Finding Happiness and Success through unexpected Avenues
Everyone has experienced pain and usually seeks to avoid it. That's just a normal reaction people have to pain. But, what if I told you pain is essential to the recipe for success? Yep. You read that right.
Whoa now, Rachel! How in the world did you come up with that?
Well, now that you've asked, I recently read a book called Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Mission (I highly recommend checking out the book here!). It is based on the concept that we are called to live extraordinary lives right now by examining and changing ourselves from the inside out through sacrifice, discipline, and self control. It was an action provoking book that touches upon many aspects of life including pain, sacrifice and how that relates to living an amazing life. These topics brought me to the examination of my own habits involving pain or, rather, the avoidance of it.
It's actually hilarious because even before finishing the first chapter of the book I thought, “Do I really want to read this?” Considering the fact that, if I continued reading, I might feel the need to change and hold myself more accountable than before. It would draw me to step outside my comfort zone and I would have to put aside some of my wants, sacrificing for a better self. That is not something you want to jump into halfheartedly! But, why did I hesitate? Why did I even have to ask the question 'Do I Really want to read this?' It comes down to seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. I knew stepping outside my comfort zone, changing my habits and saying 'no' to my own immediate desires would be painful mentally, emotionally and physically too.
But that didn't stop me. Why?
Because you can't spell 'paint' with out first spelling 'pain.'
What I mean is, to live an extraordinary life and find happiness, success, and fulfillment, you must be ready to experience pain. I'm not saying seek out pain. I'm saying you must be willing to sacrifice, exercise self control, and step into discomfort by telling yourself 'NO.' You must be willing to finish the painting even when it is a challenge. Which brings me to a common question people usually ask at this point.
But Rachel, if it makes you uncomfortable and calls you to give up things you want, isn't that the opposite of happiness? I mean after all, you have a right to seek happiness however you see fit, right?
Honestly, the answer is a big fat 'no.' Not because we don't have the right to seek happiness, but because the question is confusing pleasure with happiness. Wait, what? Aren't pleasure and happiness the same thing? No. No, they are not. The reality is that pleasures are fleeting things that leave us wanting more while happiness is something much more fulfilling, and long-lasting (you'll read some examples on this a little later...). Now, it is natural to want to avoid pain and seek pleasure but often people don’t realize that trying to improve one’s self involves some sort of pain. It can be physical, mental, or emotional pain, but that doesn’t make it unworthy of pursuit. I'll go even as far to say that pain is a sign that something is actually WORTH pursuing even if it means one is not completely ‘happy’ in the present moment.
In fact, I feel called to pursue these avenues which make me discipline myself against immediate desires for these three reasons.
1. Anything worth doing usually involves pain.
Working, exercise, eating healthy, or even just getting up early are all things that involve pain or lack pleasure (ah, there's that word again!). For example, recently I changed my diet for the better, eating only all natural, basic foods for the first time in my life. I knew in my mind, this would be my opportunity to start again. It was my chance to break away from my reliance on sugar, caffeine, and processed foods in general. I could finally detach myself from addictions that determined my mood and occupied my thoughts. I was ready for a better me! I took the leap, for the good of my body, mind, and soul. I was confident I was making a great life changing decision, and I was excited! “FINALLY!” I thought to myself as I imagined a thinner body, clearer skin, and greater amounts of energy. I would be changing myself from the inside out!
Then reality set in. Fatigue, headaches, and cravings began. All of this completely knocked me off my game. I thought to myself "I don’t have time for this!! I have paintings to create, chores to do, food to cook. How can I allow myself to feel so poor?" On top of all that, my social news-feed suddenly filled with recipes of pizza, fried cheese, and every cupcake known to man. My sense of smell also improved 100 fold during this time and I remember sitting at my desk while my husband popped open a box of gummy bears to snack on. I could immediately smell them from across the room and thought ‘THIS IS TORTURE!’ At this point, I would have normally shoveled a handful of Cheez-its greedily into my mouth to tone down the stress levels. A little part of me wanted to dive into those gummy bears and snacks too.
despite my stresses, I chose not to give in. That was both physical and mental pain. Every day, I had to get up and choose to eat healthy, rather than sink my teeth into a sugar packed goodie. I also had to control my desire to eat when stressed. I could no longer rely on unhealthy food to make me feel 'better' for a time. That is perhaps one of the hardest things to do since I had to face my habits head on and say NO! However, I knew in the long run, staying the course would result in a more healthy and energetic me. It took time, pain and discipline. Now, 30 days later I feel the best I’ve felt in a LOOONG time. It took mental strength and I can definitely say I am happier now than when I could eat the cheezits. Despite the pain, it was worth it! None of the immediate pleasure from cupcakes could give me the clarity and happiness I feel right now!
2. Sacrifice is essential to success
I have yet to finish my journey with healthy food choices which is an ongoing process, but in the case of artwork, I have had to make a lot of sacrifices to find some success. One way I did this was not indulging in unnecessary possessions, and investing that money into my website, art supplies, and advertising instead. It does hurt mentally sometimes. I know that may sound weird, but when you want to treat yourself a McDonald’s ice cream sundae, when you just fall in love with a cute dress, or you get frustrated by the fact that you only have 5 skips on Spotify, it IS painful to tell yourself ‘you don’t need those things.’ YES, I do want Spotify premium subscription, ice cream for dessert, and that cute dress at JC Penney. What I want MORE is a lucrative business. So, those things will have to go because although they may give me immediate pleasure, they don’t help me become successful. All those things may make me happy in the moment, but they don’t fuel the fire I need to become the successful artist I’ve always wanted to be. Sacrifice is essential to success!
3. Pain is Trans-formative
Sacrifice, discipline, refusing your immediate desires, none of it is pleasant and sometime you don’t see results until months into the future. For instance, I started my business back in November and I put so much time into my artwork, website, and brand development. Sometimes it was downright frustrating, especially when my dinosaur of a computer would lag, crash, and over heat. I powered through it telling myself “it will be worth it.” You’d think I would be adequately rewarded right? Nope! The immediate results of all that work were minimal visitors to my website, only 2 confirmed commissions in for the new-year and a load of bills to pay.
What if I had given up there?? No one seemed to care about the works of art I was creating anyway, right? WRONG. Turns out, since putting all that work in, and staying consistent in my efforts, I’ve become more confident in my work and have gotten more inquiries about my portraits than the first 10 months of 2017!! Wahoo! It would have been easy for me to give up and not spend hours of my time designing a website. However, the pain, frustration, and time consumed by these projects changed me. I gained characteristics of discipline, confidence, courage, experience, and a clear business brand that people have already begun to associate with me. The bad parts that people associate with hard tasks made me a better person and the ‘pain’ of work transformed me by pushing me beyond my limits. It may not have been easy, but it was definitely worth it!
Yes. Experiencing pain does seem to be the opposite of obtaining happiness because it deprives us of comfort and pleasure. But it seems to me that when we take the steps necessary to improve our selves, our skills, or our businesses, there is a pain that must be experienced first before achieving happiness or success. Seeking long lasting happiness means saying no to short lived pleasures. Seeking success means giving up immediate wants and plowing through the hard tasks that will transform one's mind, body, and soul into something wonderful.
So, when you find yourself asking the question "do I really want to do this?" like I did when beginning this whole process, remember
You can't spell paint without 'pain!'