To read the first piece in this two-part series on learning to perceive suffering as a life lesson, click here.
Emotions are normal and inevitable.
There are no negative or positive emotions, there are only emotions.
It’s the meaning we give each experience, whether it is lousy, awful, crummy or wonderful, great, amazing. Whatever words we want to use. Those are the very words that shape the personal meaning of our emotions.
Let’s deep dive with one of the most common and relevant examples: fear.
Zooming in on fear
Fear is not the problem. It’s the fear of fear itself.
Humans are meaning-making machines. We naturally create meaning out of everything. Here, the problem is that our focus is on waiting for the fear to go away.
Why not embrace the fear? Why not make our fear our ally? Why not make our fear our pathway to growth and learn from it?
Don’t wait for the fear to disappear. Act despite the fear. The best things in life come from struggle.
The struggle is neurologically required for growth. Neurons that fire together, wire together. Therefore, building a positive relationship with suffering is the single most important skill to master.
Don’t wait for the fear, seek it out
Seeking out the fear means being proactive.
Look around you. What is that one thing that scares the pants off you, knowing that if you did it, you would grow leaps and bounds?
Then do exactly that.
Adversity and struggle are both inevitable. However, there is incredible beauty in pushing through your fears. Once you make it to the other side, your heart, mind and soul will be in a far more developed state.
If you look back on your own experiences, you will realise that it’s a process you have trudged through every time.
Think about the last time someone broke your heart. Or when you were told that you weren’t successful in that role. Or the day you received that phone call letting you know your client went with the competitor.
What did you do? You didn’t give up. You pushed through. Quite possibly, you were even a bit curious as to ‘why’ this was the outcome so you can apply the lesson to your next attempt.
Ultimately, the situation made you grow as a person.
If it’s hard, it’s worth it
Everything worthwhile is hard. If it weren’t challenging, it wouldn’t be meaningful.
You have to train yourself to fall in love with suffering. Fall in love with the process. Fall in love with failure. Fall in love with fear.
Suffering is a training ground for self-transcendence. You cannot get better at something without doing it. And you cannot improve without falling and failing.
No matter how much the thought of failing scares you, realise that it must happen in order for you to evolve. Some of our most powerful insights, lessons and rewards come from our deepest failures.
If you think that everything happens for us and not to us, then the pain that you experience will be tremendous bliss.
Bliss is on the other side of fear
Once you push through fear, you will find your nirvana on the other side. Like I said in the first part of this blog, if you want something you’ve never had before, then you have to do something that you’ve never done before.
That means suffering and taking a risk. It also means going out there and finding your worthy struggle.
You have a choice.
You can be proactive and find the challenge that deserves your suffering. Something that is scary, something that may cause you pain, something that will push you out of your comfort zone.
If you don’t, then suffering will find you anyway.
So, you might as well pick your fight.
The greater the struggle, the greater the evolution. The way to bring this to light is go out there and find one little thing that will push you out of your comfort zone.
It can mean going to your boss and asking for a pay rise. Or it can be standing in front of 300 people to do a talk. It might mean telling someone you no longer want to be in a relationship with them.
Embrace suffering head-on
As hard as it may seem, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
We no longer live in a world of life-threatening risks anymore, and so our brain creates these risks. We have the courage and confidence to approach them. We just have to access our inner resources.
As with anything that carries meaning, it’s a process. It won’t happen immediately. It might not even happen anytime soon. But persistence is the key in the journey of coming to terms with suffering.
One step at a time, and you will be able to transform suffering into one of the greatest lessons in your life.