My Comfortable Old Sweatshirt

I have a sweatshirt that I’ve owned for probably 15 years.  It is well broken in, soft, stretched out, and has stains that I can’t get out.  I like to wear it after a long day of work, when I cook, or when I just want my clothes to feel like a warm hug.  I have other newer sweatshirts, but I really like this one.  It’s my favorite.

(c) Kathleen Thompson

(c) Kathleen Thompson

There are times when it is appropriate to wear my sweatshirt.  But what if I wore it to the office?  What if I wore it to my friend’s wedding?

What I Love About My Sweatshirt

It is soft.  All the stiffness that sometimes comes with new clothes is gone.  Even the spot underneath the logo is soft.  Other sweatshirts can be stiff or scratchy, especially if the logo has been sewn on.

It is loose.  It has been stretched out to the point that the sleeve cuffs are loose, as is the neck and bottom.  This has several benefits.

  1. I don’t feel constrained.  I have freedom of movement that I don’t get with clothes that are tight.  I can exercise, cook, move and bend in every direction without feeling restricted.
  2. I can roll up the sleeves.  This allows me to really dig in to projects without fear of messing up my clothes.  This is particularly advantageous when there is food, dirt, or paint involved.
  3. I can wear it over almost anything else when I need an extra layer.

It is comfortable.  Not just because it is soft and loose, but also because I am used to wearing it.  It conforms to my shape.

Comfort Can Be Good

There are times in life when we really need to feel comfortable and perhaps even comforted.  We need to feel cherished, nourished, encouraged, sheltered, protected, and loved.  A loved one, a pet, or a place can do that for us.  We  feel safe and snuggly.  Just like my sweatshirt.

Our habits can make us comfortable, too.  Routines can be a good thing, as they create efficiency.  Our brains do not have to decide everything.  They can operate on auto-pilot for certain activities, thus freeing our minds up for more important and creative pursuits.

Living in the Discomfort Zone

But we aren’t meant to live our entire lives like that.  If we perpetually strive for comfort, we will never grow.  Not only that, but we will actually degrade or deteriorate.  A closed system deteriorates over time.  An open system with energy flowing through it will grow.  We must live outside our comfort zone in the sweet spot somewhere between comfort and distress.

How to tell whether we’re in the right zone

Trajectory – Are we moving forward, standing still, going backwards, or doing lots of activity with no progress?  If we are moving forward, then we are spending enough time in the sweet spot to cause growth.

Energy – Being in the discomfort zone sparks creative energy; it keeps us motivated.  We are also tired at the end of the day – a satisfied tired.

Focus – Operating in the discomfort zone requires a greater level of focus.  The comfort zone allows us to coast and pay partial attention.

Fruit – Do we see actual results?  Not just actions, but results.

If we find that we are not moving forward, are lethargic, don’t remember what we did today, and aren’t harvesting any fruit, we may need to get up off the proverbial couch.  We don’t have to leap off a tall building.  We only have to take steps toward the challenge.

Finding Balance

We cannot be in constant forward motion.  We need rest.  Breathing room.  As we assess our position in the zone, we shouldn’t expect perfection.  Instead, look at the overall pattern.  When we make time for down time or “comfort time”, we will be happier and healthier.  In the long run we will accomplish more.

We can also bring something comforting into our discomfort zone.  I can wear my sweatshirt while I tackle a difficult project (in my home office, of course).  I can drink a cup of tea, or establish a ritual of using a particular pen or notebook.  I can listen to my favorite music.  The possibilities are endless.  Think of what you can do to bring some measure of comfort to your discomfort zone.  You will be more willing to travel if you bring some of the comforts of home.


So wear that old comfy sweatshirt.  Take it with you when you travel.  Just make sure you change your outfit.

Question:  How have you operated in your discomfort zone and what fruit have you seen as a result?  Join the conversation by clicking here to make a comment.