You’ve got to hear “Drive” by Clean Bandit & Topic. I came across this song recently (loved it), and the lyrics of the chorus just popped for me:
When you find a love that's right
You can drive all night, drive all night, yeah
Ah, do what makes you feel alive
You can drive all night, drive all night
Swim girl and the mosquitos
When I was 12 years-old, I was in love with “Swim Girl” (she was on the swim team). One fateful day, I had a group of friends over to my house and one of those friends was friends with Swim Girl. He invited her to tag along. Swim girl was in my house…Mom, Dad, don’t do anything uncool. PLEEEEEAASE.
Well, as destiny would have it, Swim Girl’s parents crossed wires and didn’t pick her up when everyone else went home. While we were waiting for the adults to figure this out, swim girl and I got one-on-one time sitting outside my front door. You know that feeling—wanting to make all the right moves, say all the right things, look as awesome as possible just…sitting there. Whatever it takes to win the affection of Swim Girl!
I was so dedicated that I didn’t even scratch a pestering itch on my back. I thought, Cool people don’t scratch itches!
Well, I woke up the next morning and had (I’m not making this up) 20 or 30 mosquito bites on my back. They were having an uninterrupted smorgasbord on my back!
But it didn’t matter because I got to woo Swim Girl.
We even started “going out”…whatever that means at 12 years old.
(Thankfully for both of us, it didn’t last.)
We get this concept intuitively, but we often fail to live it out practically unless it’s in the early days of romance when the feelings of what are possible are so strong that any suffering pales in comparison.
But I’d argue that the things we want most in life are on the other side of some suffering, and one of the reasons you and I don’t have more of what we want in our lives is because we’re avoiding the suffering.
The Suffering we know vs. Futures we want
We can’t get rid of discomfort completely, but we often choose the suffering we’re used to over new challenges.
We choose to “suffer” in our current physical state rather than choose the challenge of diet, exercise, or mobility work to break us out.
We choose to “suffer” paying interest for a lifestyle we’re used to rather than the challenge of revisiting our financial habits.
We choose to “suffer” with a worldview that keeps us miserable, confused, angry, or unstable rather than the challenge of replacing beliefs with ones that give us more to work with.
We choose to “suffer” in a job because it pays the bills instead of exploring a new career that may create more value in the world.
I could go on and on, but you might have already identified “suffering” you’ve settled for at the expense of goals worth suffering for (HINT: It’s the area of your life you’re complaining about the most)
You might have already identified “suffering” you’ve settled for at the expense of goals worth suffering for.
In a session I’ll never forget, I had client come in agitated.
No—she was angry.
I don’t blame her at all. She is a powerhouse executive. She makes big moves, empowers a lot of people, generates a lot of revenue. At this point in our contract, she was experiencing some new results, but her life was filling up with stress and overwhelm. She was suffering and she didn’t like it.
We got curious about “working smarter, not harder” for a minute, but my spidey-senses took us in a different direction.
“Do you really want this? Like…really?”
“Awesome! What a great discovery! What do you really want?! You can tell me.”
Within about 5 minutes, we’d landed on a vision that filled her with apprehension (of course), restlessness, but, ultimately, resolve and passion (which is natural outcome of the right kind of suffering). She hasn’t been the same since.
The desert has something to teach you.
I could delineate all of the suffering associated with challenges, but, truth is, you couldn’t possibly know all of them in advance. And maybe it wouldn’t be helpful if you did!
If I knew, at the altar, all of the challenges Katie and I would have to face to have the marriage we have today…I’m not saying I wouldn’t have said “I do” to this remarkable woman, but I might’ve hesitated a little.
But I will point out the one “suffering” that will inevitably come with any new trajectory. It’s what I’ll call “the desert”. The desert is that space where we suffer through not knowing, not getting fed in the same way the “old us” got rewarded, feeling alone since our relationships are re-associated with the “new” us, seeing more misfires and failures because we’re trying new things.
But this suffering gives us so much. In the incredible words of The Alchemist…
“You must learn to love the desert. The desert is the best teacher there is.” - Paul Coehlo, The Alchemist
Or, in the timeless words of Paul of Tarsus (a man who radically changed what he felt was worth suffering for),
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3b–4, emphasis mine)
So, the question is before you.
What goal in your…
Considering a new plan
Having a hard conversation
Disappointing someone who’s used to the “old you”
Being a beginner
Creating some new friendships
Getting some skin in the game
Being curious about with a counselor
Breaking through with a coach
There is suffering that steals and suffering that gives. You choose.