Our ignorance has made us believe that happiness has to do with doing what gives us pleasure, in other words, we will be happy only when we accomplish to do what makes us happy. Pursuing our predilections -to dress as we like, to eat what we want, be surrounded by the people who make our life easier- is wonderful, expands our heart and we can relax; however, it is essential to understand that the happiness of pleasure has an expiration date. If you have not thought about it, it helps to think about it now. Trying to avoid thinking in that way will not prevent us to not suffer. Your partner loves you today, but we do not know if he or she will love you tomorrow; today you are enjoying your good friends, but certainly your best friends can become your enemies tomorrow; your experiments in your project run fantastic today but you fail the following week. Finding happiness in what we like is an explosion of joy; nevertheless, if you believe that only that is what fills our existence with meaning and contentment that is not entirely correct. There is so much more aliveness and happiness outside of our preferences.
There is a happiness that has nothing to do with achieving our personal or professional goals. That happiness is the result of the generation of virtues such as patience, strength, courage and perseverance within oneself. These qualities emerge only from facing the difficulties of life. It requires strength to cope with the misfortunes and adversities that we are exposed to such as sickness, failures, death or failing your experiments in the doctoral research. Everybody can deal with these tribulations, that is a fact; however, there are many ways we can face them. Here, I refer how we deal these adversities with a positive attitude, not being bogged down into depression or self-absorption. At first glance, this path does not look nice, but in the long run these difficulties can transform ourselves, giving birth to noble qualities that show us that we are more than this rigid idea of the ME.
I attended a couple of days ago a training about how to survive your PhD program and I was very surprised about the methods some person suggested to cope with the stress in our journeys. When things get difficult, we tend to escape, to run away from that complicated human being or just isolate ourselves from the tense relationship we are struggling with. We wait desperately the weekend to go for climbing or just watch Netflix and forget our miserable life. We think that running away is the only way to survive, but we are blind. There is an enormous potential in us when we learn to deal with difficult circumstances and people.
How the difficulties can have the potential of making me happier?
It is because is difficult or challenging that I am motivated. It is only because is not easy that I have the chance to train myself to be strong. Joy does not come necessarily from escaping the hard times. The Joie de vivre comes from becoming stronger and realizing that I am becoming someone different, with more aptitudes and virtues. Strength comes from training, training everyday our inabilities in any given journey.
All of us have the potential to choose if these events fill our resentments and anger or serve us to awaken from the illusion that we will find happiness only when our wishes are fulfilled. Certainly, misfortunes and stressful situations can be used in our favor to cultivate innumerable virtues such as patience, perseverance and vigor. Patience to understand that although the road is difficult, life is precious and deserves to be fully lived, with its ups and downs. It is very noble to wake up every day, face our negativity and then decide to have a look into the other side, where we can look how much we have advanced and improved. It is not enough to be patient and stay to see how life unfolds in front of our eyes, it is also vital to be actively involved in transforming our negativity into something useful for ourselves and others. Perseverance give us the power to not give up and face the challenges, whatever challenge it is. Finally, vigor allows us to keep ourselves motivated independently of external recognition and appreciation. These three qualities are born only outside of our comfort zone.
Living with joy does not necessarily mean living in elation, sometimes the second could be understand as the denial of our suffering. Being happy could mean that I rejoice when I receive what I want, I enjoy it and I am deeply grateful realizing that this event will be gone soon. On the contrary, being happy also could mean that I can deal with any difficult situation that life presents with my best attitude. Does not mean not being sad, it means that we do not lose hope and keep motivated with what is coming.
Next time you are out your comfort zone, take a breath and ask yourself if you are capable enough to stay and deal with it. Maybe you will find hidden gifts or maybe next time.