Opening Ourselves to Discomfort
One of my friends works in technology, with people who study office productivity and efficiency. He and I were talking recently about a project he worked on: an experiment with the lighting in offices. The experimenters replaced fluorescent lights with LED lights, curious about whether different lighting would increase productivity. After the change to LEDs, productivity spiked, then slowly returned to normal. Bemused, the researchers switched back to fluorescent bulbs and saw another spike in productivity, followed by another return to normal. They increased the temperature of the office by a few degrees and saw the same pattern.
It wasn’t the light bulbs, or the temperature. It was the change.
We aren’t meant to live in cubicles, where everything from the humidity to the air flow is tightly controlled. For generation upon generation, we’ve lived and worked outside. In the morning, the weather is cold, but it heats up into the afternoon. The air moves unpredictably, gusting one day and calm the next. Clouds cover and uncover the sun. On the farm, the constant is change.
It’s uncomfortable. The thing is, discomfort allows for learning, growth, and innovation. Discomfort is a natural state when we’re engaged with problems and the world. I don’t think we need to seek it, necessarily, but I do think that isolating ourselves from it stifles some innate human abilities: to adapt, to overcome.
We don’t control everything on the farm, and sometimes it gets messy. Discomfort happens here. Life happens here. I wouldn’t have it any other way.