When Good Stories Feel Bad
I have a friend who is in the middle of a very difficult work.
He has chosen to give his life to something that offers him no benefit right now. If anything, every aspect of his life has become harder. Days are longer. The work seems endless. His stress is high.
He confessed to me recently that the work has become so difficult that he isn’t sure how he will survive it.
“I just don’t know how much longer I can hold up,” he said.
Attempting to encourage him I said, “I believe in the work you are doing. It is a good thing and one day you will not regret fighting through the hardness and bad feelings.”
He paused and thought for a second. And then he asked, “If the work is so good, then why does it have to feel so bad?”
I could only answer him with silence.
Choosing the Wrong Thing
My friend had discovered that doing something worthwhile does not always produce happiness. His story was good, but it was hard, and he was struggling.
I don’t have the answer, but ‘t I don’t think the answer to the question matters. When we focus on how we feel about the work we are doing, especially when that work is hard, then we are focused on the wrong thing.
“How good or bad the work makes you feel as nothing to do with whether or not it is good and worth giving your life to,” I later reminded him.
The problem is that we live in a culture in which we evaluate the quality of our lives based on how we feel. We have the freedom and the resources to pursue whatever we choose. And who wouldn’t choose what makes you feel happy? Who wouldn’t choose comfort? Who doesn’t want to be safe?
When we choose our lives based on our feelings, we will often choose thing wrong things. We live for the here and now forgetting what will be important later.
We often forget that feelings do not last forever, but our work can.
Choosing Happiness by Choosing the Work
Instead of choosing what makes us feel good, the alternative approach is to choose how we feel.
There are some things in life which are good, but take effort and work, and yes pain, to accomplish.
The place to start is to choose the work. Choose what really matters. Choose something important to believe in and work towards. And then when the hard times come, and bad feelings threaten to overwhelm, we can choose to be happy because we are living with purpose.
We can choose happiness, even when life is hard, if our work matters. (Feel free to tweet that.)
Some things matter today. Something matters down the road. There are a few things that matter forever. The more we choose forever, the easier it will be to choose to be happy. And that happiness will last.
I spoke to my friend again recently and this is what he told me.
“It still hurts. There are days I think about giving up, but I can’t. The work is good. The work is important. I know that I am in the right place doing the right thing, and I would never change it.”
How does your story make you feel? Have you ever struggle like my friend?
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