How to use suffering to be happy, healthy and wealthy

The world you live in is the world you create for yourself. Whether you live in a happy or miserable place depends more on your perception of it than the place itself. Negativity in the news often misleads us thinking that the world is hostile. Still, in reality, the world is full of opportunities.

Rhonda Byrne wrote in her book The Secret that all you have to do in life is ask for what you want, believe you will have it, and it will come to you – this is the law of attraction. When you only consider success, it becomes impossible to fail. 

But there’s a catch: the law of attraction is a double-edged sword; negative thoughts will bring negativity into your life. The more you focus on negative thoughts, the more you will attract negativity into your life. There are two quotes I want to discuss to illustrate this law: 

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“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

Henry Ford

“life is suffering”

Buddha

At first glance, these are seemingly unrelated quotes, but they both relate to the law of attraction. According to the law of attraction, the Buddha’s statement means that we are all asking for suffering – which is true. Constant thoughts about what is missing in our lives remind us that we are unfulfilled, and the law of attraction responds by giving us less. 

Practice appreciation

The path to happiness is paved in suffering; there are two ways of dealing with this suffering: directly or indirectly. Those dealing with it indirectly spend their time falling for the fallacy of consumerism. Meanwhile, those who deal with it learn to let go and be grateful for what they have while working towards having more. 

Practices such as meditation are essential for learning to appreciate the blessings in your life. They allow you to put your life on pause and simply be. When you take the time to just be, your gifts become obvious; shifting your mindset and giving you a happier, more fulfilling life.

Decide to minimize your suffering.

Decision-making is a source of suffering for many people. When there is a hard choice to make, indecision only extends the pain. Let’s use taking a cold shower as an example – because we all know how fun those are. They suck, and unless someone chooses for you by using all the hot water, it can be difficult.

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As such – unless you have a tiny hot water tank – the time required to decide dictates the duration of the suffering. The temperature will not change, so an instantaneous decision will shorten the time between now and the end of suffering. 

Hesitation, on the other hand, will make it much worse because the pain of impending cold is worse than the act itself. It is by choosing to suffer that we can be better. So, go for the run, eat the salad, and do what you know you should because they are worth it, but you need to understand why you are doing it.

Why we suffer matters

Whether your goal is maximizing your health span or learning a language, many things can give your suffering meaning. Meaning can be derived from a desire to create, live, love or be healthy. Regardless of your reason, Friedrich Nietzsche put in brilliantly when he said:

 “If you have a why you can overcome almost any how”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Freedom was worth 27 years in prison to Nelson Mandela. Viktor E. Frankl survived three years in a concentration camp to publish his manuscript. A Surviving was worth the pain of crawling 5 miles (8 km) on a broken let to Joe Simpson. All these people had one thing in common: a reason why.

Viktor Frankl used his suffering to become a better psychiatrist and develop logotherapy. He then dedicated his life to helping people turn their suffering into a reason to live. Joe Simpson’s harrowing journey down the mountain sparked his passion for writing, leading him to become a successful writer. Mandela’s long walk to freedom led him to free his nation and become the first black president of South Africa. 

Richard Dawkins summarized the importance of why in The Selfish Gene when he wrote:

“The rabbit runs faster than the fox because the rabbit is running for his life while the fox is only running for his dinner.”

Richard Dawkins
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Visualizing success.

The why of your life determines whether or not you will succeed or give up on your goals. Those with a strong why can visualize themselves succeeding and will find a way to make it work – it’s how the law of attraction works. 

I used the law of attraction to be reunited with my girlfriend. When she was forced to leave New Zealand and return to the Czech Republic, I wanted to follow her but had many obstacles to overcome.

Over the next six months, with determination and a bit of dumb luck, I managed to get everything organized regardless of the ongoing pandemic, visa issues and a language barrier. The journey to Europe was miserable; it involved over a hundred hours in and out of planes and a five-hour bus ride. 

I spend time every day learning her language because it is the only way to communicate with her family. It would be easy to get by without it, but speaking with her family is important to me. But I have a reason why so I study the language every day. I don’t notice my progress or measure it (though maybe I should). My goal is to speak with her family, and until I can have a fluid conversation with them, I will keep following my process. 

Be process driven

Goals are reached by focusing on the process, not the product. All the examples listed above involve forgetting the eventual goal and concentrating on what needs to be done that day. Joe Simpson didn’t expect to live, but while in his dying delirious state, he planned to keep going until he reached safety or died – he made it.

We all have reasons for which we are willing to suffer; some might call these “goals.” Your goals are what motivate you to keep going when all seems lost. But the way to accomplish these goals is not by staring at them. 

If Simpson had Constantly looked down the mountain at how far he had left to go, he would have likely died up there. Instead, he focused on learning to hop with a broken leg and used that hope – his process – to get down the mountain one hop at a time. 

Viktor Frankl nor Nelson Mandela were sentenced to prison for an indeterminate period meaning they had two options: survive and accomplish their mission or die in prison. They both got out and accomplished amazing feats with their lives; their reasons gave them the strength to continue. 

Most of us are not fighting for our lives. Modern times have made life relatively easy for most of humanity. Too easy, perhaps. Without a regular struggle, it has become much harder for us to deal with any form of suffering.

If you want to accomplish something difficult, you must – in the words of David Goggins:

  “Callus your mind through pain and suffering.”

David Goggins
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You must accept that suffering is part of the process and focus on taking the next step rather than minimizing your suffering. When you focus on your goal, the suffering becomes bearable, allowing you to reach your goal and eventually live a happy, healthy, wealthy life.

Actionable Steps

  1. Practice meditation to appreciate your blessings and learn to let go.
  2. Make hard decisions quickly to minimize the impending dread.
  3. Focus on what you are doing to achieve what you want.
  4. Visualize how you will feel when you have attained your goal

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