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Our struggles determine our successes
Everybody wants what feels good. Everyone wants to live a carefree, happy and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing sex and relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.Everyone would like that—it’s easy to like that.If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence—but not everyone wants to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, without the sacrifice, without the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.Everybody wants to have great sex and an awesome relationship—but not everyone is willing to go through the tough conversations, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. And so they settle. They settle and wonder “What if?” for years and years and until the question morphs from “What if?” into “Was that it?” And when the lawyers go home and the alimony check is in the mail they say, “What was that for?” if not for their lowered standards and expectations 20 years prior, then what for?Because happiness requires struggle. The positive is the side effect of handling the negative. You can only avoid negative experiences for so long before they come roaring back to life.
At the core of all human behaviour, our needs are more or less similar. Positive experience is easy to handle. It’s negative experience that we all, by definition, struggle with. Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.
People want an amazing physique. But you don’t end up with one unless you legitimately appreciate the pain and physical stress that comes with living inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions.People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to appreciate the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not.People want a partner, a spouse. But you don’t end up attracting someone amazing without appreciating the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It’s part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.
There’s a lot of crappy advice out there that says, “You’ve just got to want it enough!”Everybody wants something. And everybody wants something enough. They just aren’t aware of what it is they want, or rather, what they want “enough.”Because if you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the beach body, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten thousand.If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.Sometimes I ask people, “How do you choose to suffer?” These people tilt their heads and look at me like I have twelve noses. But I ask because that tells me far more about you than your desires and fantasies. Because you have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns. And ultimately that’s the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have similar answers. The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?That answer will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change your life. It’s what makes me me and you you. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician — a rock star, in particular. Any badass guitar song I heard, I would always close my eyes and envision myself up on stage playing it to the screams of the crowd, people absolutely losing their minds to my sweet finger-noodling. This fantasy could keep me occupied for hours on end. The fantasizing continued up through college, even after I dropped out of music school and stopped playing seriously. But even then it was never a question of if I’d ever be up playing in front of screaming crowds, but when. I was biding my time before I could invest the proper amount of time and effort into getting out there and making it work. First, I needed to finish school. Then, I needed to make money. Then, I needed to find the time. Then … and then nothing.Despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time and a lot of negative experiences to finally figure out why: I didn’t actually want it.I was in love with the result—the image of me on stage, people cheering, me rocking out, pouring my heart into what I’m playing—but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it. Repeatedly. Hell, I didn’t even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly tried at all.The daily drudgery of practicing, the logistics of finding a group and rehearsing, the pain of finding gigs and actually getting people to show up and give a shit. The broken strings, the blown tube amp, hauling 40 pounds of gear to and from rehearsals with no car. It’s a mountain of a dream and a mile-high climb to the top. And what it took me a long time to discover is that I didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to imagine the top.Our culture would tell me that I’ve somehow failed myself, that I’m a quitter or a loser. Self-help would say that I either wasn’t courageous enough, determined enough or I didn’t believe in myself enough. The entrepreneurial/start-up crowd would tell me that I chickened out on my dream and gave in to my conventional social conditioning. I’d be told to do affirmations or join a mastermind group or manifest or something.But the truth is far less interesting than that: I thought I wanted something, but it turns out I didn’t. End of story.I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.
Who you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.This is not a call for willpower or “grit.” This is not another admonishment of “no pain, no gain.”This is the most simple and basic component of life: Our struggles determine our successes.
So choose your struggles wisely, my friend.
This post originally appeared on MarkManson.net. Follow @iammarkmanson on Twitter
What are the books that can change people's lives?
Respect Your Experience
There is one very great point. Have mercy on me andplease pay attention. Whatever circumstances one has been placedin, consider those circumstances and situations as best of all andutilize it well, then you will be benefited. Whatever things youhave received, you don't need any more things than that. Howevermuch knowledge you have, you don't need to know any more thanthat. The amount of strength that you have, you don't need anymore than that. Paramatma (God) can be realized simply byputting to proper use the strength, the intellect, the abilities, thecircumstances etc. that you have. This is the absolute Truth and isthe principle.Your knowledge is not less, however, what you know youare not utilizing it well. You do not give it importance - that isyour limitation. The circumstances that have been presented infront of you, will not remain like this forever. This knowledge isnot something that you know only slightly, you know thiscompletely and entirely. If you utilize this knowledge properly,then this knowledge that you have is adequate for your benefit. Itis not even slightly deficient. The proper utilization of thisknowledge is that, do not get trapped in the circumstances thathave presented themselves to you. Neither become elated ordejected in them.Questioner: We know this point, however the extentwe desire to know, that much knowledge we do not have.Swamiji: Whatever you have knowledge about, are youutilizing that knowledge properly? Those things that you know tobe perishable, do you have desire to attain it or not?Questioner: Yes we do.Swamiji: Then where have you understood the term"perishable"? In reality, if you truly understood "perishable", thenyou would not desire to attain it. What is the gain in attaining theperishable? Just like a wealthy man has money. Without themoney he would not be called wealthy, similarly this world hasonly perishables and perishing things. That which is perishablehow can it benefit us, how can it be for our welfare?You your “self” are not perishable, rather the body isperishable. That which you have received is going to perish, butyou the “self” will not perish. Things were not there initially andwill not be there later on. Rather even in the present it iscontinuously moving towards destruction. You were there initiallyand will remain even after. Your existence will remain at all times.A question was put forth to me, that in the present how to gainknowledge of our existence in the future? The answer to that is,that you are afraid to do bad things and you are pleased when youdo good deeds; because you are of the sentiment that by doing evildeeds you will later on suffer, and by doing good deeds, you willgain happiness in the future. This is proof that you have acceptedyour existence in the future. If we do not accept our existence inthe future, then who will go to heaven? Who will go to hell? Youwill be reincarnated? Who will be liberated? On attainingsalvation, you will be blissful or will the world be joyful? Thepoint is that you will remain, and the body and other things willnot.If you think carefully how can that which is eternal andimperishable attain happiness from perishable? By saying thatsomething is perishable it means, it is nothing but destructible,besides being destructible and perishable, it has nothing."Ant tohi tajainge paamar tu ne tajai ab hi te."That thing which is going to perish, utilize it but do not
trust it. Do not depend on it as your support, having the notion
that this thing will gratify me, that it will lead to my prosperity etc.
Think deeply about this - By getting those things that are currently
not with you, how will you be gratified? How will you prosper?
That which is not there right now, will also not remain later on in
the future. It will break away, therefore how will it make you
happy? Who knows with certainty whether you get it or not? And
even if you get it, then too it will not remain, because that which is
perishable and destructible will perish.
The body etc. is perishable - this you know, but you do
not believe it. In other words, you do not give importance to that
which you know to be true. If you gave importance to what you
know, then you would not depend on perishables. You would not
have any expectation or hope from these perishables. You would
not become happy on getting them or meeting them. You would
not be saddened by not getting or meeting them. You would not
desire for them to remain forever and forever. You would not
worry about them perishing. On not attaining the situations that
you desire, you become unhappy. Then this unhappiness is
nothing but stupidity. It is only stupidity. To want to hold on to
those things and situations that will not remain, and later being
saddened by their departure - what else is all this besides stupidity?
If some calamity comes to us, some sorrow comes to us, than we
think how will this go away? But in reality, it is going away.
Whether it is favorable situations or unfavorable ones, they will not
remain. That which comes, is of the nature to go away.
Sarve kshayaantaa nichayaah patanaantaah samuchryaah
sanyogaa viprayogontaa marayaantam cha jeevitam (Valmiki
The end of all hoarding is utter annihilation. The end of
all worldly successes is a fall. The end of coming together is parting
ways. The end of life is death.
That which is going to part, how can one gain happiness
on meeting it? What is there to be unhappy by it's going away.
Neither happiness remains, nor sorrow remains. Only the self
remains. If the one that remains (Self), becomes one that which
comes and goes, one that is happy and sad, then it is only it's own
It is only on attaining That which never perishes, and
That which is present right now, Paramatma, one will gain the kind
of happiness that remains forever. Besides Paramatma if you
become satisfied with anything else, whether it is respect, honor,
fame, relaxation, money, family, prosperity etc., you will be
I am telling you that which is already in your experience.
Whether there may be someone highly educated, or someone that
has not read a single alphabet, I am telling only that which is in
their experience. I am not telling you something that is of a
particular “varna”, of particular stage in life, of a particular caste,
community, race, of a certain organization or lineage, rather I am
telling you something that is the experience of all of mankind.
That which has come together, will inevitably part - this is the law
of life. Now tell me whose exclusive experience is this – of the
Hindus, or of the Muslims, or of the Christians? It pertains to
whom – to children, to young ones of age, or to the elders?
Whose experience is this - women or men’s? Of saint’s, or sadhu’s
or householder’s? Whose experience is this - tell me? This point
belongs to all. Please give attention to this. If you do so, you will
be blessed and fortunate. What does giving attention mean?
Simply speaking, do not become happy or unhappy by lending
importance to the thing or situation which is transitory.
Why do you seek the support of a thing that is going to
separate from you? First you took it's support, then on
experiencing the separation, you became unhappy, then too you
take it's very support and time and again experience suffering! If
you are not pleased or displeased by things subject to birth and decay, then you will realize the unmanifested Supreme Truth of
Life (Paramatma). To desire that which has an origin and later
decays, that whose birth and death you know, and to feel happy
having obtained it, “is” in reality the maze or bondage of life.
Besides this you have no other dilemma. If you eradicate or root
out this maze, you will attain Paramatmatattva (God). That
Divine Essence (God) has no end or separableness. It ever
remains AS-IS, because it is the Truth (Sat). The real never ceases
to be - "naabhaavo vidhyate satah." (Gita 2/16).
If someone insults you, you become very unhappy, then is
the insult abiding and everlasting? When someone honours you
and you feel happy, then is that honour everlasting? You (Self) will
remain. It is a matter of wonder, that the everlasting becomes
happy and sad with the ever fleeting things. At the very beginning
in the Gita, Bhagwaan gives the following message –
na tvevaaham jaatu naasam ne tvam neme janaadhipaah
na chaiva ne bhavishyaamah sarva vayamatah param
Neither I, nor you, nor the kings were here before. Nor
will they remain later on. What was meant by these words? It
means, that right now the situation you are in, it will not remain
later on. That thing or circumstance which ever changing, it will
vanish into thin air, in course of time. Of what avail is it in then to
be sad or unhappy? Why are you becoming happy on attaining it?
If you received honour, then what avail is it? What did you gain
by receiving honour? You Sheer deception. Besides deception
you received nothing else. Knowingly why do you suffer a
deception? From today consciousness should dawn and grow, that
you will not be pleased when honoured and displeased when
dishonoured. As neither honour, nor the dishonour are
everlasting. What difference does it make to you in either case?
Achievement of that which is ever changing or decaying is thus as
good as no achievement at all. In reality, the perishable is
constantly going away from you every moment. Neither happiness will stay, nor unhappiness will stay. If you get these then what
difference does it make? What you got was perishable only. If you
get it, then too you did not get, and if you did not get it, then too
you did not get it. In reality, there is always separation from that
which is perishing, there is no union at all. Union is only
something you have accepted. That which is always separating,
will not stay with you at all, what is there to become happy or
unhappy with it? Is this true or not? Tell me.
Listener: This is absolutely true!
Swamiji: If this is absolutely true, then why cause any
delay? Accept this truth, at this very moment. There should not
be any delay in this. It permits of no future, not even a minute or
two! If you do not get pleased or displeased by the perishable, you
will attain the Imperishable. If you do not, you may twist my ear.
नारायण ! नारायण ! नारायण !
From book in Hindi "Acche Bano" by Swami