Dreaming of starting your own business? Read this article to get a realistic view of what it takes before diving in! Managing expectations is key!
Certified High-Performance coach, speaker, author, husband, adventurer, former commando-paratrooper, and tsunami survivor.
For years, I kept living with the thought that my life would be better when […]. And I know I am not alone; the majority of people always strive for more, but no matter how much they achieve, they will eventually adapt to their new circumstances and return to their baseline level of happiness. So instead of being on an impossible quest, let’s explore how to face the inevitability of life’s challenges and how to stop holding on to the illusion of a problem-free reality.
As much as we want to believe, we can’t escape three things in life: pain, uncertainty, and effort. If you look at your past, you experienced those 3 things over and over again. And sorry to say, but it’s not over yet! I know it doesn’t sound very optimistic.
Everything in our environment showcases the “perfect life” with all those photos of good-looking folks spending time in amazing locations with gorgeous people. But is that a true representation of reality? I mean, have you ever put a smile on just to take a selfie? Com’on, I’m sure you did. Not everything is fake on social media, but what is certain is that how people look from the outside is not always representative of how they feel on the inside.
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Social media and advertisements reinforce this idea that we can create an amazing problem-free life. In the quest to create our best life, we turn to personal development gurus, courses, coaches, webinars, etc. And this is not a bad thing; contrarily, I find it amazing that people commit to creating a better life for themselves (supporting them is what I do for a living!).
However, it’s important to understand that a better life doesn’t mean a “problem-free” life.
You can create more joy, comfort, freedom, love, or money. But thinking that your life will be perfect when […], is a dangerous mistake; there is no reality without pain, uncertainty, and effort.
We all dream about a better life, or at least improving one aspect of our life. Ambitious people take the time to think deeply about their goals and meticulously plan their dream life. And the most courageous work hard to make it a reality. They entertain the idea that it will be pain-free, worry-free, and effortless. But when they finally reach it, they take a hard hit. Here is a secret: it never goes away.
Nothing will ever make the pain, uncertainty, and necessary effort disappear. Of course, navigating life with financial freedom, amazing people around you, and feeling great in your body is definitely better!
We all pursue things in life that we believe will bring us a sense of satisfaction and contentment. However, the problem arises when we finally attain those things, only to realize that they do not provide the expected feelings of happiness and fulfillment. Especially if the feelings you are after are something you can’t sustain long-term, like the absence of pain, a constant state of certainty, and effortless living.
Pain is an important signal from the body, alerting us that something is wrong, like a built-in alarm system. Thanks to the pain signal, we know when to adjust our actions. Without pain, we would die with no warning! Wishing for a pain-free life is like flying a plane blindfolded without avionics; eventually, you’ll crash and die. Rather than avoiding pain, it’s better to learn how to manage it and avoid staying stuck in suffering.
We love what is familiar and certain and absolutely hate what we can’t predict. It is just the nature of the human mind. Our mind constantly creates meaning, finding cause and effect for everything, so we feel like we stay in control. But in reality, we can’t control much. The only things we really control are our actions and our thoughts (well, not always!). The future is unpredictable. The only thing I can say for sure is that one day you will die, and every day you are a bit closer to that day. Wishing for absolute certainty is an illusion.
In chemistry, there’s this rule called the law of Lavoisier, which says that matter can’t be created or destroyed, only transformed. That means that when you mix two chemicals together, you don’t get something totally new – you just get a new combination of the same atoms.
Well, in life, the same thing is true. When we go through changes or transformations, it’s not like we become completely different people. We’re still the same at our core, but we’re just rearranging things a bit.
But here’s the catch – just like in chemistry, energy has to be transferred for things to change. In life, that energy comes in the form of effort. Just as a chemical reaction cannot proceed without energy transfer, life cannot progress without the constant effort required to facilitate change. And because life is just one long transition, we must accept that constant effort is simply an inseparable part of it.
We cannot escape pain, uncertainty, and effort in life, but we can learn to manage them and find meaning and purpose in our struggles. True happiness is not when you have no problems anymore but when you enjoy solving them because you choose them carefully.
Look at mountaineering, for example; people find joy in the pain, the uncertainty of surviving, and the tremendous effort it takes to summit a mountain. The same goes for everything, learning a language, being in a romantic relationship, playing an instrument, etc. Your level of happiness in life is directly correlated with how much you enjoy the process.
I keep challenging my clients about the goals they are pursuing to make sure that they enjoy “getting there” even more than “being there.” If they don’t, I encourage them to reframe their goal or change them completely, so they can refocus on the WHY rather than on the what…
So let’s see how to find meaning and joy in the challenges of life.
This is probably the most difficult part. We usually don’t enjoy it when our alarm system is triggered. We don’t want to have pain, and most of the time, we refuse to accept it. Every time we do so, we create suffering (non-acceptance of the pain).
We should not deny the pain; it deserves to be acknowledged and understood. But then, it has to be accepted; otherwise, it will become suffering. My wife created a powerful framework to deal with adversity; check out her 6-step A.C.C.E.P.T. ModelTM.
Just let it go! Yes, but how?
Surrendering to what you can’t control and trusting that life will provide you with what you need is a powerful mindset that will help you go through anything. What if you start with the premise that everything that will happen to you will turn out well? And even if you can’t see any good in the situation, you trust that no matter what happens in the future, it will help you become who you need to become.
I don’t want to get too spiritual, but I do believe in a soul journey toward self-actualization. And I learned to trust life through my traumas.
Uncertainty is characteristic of life. Like Clint Eastwood said in “The Rookie”: “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.”
The problem is not the unpredictability of life; it is the future-oriented fear response we create based on our negative past experiences. It is an assumption with a low level of certainty (ironically). Fear and excitement are actually processed the same way in your body (physiological response). The difference is that fear is expecting the worse, and excitement is expecting the best. When you surrender and choose (yes, it is a choice), excitement and uncertainty then become an exciting part of trusting that life will be great no matter what (even if it sucked for a while).
There is no “pause” button; life is happening around you. The weather changes, technology rapidly evolves, and you also want to change (dreams and desires). So you constantly need to adapt, which requires effort because success doesn’t just happen.
It comes back to learning to find joy in the process. Tapping into your emotions to remember why you do what you do. From there, you can build a set of habits so you don’t have to make decisions every day. You must change who you are at the core and create a new identity rather than check a to-do list. When you change who you are, your actions align.
Lastly, it is the discipline to practice gratitude for everything you have rather than create scarcity for everything you wish.
Greek philosopher Epicurus wrote on desire and contentment:
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
Wishing for something you can’t get only leads to despair. Accepting what you can’t change helps you stay sane and find joy in adversity. We all want to be happy and wish for a life of wander, adventure, excitement, and joy, so when you accept that problems are part of life, the only thing you can focus on is creating high-quality problems.
You can only change the context in which you experience your problems. They will fundamentally stay the same, no matter what; you can’t completely remove them from your life.
I was so done with the rainy and cloudy weather in Belgium, so I moved to live in a tropical paradise. Then I had to deal with extreme heat and humidity (leave alone the mosquitoes).
Traveling is a wonderful experience, but it also comes with frustrations, such as language barriers, unfamiliar food, and transportation difficulties. Trust me, in 7 years of living a nomadic life, I have been frustrated countless times.
Living in amazing places is also filled with challenges. Dealing with the administration to obtain a work permit in Nepal or doing a residency in Paraguay was exhausting (actually, it was a nightmare!).
Being married is not always easy either.
And the list goes on!
But you see, all of the above are situations that I chose; I chose those problems! And although they are still “problems,” every time I feel frustrated, I remind myself: “This is my choice; I want to be here; I want to do that.”
You can always choose your inner stance.
One of my clients has a dream to climb to the top of Everest, and she has been preparing herself physically, mentally, and financially ((it costs more than 50K+!) for years. However, the journey to reach her goal has been filled with challenges and setbacks. Despite the constant effort, pain, and discipline required for intense training, she has persevered. The uncertainty of manifesting the necessary resources and doubts about whether her dream will ever come true have tested her more than once. But she hasn’t given up. Her commitment and determination to succeed are a true inspiration and n example of resilience. Though the path is far from easy, she has made a conscious choice to embrace all the problems that come with it, and that in itself is a remarkable accomplishment.
While we all desire a life filled with happiness, adventure, and excitement, it’s important to recognize that the journey is where we will spend most of our time. To let go of the idea of a pain-free, worry-free, and effortless life, we must learn to find fulfillment in the process.
Problems will always be a part of life. The only thing that can change is the context in which they exist. Thus, instead of striving for a life without any problems, we should embrace the challenges that come with it. Denying the realities of life only leads to a lack of fulfillment, as we deny what makes life life. It’s only when we accept and confront the problems that we can truly find meaning and fulfillment in our journey, even in the midst of adversity.
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