The Case for Learning How to Suffer and Struggle Well

The push for a better future begins with a longing for a better now.

In Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, the author pens his struggle to stay alive while in a concentration camp during World War II. At this point in time, there have been over 12 million copies sold, making it one of the most influential books of our time. His experiences are what allowed him to write a book so profound on the subject of finding one’s meaning for life — the one thing that everyone is searching for. It’s such a valuable read, not only for this reason, but Frankl’s understanding of what it truly means to suffer and struggle well can turn any depressing situation into an opportunity to find hope for the future.

Mother Teresa was one of the most influential people the world has ever seen, who offered her selfless life’s work from Calcutta, India. In Kolodiejchuk’s Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, we’re given her personal letters to read, allowing us to see and feel her deepest thoughts. So, from these letters, what was the one trait we know that Mother Teresa most admired in one of her friends, Sister Gabriela? It was her ability to suffer well. Mother Teresa writes:

Sister Gabriela is here. She works beautifully for Jesus — the most important is that she knows how to suffer and at the same time how to laugh. That is the most important — she suffers and she laughs.

Commentary from Kolodiejchuk later on in the book also gives us insight on how she dealt with suffering herself:

Rather than focusing on her own suffering, she shared her joy in the steady growth of her community…

Again, this idea of suffering or struggling well shows up and speaks volumes to the rest of humanity. But, this sort of idea doesn’t just show up in these places. It also shows up in popular business books, as well. In Ray Dalio’s, Principles, he sums up his life’s work in this way:

This is my attempt to help you succeed by passing along to you what I learned about how to struggle well — or, at the very least, to help you get the most out of each unit of effort you put in.

Dalio also wrote me later saying, “I’ve learned that everyone struggles and the main difference between the quality of people’s lives is due to how well they struggle. I hope these principles can help you and others struggle better, like they have for me.” Once again, here is someone who understands that struggling well is a vital key to living well and producing work that lasts.

Is it a coincidence that Viktor Frankl, Mother Teresa, and Ray Dalio all share a common bond in the fight to suffer and struggle well? I think not. Suffering and/or struggling well can take many shapes and forms throughout someone’s lifetime, but for this suffering and struggling to be necessary, there must be a push for a better future. And the push for a better future begins with a longing for a better now.

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