What are you willing to struggle for? That is the more important and determinant question that Mark Manson wants you to ask yourself in his Quartz article, You probably know to ask yourself, “What do I want?” Here’s a way better question.
He points out that it’s easy to ask ourselves what we want because when we answer, we tend to think about the end result – the view from the mountaintop, rather than taking the climb into account.
Sure, everyone says they know they have to embark on the climb in order to get to the top of the mountain, but many want to opt for the ski-lift instead. Or never climb at all. The risk and sacrifice is too much.
But that’s the thing though – how do you find out what you really want, what values & beliefs you really care about, what you’re really capable of – if you don’t experience struggle from time to time? Nothing comes perfectly gift-wrapped with a bow without any work on our part; you have to work hard for the things you want most. You have to be willing to struggle through some negative to get to the positive.
Because happiness requires struggle. The positive is the side effect of handling the negative. You can only avoid negative experiences for so long before they come roaring back to life.
Manson points out that, of course, positive experiences are the easy ones to handle. The negative experiences are the ones that we all struggle with.
Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.
Throughout his article, Manson supplies great examples of the ‘are we’ or ‘are we not’ willing to struggle dilemma that many face. One example that I think almost anyone would relate to is people wanting an amazing physique. But people don’t realize the work, time, effort, and usually money that goes into getting that physique, plus the sustainment of keeping it. You have to appreciate the struggle and physical stress of being in the gym for an hour or two several times a week.
Romance. Everyone wants the fairytale love story, “but not everyone is willing to go through the tough conversations, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings, and the emotional psychodrama to get there.” I used to be in this category myself – I didn’t look for a relationship for at least a year because I knew I didn’t want to go through the struggles and hard work that comes with any relationship. It may sound weird, but I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the illusion that movies and books paint about relationships.
A lot of it had to do with the fact that I simply didn’t know what I wanted or what I’m capable of or what I valued in a relationship (in other things too). I still don’t know a lot, or maybe even anything at all, but I do know that I’m willing to experience the struggle, some of the negative so that I can get the most out of the positive.
The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.
Life is not always sunshine and rainbows, or as Manson says, “roses and unicorns.” My positive experience would simply tell me that it is something that I want. And in order to have it again or sustain it, I must continue to make the climb.
With certain wants that I had, like Manson’s dream of being a rockstar, I realized just as he did,
I thought I wanted something, but it turns out I didn’t. End of story.
I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.
It wasn’t because I wasn’t brave enough or didn’t work hard enough, it simply came down to the fact that I didn’t really want to put the work in or put myself out there for a particular dream. I was more in love with the idea of having the result rather than actually wanting it.
In the ending words of Manson, “Our struggles determine our successes. So choose your struggles wisely.”
Thank you for the wise words Manson, I’m glad to have stumbled upon your article and writing because it reminded me of what I knew to be true, but that I realized I needed to remember.
Be sure to check out Mark Manson’s website: http://markmanson.net
All links lead back to his own essays.
*I love that unicorns are something that equates to happiness and positivity. I never did ever hear of a negative unicorn. I think. :)
Featured image found via Pinterest.