First published on KSL.COM
Life has not been a picnic for me. It has been mostly full of disappointments and hard knocks. It isn’t turning out anything like the life I had planned. Hence, I experience a lot of jealously and resentment toward others. I’m trying not to be bitter and feel like a failure, but I can’t see I’ve accomplished much and don’t have much to show for all my work, pain and suffering. Not sure what my question is, but I guess I could use some advice to feel better about life?
Your question might be: What is the point or purpose of this difficult life? Is there meaning in the painful and often fruitless experiences I’ve had? Is my difficult journey benefiting me in some way?
I often quote Viktor Frankl in my articles because his discoveries in the concentration camps during World War II have greatly influenced my philosophies on life. He found that life did have meaning and purpose, even when it consisted of nothing but horrible suffering. He believed that every man must, at some point on his journey, find meaning in his individual experiences, especially the bad ones.
He said, “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”
Personally, I believe there is meaning in the difficulties you have experienced, because I believe you are here in this world to do two things. You are here to learn and love.
I believe this purpose is hard-wired into all of us. We seem to innately know life is about growing, learning, stretching and becoming the best version of ourselves we can become. We also seem to know we are here to love others and help as many people as we can, along our way. (Most people who find a specific mission in life find it around one or both of these two ideas.)
I believe — as part of the learning process here — we must experience many different aspects of the human condition, including suffering, grief, disappointment, joy, happiness and peace to learn what each of these experiences can teach us.
Unfortunately we learn more from the difficult experiences.
Suffering gives us empathy and understanding; shame teaches us compassion; disappointment teaches us to shift, change, adapt and persevere. Miserable, heart-breaking and discouraging situations usually serve us and refine us.
I wish it wasn’t so, but it is.
It is important you remember this truth, though — the amount of difficult experiences you get here is not a reflection of your value or your abilities, as much as it is about the specific lessons you were meant to learn.
You must remember that your value is the same as everyone else’s. Every human being on the planet has the same infinite and absolute value, no matter how successful or unsuccessful their life may appear. This means they aren’t better than you just because they accomplished more. They just got signed up for different classes and different lessons than you did.
No one on this planet got signed up for the same classes you got. So you cannot compare your journey or your results with anyone else.
When you say you have nothing to show for your efforts and your life has been a failure, all I hear is you apparently got signed up for some really hard classes. But your results here don’t affect or determine your value.
You are an irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind, divine, amazing human soul. You are basically an irreplaceable diamond, which has the same value no matter it’s setting or where you find it. If a diamond is thrown in the mud, it still has the same value. If it is thrown in the garbage, it still has the same value. You have the same value no matter where you end up. Do you get this?
Your journey has nothing to do with your value.
Some of us get signed up for harder classes here in the classroom of life than others. I don’t know why things are unfair here, but I believe there is a reason.
I’ve often tried to drop a few of my more miserable classes, but apparently they were required courses because the universe didn’t let me out.
I was not happy about this, but I realized that stuck in that situation, I only had two choices. I could choose to trust the universe that this difficult path was serving me in some way, focus on the lessons and let the experiences make me better, stronger and more loving, or I could dwell in fear, anger, jealously and bitterness — which would only push other people away and create more negative in my life.
These are your only two choices when you are stuck in a required class. I highly recommend choosing trust and love!
Here are a couple more things you could do to change your perspective on life:
1) Write down as many positives as you can about what your journey has given you, things you have learned, qualities you have gained, traits you’ve developed. Then write down some things you could be gaining or developing if you tried a little harder.
2) Remember your value is as infinite and absolute as a diamond, no matter your results or performance. Claim your power to determine your own value and see it this way, despite your results.
3) Remember, life is really about what you learn, understand and develop through your experiences. It is not about what a smooth ride you had. It is about who you become on the inside not what you have to show on the outside.
4) Whenever you feel jealous of others, remember that their hard classes are probably still coming and you have things (empathy, understanding and wisdom) they may not have yet.
5) Don’t live to please other people — follow your heart and your intuition. Make sure you are doing what feels right to you in every situation. Honor your truth and your values no matter what.
6) Choose to be grateful for what is good in your life, for every small blessing or moment of happiness. Choose joy in every situation you possibly can.
7) You may not be able to change your situation, but you always have the power to choose how you will experience that situation. There are two choices: fear or trust and love. Fear will create more suffering — trust and love will create peace. You get to decide where you want to live.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way,” Frankl said.
He continued, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” I recommend that you work on changing the way you are looking at your life. When you look at it from a new perspective, it may totally change the way you feel. If this is proving difficult, you may want to seek a coach or counselor to help you.
I hope this helps.