The Power of Suffering

“Don’t throw away your suffering. Touch your suffering. Face it directly, and your joy will become deeper. You know that suffering and joy are both impermanent.” – Buddha

Buddha said it best, suffering is temporary. We all suffer everyday, whether its getting up early for work or sticking to your new weight-loss diet there are hundreds of ways we suffer each week. However, there is a secret trick to suffering and it goes something like this… The more you suffer in the present moment the more you will thrive in the future. The good things in life are hard and the bad things in life are easy. Let me give you an example of what I mean, It’s easy to buy Starbucks and spend your money on that new outfit at the mall, but its hard to resist those short term impulsive spending habits and save for a down payment on a house before your rent keeps increasing! 

Suffering is a skill and the more frequently you choose to suffer the easier the harder things in life become.

Throughout college I suffered a lot. My parents were not in a position in 2009 after the economy crashed to help me financially and I had to pay for my tuition, rent, books, and food myself  I had no money when I went away to UF and my parents didn’t help me financially besides a $50 Publix gift card every few weeks. All of my friends however had rich parents that bought them cars, food, and paid for their rent. When I got to college the first thing I did was look for a job. Early into my freshman year I got hired as a busboy at a sorority house and the working hours were every Monday-Friday between 430-7pm. So while all my friends were at happy hour or sitting at home playing video games I was at work suffering. I suffered throughout college and even though I enjoyed working at the sorority house and had a great time with my friends serving food to gossipy sorority girls and overhearing conversations every day I learned the value of consistent work and independence. The 4 years of suffering at college working to pay my own bills taught me the value of a dollar and helped me cultivate personal finance and money management habits that I will have for a lifetime. Moral of the story the more consistent you are about suffering in the present moment the easier life will become over time.

Even though I didn’t really have a choice and had to work in college to get by this makes it easier for me to choose suffering today. Most mornings I choose to suffer when my alarm goes off at 530am. Waking up at this time is borderline repulsive but because I choose to put myself through this hardship it makes everything else throughout my day easier.  How many of us choose suffering? Not many of us. But it’s when we suffer that we become better versions of ourselves. When we choose to fast for 16 hours instead of eating a bagel every morning. It’s when we choose to read a book and work on that house project instead of watching TV. 

How often do you suffer?

I’ll tell you when I suffer… every time that I walk into Starbucks and do not buy coffee I am suffering. I spend a lot of my time at Starbucks reading and getting work done. I have a home office but for a few reasons I get a lot more done and I am a lot more productive when I work from Starbucks. Now I know that if I chose to buy a cup of coffee every time that I go to Starbucks I will end up spending close to $150 a month on Starbucks, that is not ok. That $150 invested in the S&P500 compounded annually at 8% over the next 20 years is $86,049. So am I saying that my Starbucks habit is saving me $86,000? Well, yes I am! It’s not easy to resist a salted caramel macchiato but I do it and let me tell you something, it gets easier every time.

Buddha spoke a lot about suffering. Suffering is important for joy and it is necessary for success. We all have to make sacrifices in every area of our life whether its diet, exercise, biting our tongue with our spouse, waking up early and sacrificing sleep or other things that we ultimately don’t want to do, we are suffering. 

Suffering builds strength, suffering is how we are able to become stronger and have more skillful self discipline. So do you want to suffer now for future success or do you want to suffer later?

Some ways that you can suffer

  • take cold showers instead of warm ones
  • sleep on the floor instead of on your mattress one day a month
  • resist spending any money for a whole week
  • fast for 24 hours

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