There is an idea making its way through people’s minds that if you are doing the right thing or are fulfilling your purpose or are following your joy, you will only feel good. This is not the reality of existence.
At this point in existence, no matter what you choose to do, all things will inherently come with contrast. They will come with positives and negatives, upsides and downsides. People want to be happy. They want to feel good. And a big part of expansion is about continually making changes so as to resolve the pain that you feel in any given situation; instead of simply accepting that ‘things are the way they are’. But I want you to consider today a different way of looking at life. There is a question you can ask yourself that will define your deepest joy, your actual purpose, your actual commitment and therefore the actual correct course of your life. That question is: What Pain Will You Say Yes to?
Seeing as how my purpose is the transformation of suffering, most of what I will be teaching you is how to transform pain… Which will seem at face value to be the opposite of what I will teach you in this article today. I must teach you to look at pain and at the unwanted from a different angle entirely.
Consider that all things with an upside come with a downside. All things come with some kind of pain. For example, fame comes with the downside of things like never being able to trust the motives of people trying to be near you and being treated like a commodity instead of a person and others actively trying to tear you down and strip you of your power. Entrepreneurship comes with the downside of things like unstable pay, no benefits, less security, discouragement from others who would rather you play it safe, having to work longer and harder than others and having a hard time getting loans. Being a winning athlete comes with the downside of things like blood and sweat and tears and not being able to attend that family members wedding because it is happening at the same time as that competition.
If I were to sit a group of people down and question them about what they want, chances are all of them will say that they want to be rich. All of them will say that they want to have a great relationship. All of them will say that they want to be perfectly physically fit. All of them will say that they want to be #1… You get the point. But the reality is that very few of them, potentially only one, would actually be willing to say yes to the negatives or the downsides of those things. For example, they all may want to be rich, but maybe only one of them will say yes to financial risk, or to a 60 hour work week or to the delayed gratification of saving to invest or to the extreme pressure of striking out on their own as an entrepreneur or to the extreme pressure of work place competition. They may all want a great relationship. But maybe only one of them will say yes to re-visiting their painful past to resolve the trauma that is making them behave in damaging ways in their relationships. Or committing to difficult conversations or to opening themselves up again to connect even when they have been hurt again and again.
The pain that you will say yes to and the struggle you will choose to step into with your own free will, that is what will define your success in life. The positive that everyone is looking for is born from the mud of those things that so many people look to avoid. You cannot cause yourself to want or to like those downsides and that struggle and that pain that comes with the upsides and success and joy that you want. But you can choose them with your own free will as a statement of what you are willing to experience or endure for the sake of what you want. You can look at the thing you want and decide that it is worth the cost to you specifically.
The thing that determines your success relative to whatever it is that you want is not that you want it or even how much you want it. It also isn’t how much you enjoy it. What determines success is what pain you are willing to face and what struggle you are willing to go through and what you are willing to endure for the sake of what you love and want.
So often, when a person says that they want something, but they aren’t getting any closer to it, it is because they either do not truly want it at all. Or they want a fantasy of the thing, not the reality of the thing. Or they do want it but are simply not choosing any of the ‘thorns’ that come with it. In other words, they have decided on a subconscious level that they don’t want it enough because the cost is not worth the benefit. You’ve got to want the reward enough to say yes to the cost or the struggle.
For example, I once knew a person who wanted to be a famous Hollywood actress for her entire life. She had her life entirely planned out around it and had fantasized about it for her entire life. Even so, her ‘dream’ never came. She was in love with the fantasy and the idea of the result… The flashing cameras and red carpets, the million-dollar pay checks, being on the cover of magazines, feeling significant. But in truth, she hated the process. She hated sitting next to a thousand other people in audition lines. She hated the embarrassment and drudgery of rehearsing. She hated the cutthroat atmosphere of LA. She hated networking. And so, she didn’t really pour all of her energy into it. She didn’t actually say yes to it, regardless of whether she didn’t like it. She refused to go to certain auditions. She didn’t really work on the ‘craft’ of acting itself. She avoided the business side of networking and marketing and selling herself. People may say that she gave up on herself or wasn’t courageous enough or that it just wasn’t in the cards for her. But the reality is that she didn’t really want it. She most certainly didn’t want it enough to decide to say yes to the pain and struggle and process of it.
You are here on this planet for a very specific reason. You being here is no mistake. You have a purpose and that purpose will be indicated to you through your joy. This means that you have something that you want and you have something that you want badly enough to say yes to any of the downsides that might come with that thing. You may simply not know what it is that you want ‘badly enough’ yet.
What are you willing to struggle for? What are you willing to endure pain for? If you knew that life was not only roses, but also thorns and you had to choose your thorns, what thorns would you choose? What are you so committed to that no amount of failure, only death could prevent you from continuing to do it or to aim for it? The quality of your life experience depends on you answering this question. It depends on determining what values you care so deeply about that you are willing to struggle for them. And how people answer this question will give you the most accurate picture of how their lives will turn out. And so, it may sound odd, but a key element of surmounting suffering relative to success is having the answer to the question “How Do I Choose to Suffer in This Life?”