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Happiness and Difficulty

living a happy life includes accepting difficult times

❝Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.❞ -Viktor Frankl

I'm 30 years old, and I just found a classic Nintendo at a garage sale. It comes with Super Mario brothers, so I'm excited to hook it up and play. I haven't played this game for well over a decade.

If you're not familiar with Super Mario Brothers, it's a video game about a plumber who's on a quest to rescue a princess from a turtle.

In each level, you start at the left side of the world and try to move to the right side to get to the castle. Getting to the castle allows you to get to the next level. Along the way, you have to avoid falling into holes in the ground. You also have to avoid turtles, mushrooms, and carnivorous plants that are trying to kill you. As you move up to higher levels, the game becomes more challenging.

Imagine a variation on this game. Imagine a game where you simply ran your character from the left side of the world to the right side of the world to get to the castle with nothing in the way. All you did was hold the "right" button on the controller until you got there.

That would be very boring, and you wouldn't play that game. A game without challenges is a game that you wouldn't play.

We can't get better unless we get practice - it makes us resilient


If we went out and asked 100 people to describe what it meant to be happy, nearly all of them would describe some version of joy, pleasure, laughter, and fun.

If we further ask these people to describe the relationship between difficult times and happiness, almost all would describe them as opposites.

Many people believe happiness means not feeling bad

It seems there is a widespread notion that a happy life consists of never feeling negative emotions or even a state of neutrality. To live a happy life, society says, is to live a life full of joy and nothing else.

This is incorrect; Nothing more than a myth.

it's a myth that happy people don't feel bad


To live a happy life is to live a life where you can cultivate positive emotions and are equipped to handle negative emotions when they come. But that's only part of the story. It's possible to imagine somebody who has a life full of positive emotion but his lacking meaning and purpose in their life.

To live a meaningful life is to live a life that has a sense of purpose, coherence, and feels important. The moments in our lives that make for a meaningful existence aren't always going to be full of positive emotion. However, they make for a meaningful life in the context of how they fit into our life story. We can be happy with our lives as we look back on the challenges and struggles that have led to our meaning in life.

That is to say that struggles and problems that we can overcome are necessary for a meaningful life, and a meaningful life is one in which we can be happy.

struggle is a benefit if it's for a greater purpose


Imagine for a moment a world in which nobody has any challenges or struggles. There are no setbacks, no emergencies, and no issues. Does this sound like the world in which you would want to live?

This would be analogous to playing a video game with no challenges. It would be boring and not worth playing. Not to mention, if everyone was full of joy all the time, then we would quickly become used to that as our baseline level of expectation. We would adapt so that it wouldn't feel like an amazing paradise. In fact, we would become hypersensitive to minor differences and tiny setbacks.

Additionally, we wouldn't ever learn. We wouldn't grow. We learn more from failure than we do from success, but there would be nothing to learn from if we never failed. There would be no reason to learn.</