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The Devil You Know Is You

Posted By Mark Sisson On June 11, 2007 @ 12:56 pm In Health,Personal Improvement | No Comments

One of the most stupid maxims in the history of humanity is “Better the devil you know.” I’m sure you’re familiar with this phrase. I get really tired of hearing it. No axiom is better if you want to fritter your life away.

Essentially, the idea is that if you’re stuck in a less-than-ideal situation, it’s somehow better to stay stuck, because changing the situation might make things worse. Ostrich and mud metaphors aside, apparently comfort and familiarity are more desirable than living.

To play my own devil’s advocate, “the devil you know” might serve as a sensible note of caution against change for the sake of change. But I don’t see why the little gems we all seem happy to live by need to be put into binary terms. The opposite of “the devil you know” isn’t necessarily change without purpose, an obviously foolish thing. Restless is one thing (there can be character-building value in sticking with a “devil” you detest). Fear is another thing entirely. When I hear “the devil you know,” I hear fear. I hear defeat. I hear a negative outlook on life.

“Calculated risk” isn’t much of a risk at all. Comfort is just death warmed up. Making a change when you’re stuck is scary – that’s the whole point. So what if you fail? Do you think you’re going to go through your whole life without making some big mistakes? Would you really even want to?

Embrace your fear, embrace the gray, go grab the new devil by the horns. The one you know? He’s you.

(P.S. Things that are more interesting than the devil you know: wet toast, cardboard, reheated oatmeal).

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