We all want to be happy and live meaningful lives. We want to fall in love, have the perfect relationship, obtain money and be well respected.
Whenever someone gets the question, “What do you want in life?”, the answer is always something like, “I want to be happy, have the perfect family and enjoy my job.” This answer is so common that it almost doesn’t mean anything.
But perhaps there’s a better question to ask.
What if you were to ask yourself, “What am I willing to struggling for? “What am I willing to experience pain for?”
Because that’s a better predictor of how our lives really turn out. We all want to have an amazing job that earns lots of money. But are you willing to go through 60-hour work weeks, conflicts with employees and bosses and never ending paperwork?
We all want to have the perfect relationship, but are you willing to have honest and awkward conversations and experience emotional pain?
The truth is, happiness requires struggle. You can’t have the good without the bad. You can’t resist negative experiences, because if you do, they’ll come back 10 times harder in the future.
It’s easier to deal with positive experiences. Anyone can do that. But this won’t determine what good we get out of life. It’s determined by our ability to tolerate bad feelings to get us to those good feelings.
Perhaps spiritual master Osho says this best:
“Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance.”
The advice you shouldn’t listen to
Many people advice you to ask the question, “What do you want in life?” But this is a silly question. Most people answer that by saying that they want to be a rockstar, or a famous rapper, or a billionaire. Yet for some reason they never take action to achieve those goals. The reality never comes.
Because they don’t actually want that. It’s a fantasy and they’re in love with the dream. Yet to achieve that dream, they’re not willing to go through the day to day struggle of achieving it.
You can’t take the good without the bad. That’s life.
Who you really are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. It’s the most basic component of life: Our struggles determine our successes.
So when you’re trying to figure out what you really desire in life, instead of asking yourself what you want, ask yourself what you’re willing to struggle for.
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