What leads to happiness? When asked that question, a lot of people list off pleasant, aspirational things. Things like loving relationships and financial security. Some people have a sum of money in their head that they think will unlock happiness forever. Other people bank on finding their “soul mate”, as if one single connection will solve all of their problems. Those things are definitely nice, but they are not what happiness is made of. Incredibly, happiness is born of struggle.
Think about the last time you worked really hard for something. Maybe you had to put a lot of effort into learning a new skill, or finishing a large project, or even into accomplishing something physical like running ten miles. Now think about how satisfying it felt when you got to your goal. That elation was likely a direct result of how hard you had to work to get there – how much you struggled. Compare that feeling to the satisfaction you got the last time something came easily to you. I would bet that you can’t even remember it, since the success had no emotional impact.
Every time I start a new business, it is harder than I expect it will be. Experience does me no favors. I walk into every venture thinking “I know what I’m doing this time, it won’t be so difficult.” And then it is. Without fail, I find myself grinding it out, solving one problem only to have it replaced with two, and barely sleeping. I have a love/hate relationship with this struggle. I hate it because it is difficult, but I love it because the emotional payout is so immense. When things get really tough, I try to remember what I will feel like at the finish line, and to appreciate the hard and difficult work. If I were not constantly trying to accomplish something, I would be miserable.
I have talked about how adversity leads to strong people before in my piece, When Adversity is Helpful, but I would now like to go a step further and say that struggling is a key ingredient in happiness. Sometimes, it is the only ingredient you need. Facing hardship gives you perspective – it makes the highs higher.
For me, the other key ingredient in happiness is a foundation of strong, steady relationships. Like I’ve said before, I am Ruthless with my Circles. I go to great effort to ensure that everyone around me, from my wife, to my friends, to my business partners and employees exert a positive influence. I always refer to this group as ‘the family’. “Keep it in the family, win for the family, stay loyal to the family”. The security and strength of these relationships hold me up when I am working towards a goal.
If you can surround yourself with steady, supportive people and learn to appreciate the struggles you face every day, I can almost guarantee that you will be a happy person. So the next time you are dreading a difficult day at work, don’t want to get through another workout, or are arguing with someone you love, remember that all of those experiences are just ingredients for happiness.