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Happiness Tip: Embrace Difficulty

Yesterday, someone asked my daughter if her mother (that would be me) is happy all the time. My girl threw her head back, guffawed, and said, “I don’t even think she wants to be happy all the time.”

Darn straight, I don’t.

So many of us confuse momentary pleasure or gratification — a new pair of shoes, or a particularly delicious meal — with what makes life joyful over the long haul. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the fun of new shoes or the satisfaction of a great dinner, but a happy life really isn’t simply a series of such pleasurable moments strung together.

Life can gain depth and meaning from difficulty. When we are anxious, we can learn how to soothe ourselves — something we couldn’t learn if we felt calm and content. Anger gives us a unique opportunity to practice forgiveness in a way that really means something. When we are afraid, we can develop courage. In the face of challenge, we have the opportunity to strengthen our grit. After a long bout of missing someone or something, we tend to feel profound gratitude to have them back in our lives.

Self-soothing, forgiveness, gratitude, courage, grit — this is the stuff of a happy life. For this reason, I try to see the difficulties in my life for what they really are: opportunities for growth and meaning in the future.

Take Action: This week, embrace a difficulty in your life with acceptance and self-compassion. What is this challenge helping you learn? How are you growing because of this difficult situation?

Join the Discussion: Inspire others by commenting below on a time in your life when a difficulty lead to positive growth (or even joy!).