How comfortable are you?
Do you ever ask yourself that? How comfortable am I – really?
The longer I live here (and I have lived here a long time) – in this house, in this village, in this county – the more “comfortable” I get. I don’t mean by way of plusher carpets (in any case, I prefer the painted floorboard look), or finally acquiring the king of snuggly sofas. I mean in my head. My head says: “I suppose I may as well stay. After all it’s been years. And when I mention I live in Devon, people go ‘Wow! How lovely!’” – which it is. It’s beautiful with its rolling hills and fern-fringed, heather-clad moors and enticing stretches of coast. Oh, yes, Devon definitely has the wow factor. And I do love it.
I love the fact that I run my own small business, too, from my own wooden desk in a corner of my own home (in Devon). I love that sense of autonomy and the degree of flexibility that comes with it. The flexibility especially benefits me in my particular situation.
But I have to ask myself – if I love it that much, why am I not fully content?
It hits me whenever I go somewhere else. A holiday in the stunning Yorkshire Dales; a short break to the wilds of Cornwall; or, as last weekend, a sneaky couple of days in Stratford-Upon-Avon to indulge in an exhilarating performance from the RSC.
On the surface, I may feel “comfortable”, but it’s those times away that pull me up and make me realise that, inwardly – I’m not.
So, what should I do? Move house maybe, somewhere else altogether, where that newness of place and people will kickstart new ideas and enable new perspectives? (It’s an on-going dilemma for me that one.) Overhaul my wardrobe? (Maybe not – on a bit of a tight budget.) Try to find time to read more books and more widely? (Ooh, inviting…)
But I think what really struck me last weekend is the possibilities I might be missing in my work life (let alone the broader scope of my existence – still, you’ve got to start somewhere). Have I let the business I’ve created stagnate? Just a little bit?
A business lives through its instigators, its innovators, the people who tussle with it, grow it, beaver away at it, use it. But just because it starts out as one thing doesn’t mean there can’t be opportunities for it to develop in further, really rather unexpected ways. Surely in my writing, proofreading and copy editing field, there must be fresh directions to explore; steeper challenges. And if I embrace them, won’t that bring me greater fulfilment in the work that I do? After all, if I don’t keep moving, I can’t expect to see over one horizon to marvel at the magnificent views stretching towards the next.
With so many motivational quotes doing the rounds on social media, it’s easy to grab hold of something and try to make it our mantra, repeating it, writing it down, displaying it on a mirror we glance in regularly to remind ourselves of the way forward; the way to live the rest of our lives with purpose and drive.
But how about this? Perhaps instead of grasping at other people’s words and using them to cover over the things that aren’t quite right like plasters over a sore, why not try asking: how comfortable am I? Is everything fine? Am I content with the way things are? If the answer’s yes, then there’s nothing to do. No searching at present, no digging. If it’s all working, that’s good. That’s wonderful. Just enjoy the fact that right now, at this particular time, everything is exactly the way you want it.
But if, when you scratch the surface a little, you discover underneath that it’s not, then maybe it’s time to make a change. In your life. In your wardrobe. In your reading matter. Wherever the unrest is, even something quite insignificant can be a step forward. And as a small business owner, don’t let yourself be defined (or restricted) by the services you currently provide. Look at what might complement them. Analyse your skills and see how they might be extended to embrace new roles and unexplored opportunities.
That post-holiday feeling can bring us down. But in a short while, we generally bounce back and return to our routines and schedules. We have to. I just don’t want to let normality sap my enthusiasm to grow and develop myself, my business, or my ambitions. I want to remember how I feel when I’m away and let that motivate me to bring about the changes I need to make when I’m home again.
I suppose creativity lends itself to one of those muscle similes – it needs to be exercised. And I have a feeling that, in my case, being comfortable probably stifles my creative urges. Not that I’m suggesting a radical shake-up (I’m probably the least radical person I know). Throwing out the old to make way for the new sounds great but, in practice, a lot of the old is probably hugely valuable and will make up the blocks on which to build the new.
But if beneath the veneer of comfort, some part of you is discontent, maybe don’t ignore it. Don’t push it away – invite it in. Sit down with it. Have a chat with it. Find out where it’s coming from and where it wants to take you.
The last few months have seen such political upheaval and uncertainty, and we can get very bogged down in anxiety and fears about the future. I do it often. But time is so fleeting and so precious. If a new direction beckons, wouldn’t it be good to get out the map, sit down with a cup of coffee and explore some possible routes of pursuit – at the very least?