Dial “C” for comfortable

I somehow stumbled upon the website of George Sheehan, a doctor who played a vital part in the fitness and running boom in the 70s. The site has a lot of his essays, one of which is about comfort:

In preaching the gospel of fitness, I emphasize the word ‘comfortable.’ Whatever the activity it should be done comfortably. Most people believe the opposite. To be of any value, exercise should be uncomfortable. People are quite sure their exertions should involve, if not pain, at least some discomfort.

Yes! I teach aerobics at a couple of local gyms in my spare time, and this is exactly my approach: That exercise should be comfortable and fun. It can be strenuoues, but not so much that you don’t want to do it again tomorrow. If your chosen form of exercise is too hard or boring – what’s going to motivate you to keep going over a longer period of time? This echoes a previous post about not doing stuff you don’t enjoy.

Now, I’m going to do a radical shift here and claim that this notion of comfort is important not only in physical exercise, but for any change process as well. Lots of people have a similar notion that change must be difficult, but I actually think that often the primary impediment to change is our own notion that “change is hard”. I believe, that it is absolutely possible to design major change projects so that they are mostly comfortable. I don’t think they can be comfortable for all of the people all of the time, but neither does it need to be a difficult time for all involved parties.

Not only that, but I’m convinced that the only change processes that stand a chance of succeding, are those approached in this manner – with the idea that the process itself should be mostly comfortable and fun.

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