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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

The Beauty of Suffering

The Beauty of Suffering

No one likes suffering. We try to get rid of any kind of pain and suffering at every turn. An entire industry sprang up around reducing the pain associated with dental and medical procedures. We have pain-free options for delivering babies. Everyone tries to dive into something new and avoid the pain after a heartbreak.

It would stand to reason, then, that suffering is universally a bad concept.

But what if that’s not true?

Why Suffering Even Exists

To understand the beauty of suffering, you first need to understand why pain even exists. It’s a warning sign of potential danger.[1] Pain becomes a memory to avoid facing future danger.

Think of a caveman and a fire. He touched the fire previously and got hurt. Now when he encounters the fire, he won’t touch it.

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    This is how we evolved, but in modern times, the “suffering” we feel is often not physical. It’s often mental processes we want to skip but shouldn’t skip. A good example is putting in work. When we were young, studying and doing homework could be classified as “suffering.” We’d rather have fun and be outside playing. But if you skip studying, you don’t learn anything, and have bad results.

    The same applies in adulthood. Working hard can seem like “suffering” for some people. If people go with their instinct and try to get rid of this “suffering” by slacking at work, they’ll probably work slow, have bad performance and may eventually get fired.

      Suffering Is Not the Opposite of Joy

      This is what people often miss: “failure” and “success” are not necessarily opposites. If anything, they’re cousins or even siblings.

      There’s a close correlation between pain and pleasure, or failure and success. After intense physical exertion in the process of running, runners experience a sense of euphoria that has been linked to the production of opioids, a neurochemical that is also released in response to pain. This is called “Runner’s High”.[2]

      If you’re not so much a runner, think of it like this: what if you want to be a great singer? This might not be a goal for everyone, but substitute your own goal in if you would like.

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      To be a great singer, you have to put in work. Sing every day. Train your breathing. Watch other singers and analyze their style. Do gigs. Keep your voice healthy. All of that work could be seen as “suffering.”

      The opposite is much easier: hang out with friends, go to movies, take naps, essentially don’t do much. Without the suffering, then, you can’t get the joy of being a great singer.

        Can You Reduce Suffering?

        No. It’s a natural part of the human experience. You can reduce the amplification of pain within the suffering by focusing less on yourself, though.

        The Dalai Lama has a great quote,

        “As long as you are too focused on your self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or bad, you will experience suffering.”

        Removing the self-importance is an important step. Realize that everyone suffers. Athletes train to get better. Singers sing and get booed at gigs. Entrepreneurs lose money and think it’s over before they really have a successful business.

        Stephen King, one of the most successful authors of all-time, had his first novel, Carrie, rejected 30 times before it was published. It was a similar number of rejections for J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, which may be the most successful book and film series of all-time.

        All these people before they experienced the joy and success, they suffered.

        Find Joy in Suffering

        Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests that only 50 percent of our happiness is determined by uncontrollable factors like our genes or temperament. The other half is determined by a combination of our circumstances, our attitudes and actions which we have control over.[3]

        Celebrate every small amount of joy. You are going to fail. You’re going to suffer. Take a small amount of joy in those moments. Understand they are learning experiences. You will grow from them.

        Very few people marry their first love; many go through heartbreaks. Very few people see their first professional endeavor be a total success; many scrap and fail before they find some success.

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        Find a way to track your progress and to set and celebrate small benchmarks. You may also want to conduct a weekly review to assess where you are and celebrate all of the small wins of the week.

        Tracking your progress is also a great way to find and mitigate triggers and hindrances that impede your progress.

        The point is, you are making progress. Even if it feels like suffering, you can see that it’s leading you to joy.

        Suffering Is Beautiful

        When you start going to a gym, you may struggle to lift 50, 60 pounds. After a few months, you might be lifting 150, 175. After a year, it might be over 200.

        All of that is a struggle and suffering. You are putting your body through something. But it’s also beautiful. You are gaining strength and becoming more fit.

        Failure is hard, but it’s a necessary element of life. Find beauty in those moments because you are growing.

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        Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

        Reference

        [1] Everyday Health: Why Do We Feel Pain?
        [2] The Conversation: In pursuit of happiness: why some pain helps us feel pleasure
        [3] Dalai Lama: The Book of Joy

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        Leon Ho

        Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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        Last Updated on March 2, 2021

        10 Negative Thoughts We All Have and What to Think Instead

        10 Negative Thoughts We All Have and What to Think Instead

        I’ll never forget the first time I heard that the way I was talking to myself, realizing how it directly influenced every aspect of my life. We can be our own worst enemy at times and our internal conversation and negative thoughts can be extremely limiting. Like most people, I was blind to this somewhat obvious piece of information.

        Eventually, I realized that the negative thoughts I had weren’t facts at all, but instead self imposed limitations that I was putting on myself, which I also had the power to remove. Over the last decade, it has become very clear to me that most of us actually have very similar negative thoughts. Here are some of the most common negative thoughts we all have and what we should think instead.

        1. I Am Not Good Enough

        Have you ever thought that you weren’t good enough? When we feel that we aren’t good enough, we tend to drown in this emotion of self-doubt and pity. It can be a symptom of low self-esteem, but the truth is that every one is good enough.

        You might not have the skills or tools to achieve what you want now, but you are certainly good enough and worthy of receiving what you want in life. If you have a $10 bill, and it falls on the ground into a puddle of mud, does that $10 lose its value? Of course not! So why do you feel that you lose value based on what you have done in life?

        What to Think Instead

        Instead of saying, “I am not good enough,” tell yourself that you are worthy of all you desire in this life, just like everyone else[1]. Focus on the things you like about yourself in this moment. You can even make a written list and post it nearby if it helps you to see it each day[2]

        Practice Loving Yourself to Overcome Negative Thoughts

          2. I Can’t Do It

          “Can’t” is one of the most limiting words that you can tell yourself. Henry Ford once said,

          “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.”

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          If you tell yourself that you can’t, you are sending messages to your mind and brain that you can’t, and so that will be your experience. Your mind won’t try if you have already told it that something is impossible. 

          What to Think Instead

          Instead of focusing your negative thoughts on what you think you can’t do, tell yourself, “I can do whatever I put my mind to.” While we all do have limitations, believing in your abilities in the first step to achieving your short and long term goals in life. 

          And sometimes, you may just need a little motivation boost. Get the Instant Motivation Boost Worksheet, it’s a free worksheet that will guide you to do the little things for an instant boost of motivation. Grab the free worksheet here.

          3. I’m Not as Lucky as Other People

          This thought normally comes from holding an illusion that other people’s lives are better and they are luckier, and that is what separates you from them. “Perfect” doesn’t exist, and there is often a lot of effort that goes behind that perceived “luck.”

          It is very disempowering to think that life will never offer you good things; the truth is that if you tap into some gratitude, you’ll see that you already have good things all around you. 

          What to Think Instead

          Instead of focusing on all the luck others seem to have, tell yourself, “Good things can and will happen to me.” Use a sense of gratitude to begin to notice all of the good things you would normally never notice. For example, when was the last time you felt grateful for the roof over your head, the food in your fridge, or your comfy bed?

          4. I Don’t Think I’ll Ever…

          Whatever you believe will become your reality, this is true. You shape your future every day by the choices you make and your habits. You can sabotage your opportunities by limiting yourself with negative thoughts.

          What would it be like if you believed that you could do what you really desired and have the experiences you wished instead? It is not about getting it right the first time, but trying. Don’t stop yourself before you have even given yourself a chance.

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          What to Think Instead

          Don’t limit yourself with negative thought patterns that tell you you’ll never do something. Instead, tell yourself, “I am confident I will…” Even if you don’t feel confident in this moment, feeding your brain positive thoughts will slowly build confidence over time. 

          5. I Should Be Better Than I Am

          Using the word “should” in this context makes this a truly negative thought and makes one feel less than they are. How often do you find yourself saying “I should be more clever, more disciplined, more productive, etc. than I am”? Remember how you feel immediately afterwards?

          What to Think Instead

          Tell yourself, “I am making an effort to change what I don’t like.” Everyone has parts of themselves that they hope to improve, and this is certainly possible, but it requires approaching these things with a sense of self-love and patience. 

          Set yourself goals for the things you are not happy with instead of telling yourself what you “should” be like or be doing. Take action the things you wish to change and remove limiting modals from your vocabulary.

          Here are some ways you can start to improve yourself.

          6. I Am Not Strong Enough

          It’s normal to feel that you are not strong enough at times[3]. We are all human, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel weak at times. What is important though, is the conversation you have with yourself afterwards. If you keep reinforcing the fact that you don’t feel strong with negative thoughts, how can you expect to feel?

          What to Think Instead

          Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, tell yourself that you are strong enough to deal with the challenges in front of you, and support yourself in finding the strength you need in that moment.

          7. Nobody Cares

          It might feel that you are alone at times and that nobody cares, but I am convinced that there are people thinking about you that you don’t even know of. People do care; not everyone expresses their emotions in the same way. It isn’t nice feeling that nobody cares, so stop focusing on that and assuming what other people feel when you don’t actually know. Change your focus to something that makes you feel better instead.

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          What to Think Instead

          Instead of assuming that no one cares about you, remind yourself that there are people in your life who do, in fact, care very much. Do your best to cultivate those relationships and accept the love others are willing to give in order to combat your negative thoughts. 

          8. I Am Not Smart Enough

          This is a very general statement, yet many people tend to say it often and then feel bad about themselves afterwards. What are you not smart at specifically? I bet that if I asked you to identify some areas that you are smart in, you could if you really tried.

          Not everybody is clever and perfect in every area, and this is what makes us all unique. If you feel that you are lacking in a certain area of knowledge, instead of producing negative thoughts, make time to study and learn whatever it is that you want so that you don’t feel this way any more.

          What to Think Instead

          Instead of believing that you’re not intelligent, remind yourself that you are smart in a unique way and that you are capable of improving your knowledge in any area you choose. Lifelong learning can be a goal you constantly work toward.

          9. If I Don’t Do Well, I’m a Failure

          Holding high expectations for yourself and having conditions attached to your self worth on your performance isn’t fair. You need to take chances in life if you want to get different results. Don’t be scared of failing; the real failure lies in never having tried.

          What to Think Instead

          When facing a challenging situation or possible risk, tell yourself, “I am going to try; I am not scared of failing; that is not what is important.” Even if you “fail,” you will learn something about the world and yourself, and as long as that’s the case, nothing is ever a true failure. 

          10. Bad Things Will Happen

          Thinking negatively in general is thinking that whatever happens, it is most likely going to be the worst case scenario. What would it be like if you imagined the best case scenario instead? Our positive and negative thoughts are very powerful, and it’s common to use visualization as a technique to imagine the best case scenario.

          Whether you imagine the worst or the best case scenario, you are influencing your results. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen and rather on what you want to happen.

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          What to Think Instead

          Instead of thinking that bad things will happen when you try something, try thinking that the best will happen. This way, you’ll aim high, and even if you fall a little short, you’ll still get farther than you were before. 

          Final Thoughts

          We all have negative thoughts from time to time. However, when the majority of your thoughts are negative, you are undermining your happiness at the end of the day. Our thoughts directly affect how we feel and, therefore, what we do in life.

          If you’re feeling sad and are overwhelmed with negative thoughts, you can consider contacting a mental health professional to give your mental health a boost and get you back on track toward positivity.

          Don’t limit yourself or what is possible for you. Master your thoughts and change your results. 

          More on How to Stop Negative Thoughts

           

          Featured photo credit: arash payam via unsplash.com

          Reference

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