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On suffering

I used to be a hard worker. I thought that all my accomplishments were made of blood, sweat and tears. That stressing out and not resting until I was completely exhausted was a necessary part of the process. That that was basically what got me the good results. Yet there were times where I didn’t study as much as I thought I should, and I still got good results. And although the thought occurred to me that maybe I really didn’t feel like studying more because it wasn’t necessary, I never trusted that part of me. I thought I was lazy – and lucky, if I got good grades despite my „laziness“!

I think differently now: I believe that everything I have ever succeeded at was not thanks to hard work. I think I succeeded despite it. Of course I can’t know how things would have turned out if I’d done things differently. But when I look back at all the things I have done because I thought I had to, it turns out they were not that important. And the things that were important happened even when I did things that could have jeopardized them. More on this in my post On Control. I do know that it was doing too many things for the wrong reasons, the main one being that misguided work ethic, according to which work equals hardship. Eh, it was not just work, I was under the illusion that basically everything worth having requires sacrifice. Except when you believe it, it’s not an illusion. It’s your reality.

Fortunately, even going down the „wrong“ path eventually gets you on the right track. Like Eckhart Tolle says: Suffering is necessary until you realize it’s not. Up until a year ago I thought that as long as I was suffering all was well (I always thought that if I was unhappy, I wasn’t done adjusting to whatever it was that made me unhappy …).

I have always had a voice in the back of my head that wouldn’t shut up when things were at its worst. That voice kept saying that this cannot be the way life is supposed to be. I want to be happy, that voice insisted, and I cannot accept a life where there is no way for me to be happy. For the most part, I managed to negotiate with that voice, reminding it that I was happy, just not in some parts of my life. But that, of course, was normal. Last year everything just kind of crashed and it felt like there was nothing left. That was when there was no bargaining anymore with that voice. First health, then work, then marriage. Once you allow yourself to see that basically all areas of your life have been ruled by the belief in sacrifice and hardship, you can’t help but admit that the only lesson is this: you cannot go on this way. That is when the suffering finally becomes unnecessary.

Don’t get me wrong: there have always been moments of happiness in my life. I am not ungrateful. That is what made it possible to negotiate with that voice in the back of my head in the first place. The ability to make lemonade can be a bitch, though. Because in reality there is more than one choice. Life may be handing you lemons, and maybe you enjoy lemonade. But the thing is: you could also pass on the lemons altogether, trusting that life will offer you something else.

I’m not going to lie: there are a lot of days when my head is having a difficult time trusting that I will be fine if I follow my gut instinct on what I want and what not. (I am having one of those days right now.) But I’ve done it enough times now to know it’s worth it. I never have to wait long for the proof that it is the right thing to do. Same goes for the opposite: whenever I catch myself making a decision based on the fear that I have no other options, I can almost physically feel how this is only setting me back on the path that I have just left. And I am not interested in going in circles.

On pioneers of happiness

When I look around, I see plenty of people who are proof that it’s not only possible to combine love and success. I see that it is exactly the pursuit of their passion that is being rewarded. I am not talking about celebrities, I believe those are another story. I am talking about pioneers of happiness. I am talking about a woman building tiny houses and Hobbit Holes and renting them out via airbnb. I am talking about a family who turned their suburban backyard into an urban homestead where they sell their harvest, host classes and concerts. I am talking about opening our minds and creating our own sources of income instead of trying to pick from the menu of available jobs, and trying to fit in.

Don’t get me wrong: If you are happy with where you are, and that happens to be a career „off the menu“, then I am not saying that is wrong or less worthy! Remember, I am all about happiness these days. If your life makes you happy, you’re already where you need to be. It takes all kinds of people. It is those of us who cannot find our happiness in the available selection that need to start understanding that the fact that we will never be able to find it there does not mean there isn’t any happiness for us in the world. OK, I am obviously talking about myself here but I believe I am not the only one.

Here’s what I think: if you’re like me and your kind of happiness just doesn’t seem to be on the menu, the key to finding it is looking at what you feel is missing in the world. Stop waiting for someone else to fill in those blanks. That’s what you came for! I believe that we carry the blueprint for the place where we fit in within us. Why would we feel like there are things missing in this world if not to take on the task of filling in those missing pieces?

That was one of my biggest misunderstandings ever since I left the beaten path (school, university) and tried to find my place in the world: I kept trying to fit in, trying to find a work place where I’d be happy. I was always trying to be that person that I thought was needed. I either couldn’t make that work or if I did, it left me exhausted. I was at times deeply unhappy because I felt like I didn’t recognize myself in the world. I stayed at work places that didn’t feel right because I couldn’t see myself being happy anywhere else, either. I thought I was too picky, unwilling and/or unable to adjust. Until the thought occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t here to have someone else assign me a spot. Maybe I should create my own space.

This idea both fills me with relief and it terrifies me. I do not come from a line of entrepreneurs, I am used to doing as I am told. While that may have worked in school and at university, I find that it does not work anywhere else. At the end of the day, you eat the proverbial elephant one bite at a time. I believe that the way to start is by following happiness to see where it leads us. Since what makes us happy is highly personal and individual, that means entering uncharted territory. There may not even be a destination that is defined from the beginning of our exploration. However, there are those who are doing it already. Whenever we lose faith in our mission, we can turn to those pioneers of happiness. Not to do as they do but to get the encouragement and inspiration we need to for our own journey.

More on abundance

I am still thinking a lot about the whole abundance thing. No matter what angle I look at it from, and no matter in what form or what area of my life I experience it, I always come to one conclusion: it’s everything. It’s the key to everything and anything we desire in life. It’s the one thing we should be putting all our energy into, the only thing we really can do to make sure all our dreams will come true: see to it that our mind is in a state of abundance. The rest will follow.

I had this realization for the first time a few weeks ago, when I saw an interview with online business coach and entrepreneur Mara Stix. As I understood her, the further up she got in her pursuit of financial success, the less her personal wealth concerned her. Once she had arrived at a level of income that afforded her the standard of living that she wanted, there was nothing that even more money could have contributed to that area of her life. Instead other things became a focus of interest, like how to expand her business, and how to manifest more and bigger things she would like to see in the world.

Last fall I had a vision of something I should build. It was as if the idea rained down on me after I had emptied my mind. While I was completely aware of the magnitude of that project, I was also overcome by a certainty that my mind wasn’t just making this up. I just knew that I had conceived this idea because it wanted to be manifested by someone. And If that idea saw me fit to be that someone, then it would also see to it that the means for its manifestation would be provided, regardless of whether or not I could see how at that point. I could not see anything at all about how to get there.

Since then, I have mostly practiced to let the idea go, to be open to any signs without trying to force things. I didn’t want to feel like I was just waiting for the right time to manifest this project. Therefore I have been focusing on being happy, doing whatever makes me happy. At the end of the day that’s what determines what kind of life I have. For the most part, that worked well, but there were definitely some days where I did wonder what anything I was doing had to do with that vision, if I hadn’t missed the exit and was headed in the wrong direction after all.

When I watched that interview with Mara Stix, it was like a switch was flicked. Suddenly I understood that I had been doing exactly the right thing, and why my personal happiness was essential to the whole project. Because how are you going to manifest something big and joyful, that requires a large amount of resources (both when it comes to material and labor) if not out of a sense of abundance?!

We need to be in a state of abundance on the personal plane before we can help abundance to manifest elsewhere. There is no other way. Actively inviting (and permitting!) abundance to flow into all areas of our life then is not just a mind-game, something fun to do, it is deeply meaningful.

For me this insight is very important when it comes to dealing with that voice that says it’s selfish to let your actions be ruled by what feels good, what seems like it would be fun. That you can’t have both – happiness and success, love and wealth. That voice may have served us and our ancestors in the past. Life was tough, we had to work hard in order to survive, pursuing our passion often came at a price. We know how to do that. And it is clearly still possible to live that way, if that is what we want. I see lots of people doing it, and I thought it was the way it had to be up until about a year ago.

When I look around, however, I see that times have changed. Something else is possible. We can rest in the certainty that our survival is secured. It’s time to find other life missions. Let’s start by following the signs happiness is putting up for us.

The interview with Mara Stix (in German) is part of a series of money mindset interviews by Linda Benninghoff (MyMoneyMind). They are available for free when you sign up for her newsletter.