Is suffering necessary?

A friend recently pointed out to me that I was creating a lot of unnecessary drama for myself in certain parts of my life. Like being upset about things I have no control over, and using the upset as a reason to put off taking action to make the situation better.

“I actually kind of like the drama,” I told her at the time. There is something exhilarating about having a problem, experiencing intensity and struggle, and then working through it until there’s a breakthrough: some kind of insight that gives me both relief and clarity about what to do next. The breakthrough feels like an accomplishment, and it gives my life a sense of richness and growth.

When I think about it, though, my breakthroughs pretty much always come down to the same things: Remember what’s important to me. Share the gifts that I have to offer. Receive the gifts that are being offered to me. Is a dramatic struggle required? Maybe not.

I don’t need to have a fight with my husband in order to commit to listening better and contributing more. I don’t need to feel ashamed about a failed event before getting the help necessary to create a successful one. I don’t need to get offended about someone else’s bad behavior in order to act in ways that I feel proud of.

What complicates things is that breakthroughs often do come after periods of pain and struggle, and it’s easy to assume that the struggle is necessary. But suffering itself doesn’t create breakthroughs. The breakthrough happens when we decide we no longer want to suffer, and are willing to do something about it.

What if I simply decided I don’t want to suffer in the first place? What if I stayed focused on what’s important to me, and just kept moving toward it? Would my life be boring? Would I lose the ability to connect and relate to people? Would I stop learning and growing? I don’t think so. But I do think I’d get more done, and have a lot more fun in the process.