Mindful

It’s natural to long for a worry-free life, where you win the lottery, spend all your days with people you love, eat good food, and never want for anything. But if you were happy all the time, would you ever grow as a person?

Probably not, says Benjamin Hardy, bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work. In this video from BigThink, he explains how experiencing hardships can actually help you succeed in the long run.

While it may seem obvious to assume that experiencing positive emotions lead to positive outcomes, Hardy says that usually isn’t the case.

“Sometimes, actually, negative experiences, negative emotions, produce some of the best outcomes,” he says. “And so, avoiding negative, challenging, difficult emotions is probably on one of the worst things a person can do.”

He references the poem by Douglas Malloch: Good timber does not grow with ease, the stronger wind, the stronger trees.

Essentially: when faced with challenges, you learn to adapt, and become more resilient.

Essentially: when faced with challenges, you learn to adapt, and become more resilient.

Lean into what challenges you

Knowing that a difficult situation will make you stronger doesn’t make it any easier to approach a challenge you hope to avoid.

Hardy explains that people’s reluctance is usually due to negative anticipation—we imagine something will be more painful or strenuous than it really is.

For example, think about all the times you’ve hesitated on the edge of a swimming pool before finally plunging into the water that awaits. Once you work up the nerve to jump in, it’s never as cold as you expect it to be, and your body quickly adapts to the change.

“If you anticipate that a task is going to be difficult, you’re probably going procrastinate, or you’re going to put it off, or you’re going to have emotional challenges going into it,” Hardy says. “But if you just recognize that you’re going to adapt to it very quickly, once you actually get into it motivation kicks in.”

For those waiting for the right time to tackle a challenge, Hardy recommends people simply begin, regardless of whether you feel ready—Once you get started, the motivation you need to continue will follow.

Cultivate growth, not just change

As human beings, Hardy says we’re wired to change the way we act depending on our circumstances.

But just because you’re replacing old behaviors with new ones, doesn’t necessarily mean the habits you form are positive.

For example, eating lunch at your desk instead of skipping it altogether isn’t going to benefit you as much as giving yourself a proper afternoon break, away from the demands of your job.

“If you want to grow you must change, but just because you changed doesn’t mean you grew,” Hardy says.

Ultimately, developing the “positive” habits you want takes hard work—they are born out of difficulty.

Video from BigThink

How to Find Your Best Possible Self

How Habits Can Get in the Way of Your Goals

Nicole Bayes-Fleming

Nicole Bayes-Fleming is Associate Editor, Digital, at Mindful.

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