Following your passion isn’t always as glorious as it sounds. The famous quote ‘find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life’ is far from the truth. Despite loving what you do, you’ll still experience days in which you don’t feel like doing the work.
You’ll still experience setbacks, obstacles, and challenges.
You’ll still experience boredom and going through mundane tasks every now and then.
You might even experience criticism, judgment, and hateful comments.
Despite working on something you love and pursuing something meaningful to you, you’ll still suffer.
The Value of Suffering
Life is not about living in this perfect state where you’re happy 24/7, never encounter any obstacles, and avoid all criticism. That’s not realistic. It isn’t even desirable. It doesn’t stimulate any growth.
Instead, life is about pursuing things that are worthwhile to you — which nearly always implies that you’re going to suffer.
Remember, if you want above-average output, you’ll need to provide above-average input (effort, energy, time). Per definition, this involves suffering. It’s the price you pay for being able to play the game.
For example, you suffer when you wake up early to hone your craft despite feeling like staying in your comfortable bed.
You suffer when you go out of your comfort zone and face potential failure or rejection, even though you could’ve stayed in your cocoon of safety.
You suffer when you face strong opinions and judgment for what you’re doing or who you are. As Albert Einstein said, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
And you suffer when one of your ideas doesn’t work out as expected, despite putting a lot of time and effort into it.
But if you truly stand for something, be willing to suffer for it.
Even though this suffering isn’t always fun, it isn’t bad. It forces you to grow. It makes you stronger and better. Besides, it makes the end result taste so much sweeter.
Suffer For What You Love The Most
Take writing, for example. I love it, but I don’t always love it. There are many moments where I suffer — despite doing what I love.
Writing requires focus, discipline, and consistency. And on some days, I’d rather play video games than write an article. Some days, I’d rather stay in my comfortable, warm bed than waking up early to write.
But, most of the days, I get myself to do it anyway.
Sometimes, I receive hateful comments on my writing. Even though it doesn’t affect me as much anymore as it did in the past, it’s still harsh. And sometimes, I receive judgment from friends and family.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t stop me from writing.
As Aristotle said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” I don’t want to live my life like that, and my guess is you don’t want to live it like that either.
Despite doing what I love — writing about self-development — I suffer on almost a daily basis. Yet, I consider myself to be happier than ever before, and I wouldn’t want to do any other thing.
Suffering & Fulfillment Are Two Parts of The Same Coin
By now, I tend to believe that suffering and fulfillment are two parts of the same coin. Without the one, the other can’t exist. It’s like Yin and Yang.
It’s what the ancient Greeks called ‘Eudaimonia.’ Even though eudaimonia is often wrongly translated as ‘happiness,’ it goes much deeper than that.
Happiness is a temporary state where you don’t encounter any resistance. These moments do happen but are rare and temporary.
Eudaimonia, on the other hand, takes into account that you can be fulfilled while sufferingat the same time. It’s much more common and constant in our lives.
You can be under pressure, suffering physically or mentally, carry a heavy load, but at the same time be incredibly fulfilled with your life because you are pursuing meaningful things.
According to The School of Life, ‘Properly exploring our professional talents, managing a household, keeping a relationship going, creating a new business venture or engaging in politics… none of these goals are likely to leave us cheerful and grinning on a regular basis. They will, in fact, involve us in all manner of challenges that will deeply exhaust us, provoke and wound us.’
Yet, these things are often the most meaningful to our lives. They lead to the most memorable moments, despite not always being fun.
Happiness consists of temporary rare moments, while ‘eudaimonia’ is much more constant, common and realistic in our daily lives.
One of my friends, for example, is a dancer. She has to go from audition to audition, facing multiple rejections before being accepted. She has to push her body to the limit, again and again, all for the sake of making it as a dancer.
But it’s her dream. She is willing to suffer for it because she wouldn’t want it any other way. Any other job wouldn’t make her as fulfilled as dancing. She knows what she stands for. Despite the suffering, it’s the most fulfilling thing for her.
Another friend of mine is a musician. It’s his goal to get signed by a big label and produce record hits. Per definition, this involves suffering.
He needs to practice daily, merely to maintain a healthy voice. He puts hours and hours into creating songs that will never see the light of day. He faces potential rejection and ridicule by others.
But, music fuels him like nothing else — it brings him joy and fulfillment. And, slowly but surely, all of his suffering is starting to pay off.
Suffering Is A Part of The Process
Suffering is a part of life. It’s part of pursuing something meaningful. Nothing worthwhile has ever been created without any degree of suffering.
It took Thomas Edison 1,000 unsuccessful attempts before inventing the light-bulb. To say that he suffered is an understatement.
Muhammad Ali suffered to become one of the greatest boxers the world has ever seen. He even said that “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
Not only did he live the rest of his life as a champion, but he also changed the world through his willingness to suffer.
As Viktor Frankl said in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.’
To go on despite the suffering, you need to have a higher purpose. A ‘why’ that pulls you through the hardships, challenges, and obstacles.
Remember, suffering is an essential part of the process when pursuing meaningful things in any walk of life.
Want to improve your health & fitness? You need the discipline to eat healthily and the persistence to push through a heavy workout. You’re going to suffer for it.
Want to share a strong message? Be prepared for judgment, haters, and criticism. But it’s worth it. It’s part of it.
Want to start a business? Be prepared to make no sales for a while. Be prepared to be misunderstood. Be prepared to receive harsh feedback. Be prepared to suffer.
This suffering is incredibly valuable. It contains the lessons required for success. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Again, if you desire something so deeply — or stand for something so strongly — you need to be willing to suffer for it. Accept it. Embrace it. Even welcome it.
Now Do It
The questions should not be ‘how can I avoid all suffering?’ Rather, the question should be ‘what am I willing to suffer for?’.
What is so important to you that you’re willing to wake up earlier for it? Endure judgment and criticism for it? Force yourself to grow for it? Fail for it? Stop following the crowd for it?
What do you love so much that you’re willing to stand for it — no matter how tough it gets?
That’s your calling. Pursue it, despite the suffering.
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab