the extreme and try and hurt those who they feel have taken away their freedom. The big problem here is that freedom is never given, you have to take it. People take comfort and safety in exchange for giving up their freedom, because you have to take freedom, you have to make yourself ok with the danger of freedom.
Freedom is uncomfortable, and scary, and liberating, and exhilarating.
Freedom is scary. Imagine waking up tomorrow, getting fired from your job, losing all of your family and friends, and losing your house and car; most people in America would just give up on life in despair, it is just TOO much change to adapt to. We can’t adjust to losing everything in life that we cling to for comfort, it’s like getting hurled into the ocean with no life raft or flotation device: it is truly terrifying.
But think for a second of the liberation you would feel if all of your commitments were gone, you were suddenly cleared of all debt, you had unlimited money, good health, and all of promises and vows you ever made were absolved, and you could do anything you wanted.
How many of us dream of traveling the world, starting our own business, entering into new relationships, making new and better friends, yet settle for the safer route because we don’t want to take the risk to actually do those things. It is crazy, we are totally and completely crazy: it is that simple! What is crazier, to take a risk and go for something you really want, or to just take the mediocre life that you have and live in it resentfully for the rest of your life? HELLO!?
The the same reason we love taking a vacation to a new place and completely getting away from our life, is the exact opposite reason that we seek high paying jobs, long term relationships, and mortgages. We want to be totally free and uninhibited, yet we hate danger and uncertainty; we want to be secure and safe, yet we hate being told what to do or having too many commitments.
Finding a balance between comfort/security and freedom.
Your happiness lies somewhere along the line where security and freedom meet. Some people are more self reliant, self confident, and have higher self esteem, these people have more energy and confidence to face adversity, uncertainty, and danger without fear. Other people with lower self esteem and self belief can’t imagine doing something “risky”, uncertain, or “dangerous”.
Some people are much better at appreciating what they have and are more content to keep the grass on their side of the fence rather than try to climb over to the other side. You have to be realistic, how good is what you have, could it be better?
Most successful and happy people: innovators, leaders, and artists thrive off of freedom; they will trade their comfort for liberty so that they have more freedom to pursue their passions. They look at the world of uncertainty and ambiguity and see intriguing opportunities and chances for personal growth. They look to wide open opportunities and are inspired by the freedom, they see possibilities rather than risks.
Unsuccessful and sad people are usually people who work jobs they hate, don’t fulfill their true potential, don’t follow their hearts and dreams, and are too afraid of ambiguity to take a chance. These people make the vast majority of society, it doesn’t make you a bad person to be afraid to live up to your fullest potential, but it does rob you of true happiness, it does rob you of your freedom, and it does limit your ability to make a successful life.
Comfort seeking people can be very wealthy, they be healthy, they can have great relationships and a lot of nice things, but the more we cling to comfort, the more we limit our true potential. It is pretty safe to say that the more you cling to comfort, the less success you will have in life. Success is measured in happiness and in living the kind of life you truly want to live.
How much could you take if you KNEW everything you have always dreamed of laid ahead of the fear?
If you knew that all your dreams, your greatest ambitions, everything that you ever wanted in life was on the other side of your greatest fear? Would you be able to fight your fears and get what you were after, or would fear paralyse you and prevent you from capturing the moment?
That is the real question here.
Everything you ever wanted can be yours, but it is on the other side of all the things you are afraid to do, all of the things that make you uncomfortable. The perfect marriage you seek is on the other side of the fear of talking to a pretty girl; that dream business you want to build is on the other side of the fear of quitting your job and risking your home; the perfect body of your dreams is on the other side of the fear of hard work, dieting, and looking stupid if you fail.
Increase your belief, increase your confidence and self esteem, and then you will better face freedom with bravery. The bravery to do dangerous and scary things is developed over time, it comes from repeatedly doing the things that challenge and scare you and coming out victorious. It comes from failing over and over again and realizing that failure is just some bullshit that your mind made up to stop you from doing something uncomfortable.
What would really make you happy right now this very instant?
You would be happy if you could do EXACTLY what you wanted to do right now, that is happiness. Happiness is the freedom to pursue whatever is in your heart right now, it is being able to BE the person you want to be, it is being able to accomplish whatever it is you want right now, and the only way to do that is to create a life of freedom, or to simply appreciate what you have.
If you really want to be happy, you need to follow your heart and do what is written into your DNA. You know it is there, some overwhelming urge to do that thing you have always wanted to do, and every excuse why you haven’t done it yet is just a bunch of crap: you haven’t done it yet because you are afraid of what might happen, so you chose the security of comfort instead of pushing through the fear to get something greater.
Your life is the result of what you have accepted, it is a story that you have written.
When you had the choice to take that unpaid internship at the job of your dreams, or taking the high paying job right out of school, you took the high paying job. When you had the choice to marry someone who was “good enough”, instead of risking being alone forever to find the right person for you, you chose the comfort of a sure thing. When you could have leapt up, you sat down, when you could have flown, you clung to the ground. Difficult things happen to everyone, they happen to me, they happen to you, and there are certainly people in third world countries- starving to death- that would give ANYTHING to live the kind of life that we complain about. But one thing still remains… we all have the desire for more.
Your life is the result of what you have chosen and how you have chosen to react to the things you didn’t choose. So next time, choose the road less traveled, choose uncertainty and fear, choose to really live instead of just to be alive. This is the battle of freedom of security that wages on inside of everyone of us: we must choose a side. Choose your freedom and be brave, or choose to live for comfort and die in captivity.