Own My Growth

Helping folks with practical tips to manage themselves better

Don’t Suffer Your Problems

Pain Is Inevitable, Suffering Is Optional

There is a quote attributed to the Dalai Lama that goes, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

When I was younger, I also spouted this wisdom to others without really understanding the essence of what it meant.

“When you encounter some problem, challenge, loss, it is painful. Try and move on. Don’t let it impact you. If you let it, you will suffer!!”

Telling this to others was easy. But when some problems hit me, the advice I doled out to others went out of the window. I wallowed in my suffering.

When the Pain is not yours to experience, it all easy and simple to dish out wisdom.

As I have matured in my outlook, I today understand better what it means to say suffering is optional.

The Problem Is In The Expectation

All of us have this implied belief and expectation that our life must unfold beautifully without anything going wrong. E.g.

  • I want to be on top of your job, and everything must happen like clockwork. I will work hard and deliver good results. At the end of the year, I will take home a good bonus.
  • My kid is hardworking and disciplined. He will study well and get into the best college and achieve whatever he desires.
  • Everything is fine between my spouse and me, and we will live happily ever after.

So, when we encounter challenges, problems, losses that disturb this constructed expectation, we start experiencing a sense of resentment about the issues. Our Ego builds a narrative in our mind that there is something wrong with us or the world.

We convert the problems and challenges into unhappiness. 

“My life is a mess. Why is this happening to me? Where did I go wrong?”

We lose sleep and we take the stress. We try to fake an outward appearance of being in control while deep inside, we feel unhappiness.

The false expectation that our life should always be pleasant is the root of the suffering when we encounter a problem or a challenge.

Acceptance Of Problems Is Key

Problems, mistakes, challenges, and losses are all essential parts of our lives. If we reframe our belief system to accept this fact, we will learn to deal with any challenges or problems with a sense of calmness.

When we drop the expectation that things should always be good all the time, we start reducing the back pressure on ourselves. We recognize problems, challenges as just that and nothing more. We deal with them practically and take whatever action needs to be taken to resolve the issues.

I give the metaphor of running a marathon here. When running a Marathon, you experience deep Pain and hurt in the body. You don’t resent that Pain or hurt. And, you don’t become unhappy. You signed up for the Marathon, knowing Pain is part of the deal. You deal with the Pain systematically, one step at a time, and overcome the pain barrier to complete the Marathon.

It is the same with challenges and problems in life. Being human means we will all have our share of difficulties, pain, and loss. We cannot wish them away. We should deal with them as we would deal with the challenge of running a marathon without letting emotional stress take over.

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