Live Your Best Lesson 1: Let Go of the Happiness Myth
What’s the difference between happiness and joy? Happiness is an ice cream on a warm summer day. Joy is infinitely more than being made to feel good by our circumstances. I like this definition by Rick Warren—that joy is “the settled assurance . . . the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright.” An ice cream on a warm summer day can never bring about that kind of feeling. Living through hardship and coming out the other side can.
Suffering, if we allow it to, can draw us deeply into an ability to persevere. Hardship can teach us how to stay in the race even when all seems lost. It can teach us how to hold on when we feel as if we can go no further.
I’ll never forget standing on the mat at the end of leg three, having come in last place in The Amazing Race Canada. Even when we didn’t end up being sent home, part of me just wanted to quit. Sometimes we wish the struggle we’re facing would just go away. Mine was the threat of humiliation and my ongoing battle with Parkinson’s. What is your struggle that you wish would go away? I would encourage you to name it, and to walk hand in hand with it. Discover the means to stay on your journey and win.
We’ve been sold a lie: the lie that we should pursue only those things that make us happy. As my daughters have grown up, I’ve often told them not to believe the lie of all those beauty ads that promote a fake, unnatural look and an unrealistic size for most women. I say the same here in our context: don’t believe the lie that our lives should be free of pain and hardship. Life just doesn’t happen that way.
Think of the many grueling, difficult tasks that we have to work hard through and that ultimately lead to joy. Those triathletes who daily slog through the intense training of three demanding sports with the hopes of one day becoming an Ironman are a great example of embracing hardship. Are those athletes always happy to swim at five in the morning in a cold pool? To run fifteen miles in the rain? These things don’t always bring them happiness, but they often produce joy—the sense of having accomplished something meaningful, having overcome something difficult, having done what you didn’t want to get up and do but did anyway.
There is no joy without suffering. Do not believe the lie.
Continue reading: Live Your Best Lesson 2: The Nature of Luck
This blog post is an excerpt from the book
Perseverance: The Seven Skills You Need to Survive, Thrive, and Accomplish More Than You Ever Imagined.
Order your copy of the book.
Tim, this is beautiful. You capture so well something that was given as a message at our church, and I know exactly what you mean. All my years of marathon training and subsequent races /or failed to races due to injuries (always after the 20 mile run), helped prepare me for the worst time in my life – yet to come. Going through that and seeing the light at the other side prepared me for this Parkinson’s / MSA trial. I am so full of joy! That cannot be bought.