The myth of "no pain, no gain"

I’m celebrating winter solstice, listening to a podcast and doing a puzzle as the soft grey light of a drizzling morning shimmers in through my dining room windows. It’s a beautiful interview between Jonathan Fields and Bronnie Ware, the author of the bestselling book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, which emerged from her work caring for terminally ill people. At the end of the conversation, Jonathan asks Bronnie if “the breaking apart of the current reality” — essentially the path to deep personal transformation — has to happen with great pain or if it can happen more gently.

Immediately I blurt out quite forcefully, “It can happen with ease.” Clearly, there is plenty of evidence of people turning their lives around after hitting rock bottom. There’s nowhere else to go. People are shattered by loss, depression, addiction, even existential despair, and then must pick up the the pieces of their lives to rebuild them. But this is not in any way the only way.

There are many people living happy, fulfilling lives that are the creation of following their hearts each day. There is no great drama or trauma. There was no huge turning point. They simply put in the many hours needed to get to know themselves and to identify, honor, and pursue their own dreams and desires.

I started my personal journey of living a good life as defined by me in middle school when my parents signed me up for a weekend course on self esteem. That small taste of self reflection sparked an ongoing fascination with personal growth and integrity. I strongly believe that if you are taught healthy life skills at a young age, you can use them throughout your life to build one that brings you and others joy. And it can be done without deep suffering.

I think “no pain, no gain” and “nothing worth having comes easy” are complete and utter myths, and I’m not alone. Leading self-help experts like Gay and Katie Hendricks agree with me (and trained me as a life coach 15 years ago).

Perhaps these myths remain because transformation emerging from a shattering provides a much more compelling story than fulfillment resulting from simple acts of conscious living. But I’m no expert or guru. I’m just one person living a happy life by choosing each day to live happily. What about you?

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