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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 14, 2019

        7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

        7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

        Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

        For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

        Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

        1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

        A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

        It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

        It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

        How it helps you:

        If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

        Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

        2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

        Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

        Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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        How it helps you:

        Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

        Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

        If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

        Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

        3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

        Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

        Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

        How it helps you:

        This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

        For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

        Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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        A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

        4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

        To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

        A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

        How it helps you:

        One word: hierarchy.

        All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

        In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

        If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

        5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

        Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

        Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

        How it helps you:

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        Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

        If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

        This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

        6. What do you like about working here?

        This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

        Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

        How it helps you:

        You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

        Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

        Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

        7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

        What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

        As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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        How it helps you:

        What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

        First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

        Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

        Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

        Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

        Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

        Making Your Interview Work for You

        Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

        Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

        More Resources About Job Interviews

        Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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