Life is incredible; it’s brimming with unique experiences and opportunities for those willing to take risks. However, every coin has its opposing side. And the world we live in is no different. As much as the world offers growth and possibilities, it equally distributes difficulties and challenges—not to think so is naive.
But, with the proper perspective, even these “negatives” can be converted into positives and, as a result, make you better instead of bitter. Here are three harsh life lessons that will make you a better person.
1. Suffering is Part of the Human Condition
In everything we do, we’re either trying to gain pleasure or avoid pain; the irony is that pain is an inescapable part of the human experience. It’s as fixed in the human condition as the stars are in the sky. For this reason, accepting (and even embracing) it as inevitable helps you manage it better.
Here are a few tips for embracing suffering:
- Do something hard every day: This could be as harsh as daily cold showers or as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Whatever you choose, try to incorporate hardship into your daily life; it will make you tougher and more resilient.
- Don’t self-meditate: Negative emotions are not pleasurable. But the worst thing you can do when you feel sad, anxious, depressed, etc., is self-medicate via drugs, food, alcohol, or other mind-altering substances.
- Be present: Feel your negative emotions; be present with them. Granted, this is easier said than done. However, if you become comfortable with uncomfortable emotions, you will develop mental strength when real challenges or setbacks occur.
Why Suffering Makes You Better
Life can be harsh; it’s filled with challenges and difficulties. You’ll be washed away under the current of adversity if you aren’t strong enough to handle the tide. Suffering develops strength within you. Ultramarathon runner, triathlete, author and retired Navy SEAL David Goggins refers to this as ‘callusing your mind.’
Suffering makes you stronger, so you can better manage life’s challenges. From this perspective, you’ll recognize that suffering is a necessary part of becoming all you can be.
“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he cannot learn, feel change, grow or live…” — William Arthur Ward
2. Everything is Temporary
Everyone alive is going to die someday.
Everything you and I build will eventually crumble and become dust; nothing is permanent. Don’t take this as a negative aspect of life. On the contrary, it’s the perfect reason not to take yourself or life too seriously. We’re all dust in the wind! So you might as well live as fully as possible and enjoy your brief time here!
Try these tips to enjoy your life more:
- Set lofty goals and make progress toward them
- Don’t take things too personally
- Maintain connections with those who love and care about you (and vice versa)
- Don’t compromise your values
- Take chances in your life
- Try not to judge yourself too harshly when you make mistakes
- Try not to judge others too harshly when they make mistakes (we’re all doing the best we can)
How Will Knowing This Make You a Better Person?
Understanding that everything (and everyone) you know is only here for a short time may seem depressing or nihilistic. But this knowledge can actually help you enjoy what you have while you have it. It can free you from taking things and people for granted. As a result, you can enjoy your life much more deeply than you ever could otherwise.
3. We All Have a Dark Side
In his international bestseller, The Laws of Human Nature, author Robert Greene dives deep into this concept. His book explains that every human (regardless of how “saintly” they appear) has a dark side. And underneath people’s “kind” or “polite” demeanor resides a dark personality fraught with aggression, insecurities, and self-serving compulsions they actively hide from others. Even more concerning, this dark side seeks expression. And it often seeps out in actions that will confuse or even inflict pain on you.
20th-century philosopher and psychologist Carl Jung referred to this ugly aspect of human nature as The Shadow.
Why Understanding This Concept Will Improve Your Life
By recognizing The Shadow in others, you can avoid naivety and protect yourself against malicious people. Better yet, by recognizing it in yourself, you can integrate it into your personality. This process makes you a more “complete” person, allowing you to accept the “ugly” parts of you that you’re either consciously or unconsciously trying to repress.
Failure to integrate your dark side causes it to seek expression through your behavior in unexpected ways. But benefits to shadow work can include:
- Improved creativity
- More confidence
- Higher levels of self-esteem
- Undiscovered talents/skills
- Self-love, acceptance, and respect
- Increased personal integrity
There are many therapeutic services available to help with shadow work if you want to learn more.
Despite the many adversities you’ll experience, remember that with such challenges comes opportunity. Each tribulation helps you to grow and become more. And when you become more, more of life opens up to you, allowing you to enjoy and experience a broader range of what the world offers.