You have a decision to make in every aspect of your life….become comfortable with a situation or use the power of discontent to change things.
While it’s easy to be discontent with many aspects of life, we are all bogged down by the scarcity of resources: money, time, attention, skill/ability, etc… and can only change so much about any given circumstance. Truly successful people wield discontent as a weapon against big, meaningful obstacles in the way of their purpose while finding ways to grow comfortable with the aspects that have little to do with the impact of that goal.
Steve Jobs was discontent with the complexity of the personal computer and created the Apple computer (and later his discontent with the music industry, the wireless phone industry and the mobile computing industry was responsible for the creation of product lines enjoyed by millions).
He learned to become comfortable in his physical appearance, famously wearing the same black mock turtle neck, Levi’s 501 blue jeans and New Balance tennis shoes because (like Albert Einstein) he “didn’t want to waste brain power” on getting dressed every day.
So what’s the proper balance between a “state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint” and “dissatisfaction with one’s circumstances”?
Too Much Discontent:
Discontent is a powerful tool but applying it to too many things in your life is dangerous. As noted earlier, you have finite resources and those resources are necessary in tackling discontent. We all have fell victim to tackling too many projects at once, your situation in life is the same. A focus on everything will change nothing.
Beside that…people who are overly discontent are cynical and no fun to be around.
Too Much Comfort…No Discontent:
Being comfortable with a situation is an amazing skill. I know a lot of people who are completely satisfied with aspects of life and they’re fun to be around. People with no discontent may come off as lethargic or lazy. There is a bigger threat to becoming overly comfortable with a situation, especially in a rapidly changing environment.
People who are overly comfortable are susceptible to change and won’t be able to adapt.
Focused Discontent, Comfort in what you can’t control:
Ideally you want to focus those precious resources of time, attention, money, skill, etc… Find BIG, meaningful problems in the way of your purpose in life and apply your ability to be discontent to those. The fewer things in life that earn your discontent will make them relatively more painful and much easier to find a solution.
Learn to be comfortable with the things you can’t control. Accepting that for now will be liberating (until you have the power….and resources to fix them).
I wrestle with this spectrum daily….should I be discontent with my current “small” home or can I be comfortable here for a few more years while investing resources into a risky business venture? Should I continue to grow comfortable in my current field so I can settle down to focus on a family? Should I be discontent with the fact that I don’t know how to write code and be comfortable with my family situation for now?
There is not a secret formula and the trade-offs aren’t always clear. However, you do have a choice to make in the balancing act between comfort and discontent.