Seth used a great word in a recent blog post. I’d heard it before, but I don’t think I’d ever looked up its meaning.

Ennui (än-ˈwē): a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction : boredom

The French loanword ennui comes from the very same Late Latin word that gave us annoy — inodiare (“to make loathsome”). We borrowed ennui several centuries after absorbing annoy into the language. Ennui deals more with boredom than irritation – and a somewhat specific sort of boredom at that.

And here’s the part I underlined:

It generally refers to the feeling of jadedness that can result from living a life of too much ease.

Any time you read about a crazy running story like Scott and Jenny Jurek North, or watch a documentary like The Dawn Wall about climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, stories of epic challenges of endurance, the first question people ask is: WHY?

Why do some people push themselves and break their bodies to accomplish the impossible? Why run for 48 hours on 2 hours of sleep, or shred your fingertips on a cold granite wall for several weeks? Aren’t there are easier ways to get from point A to point B?

You can see that this drive goes beyond competition or fame, there’s and internal fire that keeps them moving forward (or upward). This is personal.

We question this drive to push into, rather than away from, pain and struggle because we’ve learned that the goal is to avoid struggle. Ease and comfort are available at our fingertips, why make things harder than they need to be?

But maybe ennui is the reason we choose to do difficult things. Because too much ease and comfort will make us jaded or dissatisfied. The easy life, the thing we’ve learned to strive for, will paradoxically lead to a less fulfilling life.

There’s a time to avoid pain, but there’s also a time to lean into it.