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Comfort and Control

Personal Improvement

What amount of comfort should you strive to have in your life? What about control?

Comfort and control. What's the right balance? I thought about this for a while and I arrived at about 80%. That's the sweet spot.

That is, you want your life to be 80% comfortable and you want 80% control over it. How did I get to that number?

Let's start with 0%

When you're never ever comfortable, you're either constantly in a state of fear or never have a broken in-pair of shoes or spend all of your time standing up while tree branches poke your stomach. Or maybe you're in an unhappy marriage or you live with abusive parents. Or you sleep using a blanket made of fire ants. Whatever. All of these are clearly terrible. You want some comfort.

When you're never in control, someone is telling you what to eat and when to sleep and where to live and what not to wear and when to be the bachelor and how your apartment is decorated. Basically your life is never-ending bad reality TV.

Okay, what about 100%?

When you're 100% comfortable, your life descends into extreme boredom. You stagnate and miss out. You never talk to that girl you like. You never ask the bank for a mortgage. You never talk to a car dealer. You never, really, have any meaningful interaction with any of the other humans. Because every relationship or adventure or worthwhile enterprise will involve some sort of discomfort. You can't treat cancer without going through a world of hurt.

When you're 100% in control, you become ... hitler. You think you are infallible and you make poor decisions. You don't learn. And many, many people suffer because of it.

Half and half?

Do you really want to be 50% comfortable? Imagine wearing a comfy shirt every day but your pants itch. Or spending every other day with people pointing out your flaws. Sounds awful. (I think this is what it's like to be a teenager.)

Being 50% in control of your life doesn't sound too great either. You get to pick where you go to school but not what you study. You get to pick when you get married but not who you marry. Lunchtime is steak and dinner is eggplant.

80% is the sweet spot

At 80%, you're comfortable most of the time. At work or school, you're mainly at ease but with perhaps one challenging day every week. After hours, again, pretty comfortable most of the time but now and then you do something that scares you. You talk to a stranger. You go outside with no underpants on. You buy a car in a crowded city.

And control? At work or school, you control how you work and often what you work on. But you also, sometimes, get other people to guide you. They can decide what is best for you to learn next. After hours, you usually want to control what you eat or where you travel to or what movie to watch but letting someone else decide now and then can surprise and delight.

The perfect mix.

An 80/80/80/80 relationship

I was thinking about these things in the context of a relationship. How do both people find 80% comfort and control and still be happy together? Obviously, there has to be a lot of overlapping. If I'm comfortable doing laundry and she is not, I do it, and that works for both of us. If she's in control of the remote on Tuesday night, I lose a little bit of both there.

Or do I?

Control can simply be the ability to say no. Or being able to walk away. You don't like the dinner I made? You can say so and not be judged and make something else without it being an issue. Maybe it takes some discomfort to get to that place.

I think over the past couple of years I've been pushing to maximize my comfort and control, thinking 85% or even 90%+ is where I should be. I work at home to be comfortable as much as possible. I avoid a lot of situations where I'm not in control. Things like a trip to visit a new province or becoming a bike-ist are not big things in and of themselves but they are part of a larger attempt to reduce my own percentages to a nice, even 80.

Take a look inward. How comfortable are you? How much control do you have?