Homeostasis is a key concept in biology. It is the notion that life is dependent upon a set of finely tuned values that include temperature, volume, pressure and health. When one of these values exceeds or falls outside its normal range, a living thing will do whatever it takes to return it to baseline.
Thirst, for example, will trigger a response that forces a person to look for water. This takes priority above everything else, and that person will be unable to concentrate on any other matter until his need for fluids is satisfied.
The same is true for human psychology. People also maintain a homeostatic balance in that area. Whenever events force them to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, depression or anger, they will do whatever it takes to get back to their normal state of mind.
Many individuals will go so far as to avoid the circumstances that trigger these imbalances in the first place. Unfortunately, unlike biological homeostasis, psychological homeostasis is bad for growth and development.
Getting To Comfortable
People will always seek comfort in their lives. For many, going to work every day is just a means of acquiring money so that they can pay the bills on time and lead a relatively comfortable existence. Individuals rarely work just for the sake of learning a skill or improving themselves without any external rewards in mind.
This is because energy is limited, and the body will always give precedence to those needs that are directly concerned with its immediate survival. People need a little motivation to seek food, but they need a significant incentive to go to the gym and improve their bodies.
Fortunately, modern society has created an environment in which survival has become less of a concern than it used to be. Grocery stores are open all day for the hungry, and the police are just a phone call away when lives are threatened.
People now have so much time on their hands that they don’t know what to do with it. However, rather than seek out new experiences that push them to their limits, they decline into a sedentary lifestyle of boredom.
The Mind Tricks You Into Thinking Everything Is Alright
As far as the mind is concerned, the only thing worth maintaining is its psychological balance, just like the brain keeps its organ systems in check. The mind does not like to experience change, because with change comes risk, and with risk comes the possibility of death.
Therefore, when people reach a certain comfort level in their lives, the mind tricks them into thinking that everything is alright. Despite the nagging desire to achieve greater things, they feel an internal sense of danger that they can’t quite explain, which tells them to sit back and relax.
This explains why, for many individuals, the ideal day is to relax on a beach doing nothing. This is the mind trying to keep homeostasis. It knows that if the person decides to do something uncertain but fulfilling, the balance may be destroyed.
Comfort Can Be Dangerous
The danger of giving in to the mind’s prioritization of comfort is that ultimate fulfillment will never be reached. Being comfortable lulls you into a false sense of security. As long as the body is not in any physical danger, it is unlikely to trigger any sort of fear response.
Many people can go on living a comfortable existence for many years before they finally realize that they are unhappy. If you really want to achieve your full potential, you will have to muster the courage to place yourself in situations that you are not comfortable with.
This is difficult because the body and the mind will rebel in an attempt to return you to homeostasis. Ironically, this response is designed to save your life, but it can also prevent you from fully living.
Fulfillment Is Alternating Comfort With Discomfort
The key to fulfillment is to alternate between relaxation and challenge. Relaxation allows you to recuperate from the daily struggle so that you are full of energy and motivation for the next trial. Challenges allow you to grow, exceeding the normal limits you have placed on yourself.
The key is never to allow yourself to slip too much into relaxation. Comfort is a seductive pill that can diminish your passion the longer you stay in it. To be fully human means to stay disciplined and to push through suffering. Relaxation can be seen as a necessary, but ultimately temporary, relief.
The next time you check into a fancy hotel, make sure you look forward to checking out as well. There’s more than enough time for sleep and rest when you’re dead, but as long as there is life, there are challenges to be welcomed and work to be done.