In competitive areas of your life like school, jobs, and sports, your ability to endure temporary misery in pursuit of something you want will set you apart from people who need to be comfortable all the time. The more you have suffered in your life, the better equipped you are to deal with the unpleasant aspects of any task, like studying or practice, that will distinguish you from people who aren’t able to suffer as much as you.
As Steve Pressfield notes, Marine Corps training is based on this principle. The Marines don’t make you a heartless killing machine. They teach you how to enjoy being miserable. That’s what a PhD does. It teaches you how to be miserable and still finish your book. Your strength is your ability to embrace the suffering and realize that it gives you power. You will be able to use that skill in every area of your life, and you will persist where others will give up.
Every time you are suffering or uncomfortable, lean into it. Feel the pain and say this is making me stronger. This is hardening my resolve to do something meaningful with my life. And if you find yourself feeling too comfortable in anything, it may be a sign that you need to take on a bigger challenge or master a new area of what you’re already doing. We only build muscle by tearing the comfortable muscle so that it can regrow stronger.
Now let me be clear – this is an internal battle. We don’t tear apart other people’s lives without their consent. We focus on the only thing we can control – ourselves. And we do what it takes to do the work. Studying for a test is painful. Sports practice is painful. Eating healthy is painful. Not getting angry when you feel someone has hurt you is painful.
But what separates you from everyone else is that you are not going to run from the pain. You’re going to take all of the suffering you’ve experienced in life and hold it up to the current challenge. And when you compare them, you’ll see that there’s no way your current challenge can win. After all, look at how much you’ve survived up to this point. You’ve got this. Now let’s do the work.