Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Choose Happiness by Choosing the Work

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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.

photo by Vinoth Chandler (creative commons)

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?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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9 Replies

  1. Sabine

    This is a great reflexion. It happened that i nearly always chose the difficult way to go. All my stories that really matter are fruit of a very difficult way. But i took that way because it was the good one, the one which would bring me forwards. And yes, it hurt, it still does, and people wonder why i did this, when there were so many easy ways to take. They just don’t understand: When the goal is worth it, why look for comfort?

    1. Very encouraging, Sabine. You did a better job explaining this than I did.

  2. I love your post Jeremy! Your reflection on your friend and his story resonates with my story as well. It seems, and I am not sure why or how, I always choose to do what must be done and not what I feel like doing. Maybe it is my upbringing. Both my father and mother were like that> my mother still is a giving person no matter how she feels. In a time of my life, when I should “enjoy” comfort and shopping, trips and daily outings, Time to do nothing or just have fun with friends, I have chosen to help my children and grandchildren, my 3 neighbors, my 92 year old mom who can no longer be alone, cooking and sharing with 15 people most of the time. On top of that I chose to write and publish and all the joys and struggles it comes with. Just like your friend, I often get frustrated. Praying for patience all day long is what saves me. Right a way my atittude changes from that of “what is the use” to “Thank you God for giving me the chance to do it.” Choosing to do what resonates well with the Universe is the best reward and happiness I would want! Thanks for validating my story!
    Sabine…Love your post. You have chosen well! Good for you!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Katia.

  3. I believe that we all will face incredible challenges. If we’ve answered these questions in advance it will help us when times are tough. If we haven’t answered these questions, then when tough times come (and they will), we will be forced to answer them. Believing in your cause and purpose will help combat those questions of what does it mean/or does it mean anything. One of the reasons biographies are so powerful We can observe people struggle, and see the outcome of them sticking with it.

    1. I enjoy biographies too, especially when they allow you to see how “human” some amazing people were.

  4. da

    i needed to hear this today. thank you for that. i work in a situation where i’m one of two americans in a national primary school overseas. though i love and am called to teach, once again, the whole situation today made me wonder what i am doing. it’s constantly hard. constantly. it is good that you listened to your friend. i think that helps with the hard. not encouraging the easier, safer, more secure or profitable way helps too.

    1. Hang in there. It sounds like your work is very good.

  5. Jeremy, this is a post I’m going to have to read two or fifteen times before it really sinks in. Well done.

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