Although we continue to chase “pain-free” ways of making our lives better (e.g., the amazing diet pill that lets you eat sweets, the latest “get rich quick” scheme, etc.), these easy fixes continue to elude us.
When it comes to growth – physical, emotional, or otherwise – some discomfort is just part of the package. This is often why it’s so hard for us to make significant changes in our lives. If the perceived gain is not larger than the perceived pain, we often give up and go back to our comfortable routine (e.g., come mid-February, the crowds at the gym start to thin out).
Sometimes we’re not given a choice about enduring pain. Accidents, illnesses, lay-offs, break-ups and other challenging circumstances are a part of life and can happen when we least expect them. During these times, we may try to distract ourselves from the pain through substances, food, work or other temporary comforts, but these are often short-lived and unfulfilling.
This is a good time to engage the mantra “no pain, no gain“. Although we cannot always control the circumstances, we CAN choose to find the positive in them. This doesn’t mean that we’re in denial about what is happening or minimizing the difficulty of the situation. Rather, it’s a way to find a silver lining when life seems to be handing us a pile of rain clouds.
Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
There is no “quick fix” to develop character and an appreciation for all of the joy that exists around us at any given moment.
So, while none of us wants to feel hurt, loss, or sadness, only through experiencing these emotions can we recognize and appreciate the things in life that lead to joy, love and happiness. Further, by successfully coping with tough challenges, we realize our own strength, develop compassion for others, and understand our true selves in a way that can only be learned through hardship.
There is an old saying that one can only ever feel as much joy as they have pain. If it’s true that the magnitude of our ability to feel joy is proportional to the magnitude of our ability to feel pain, then perhaps we can find some comfort in our darkest days knowing that our brightest moments lie ahead.