“If it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive.” This little nugget of internet wisdom reflects the popular current notion that we should make our lives as stress-free as possible. Peace, in this instance, is promoted as the absence of stress. Stress is typically defined as the mental perception of pressure, and it’s a major villain these days. The health care industry tells everyone who will listen that stress is a killer. “Chronic stress” is to be avoided at all costs. We must, they say, cultivate a stress-free life. In other words, as it pertains to any particular activity, “if it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive” and should be avoided.
Now, if you’ve spent much time reading my work, you know that I’m all for making lifestyle changes and avoiding unnecessary sources of stress. In fact, that is a major premise of Stuck: Why Men Need a Mid-life Crisis (enter your e-mail here for a free copy) – that men need to make serious adjustments to level up their lives. Further, I completely agree that we need to get away from many of the common stressors that come with living in the 21st Century.
- You have a 45-minute commute during rush hour that wears you out? Seriously, find a new job and stop spending so much of your best time fighting traffic.
- Your job requires you to spend 60 hours a week in the office or too much time in airports? Leave. Start a business. Work remotely from home. Something.
- Your kids doing too many activities and running the family ragged? Cut back. Quickly.
- Your wife browbeating you and nagging you to death? Set boundaries. Today.
- Your in-laws trying to run your life and disrupting your marriage or family? Same thing.
- Spending more money than you make every month? Take charge of your finances, target your spending, go big on the things you love, and ruthlessly cut out the needless shit that doesn’t add value to your life. Don’t wait.
Those are all legitimate stressors, and they are not worth the cost to your peace of mind, the soul-sucking, and the loss of joy that they bring. If these things cost you your peace, they’re too expensive. Their cost outweighs their value. Get rid of them and don’t look back.
However, where our little piece of internet wisdom goes too far is that it makes peace (i.e., the absence of stress) not only important, but the most important thing in life, as nothing that can be gained is worth losing it. This line of thinking leads us to view any type of stress or conflict as bad and something to be avoided. “I don’t need that type of negativity in my life” is a phrase that we hear regularly. We begin to think we need to avoid anything that infringes upon our comfort or peace of mind, anything that brings stress or pressure.
Hear me loud and clear: this is nothing but a weak mindset that elevates comfort and peace over mission. Ultimately, while all of us crave peace, the type of peace that we crave is not the hippie-version where everyone gets along and there is no conflict or stress. No, the peace we desire is the peace that comes from knowing that we did all that we could to achieve something good, meaningful, and lasting. In other words, we seek the peace that comes from knowing we spent ourselves on a worthy cause, that we pursued our mission to the best of our abilities.
Greatness has never been achieved through a stress-free life. Greatness comes from embracing discipline, tackling adversity, seeking out the challenges and overcoming the obstacles that stop others. Greatness always involves struggle. Always. In fact, greatness without struggle is one of the great lies of our generation. It has given rise to a thousand fad diets, training programs, and internet businesses, where people seek the magic that will make their dreams come true without stress and struggle. Not. Gonna. Happen.
There’s an old saying in the military that has been adopted by the strength training community: Embrace the Suck. Look at that obstacle standing in front of you and punch that bastard in the face. Taste your own blood when it hits back. Then smile and go back for more until you prevail. Embrace the suck. The suck ain’t going away. Your only options are to run away from it or to beat it. And don’t fool yourself, winning won’t be peaceful. It will bring stress to your body and mind. You will have fear. You will have doubt. You will get tired. You will want to quit. Embrace it. Fight. Get up from every knockdown. Be strong. Be shrewd. Be tenacious. Win.
You will need rest. You will need recovery. You will need vacation. But these will be the exception. The rule will be a life of struggle and challenge as you seek to build things that are meaningful and lasting. And that will bring you peace. Not ease and comfort, but peace. This is the man’s life.
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