“A good life is not a life without problems. A good life is a life with good problems!”- Mark Manson.
‘Why does life suck so much right now?’ Have you been wondering the same? If you have, you’re definitely not the only one!
The everyday challenges and wave patterns of life are already enough to make us swim hard to reach the shore. Now, the Covid pandemic has proved to be the last straw for many people. It has left us questioning whether fate is real and there is any point in living at all!
Life can feel tough to navigate at times, unfair, monotonous, and a plain struggle. Sometimes we feel like things couldn’t go wrong any further, and then they do! How does then one maintain their composure and faith in the larger plan?
Perhaps our idea of what life is supposed to be is what is stripping us of the joys of actually living it the way we wish to!
Problems in life are an inevitable part of it- there is no escaping them. However, everything that we see or feel comes down to our state of mind and the actions that stem from it.
Keeping that in mind, let’s explore 6 main triggers and ways to start turning things around to live a life that makes us feel excited to get out of bed each morning!
1. Biological Evolutionary Response to Stress
Why do we humans tend to focus on the setbacks in life more than the little victories or progress that we make along the way? This predisposition is common to a majority of us. It is inbuilt as we’re biologically programmed to function and survive this way.
The reason for this tendency is a survival tactic used by our ancestors back in the day. In the face of physical danger, the primitive man used a response of ‘fight or flight‘ to protect himself from any negative encounter. This was a useful ‘stress’ induced response as it helped sustain our species over time.
One can imagine why a focus on the harsh side of reality was critical back then. However, this inclination or mindset in today’s day and age is doing more harm than good.
In the absence of environmental stressors akin to those times, we’re left with a propensity to deliberate and stress over setbacks and ‘apparent’ threats to our joy. This is a problem because there isn’t any such imminent danger to fight or take flight from.
Understanding this psychology is crucial to grasping why we think the way we do. Life sucks because we are stressed about a gazillion things and emphasize the difficulties more than the luxuries. Tracing back this ‘why’ gives us clarity of reason.
When we understand how stress can be helpful, we are better equipped to approach it in a manner that protects as well as promotes our growth.
○ Why does Life Suck? – Lets Shift Perspective
In his bestselling book called ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a f*uk‘, Author Mark Manson talks about how our response to obstacles in life is actually conducive to our growth and progress.
He says that the fact that life sucks and we suffer is actually biologically functional. ‘ It is what inspires change in us and the desire to do better.
We have evolved with a certain degree of dissatisfaction and insecurity for a reason. It is the mildly dissatisfied and insecure creature that is actually going to put in the work to innovate and survive. – Mark Manson
Therefore, seeing challenges as stepping stones to personal development and improvement is a powerful way to shift perspective. It’s all about how we equip ourselves to navigate adversities and our mindset around how these challenges can serve us in any way possible.
Being aware of when stress starts being more of an impediment than a catalyst to growth and transformation is half the job done!
When we’re aware of our emotions and what is causing them, we can maneuver things to suit ourselves. It’s not a question of avoiding problems but of how we react to them.
We don’t get to choose our problems. But we do get to choose how we respond to them.
2. Negative thoughts and faulty belief systems
More often than not, life sucks because we live in a bubble of our ‘self-created’ reality. Our idea of reality. Reality is made up and conditioned by our thoughts.
The point being made here is that thoughts aren’t facts. Our nervous system works well to interpret our well-imagined thoughts as the concrete reality, which it certainly isn’t! Life sucks because it just won’t set us free from this self-imposed reality.
We feel chained and crippled by our own thoughts of failure, money problems, sickness, and so on.
We tend to create our belief systems and actions based on those thoughts. Not just that, we also exacerbate existing problems to the point that they start dictating our happiness and sorrow.
A person with scarce thoughts and a limited belief system will let a setback in life overwhelm considerably. Naturally, then, he may feel that he is a failure and that life is unfair to him.
Conversely, adopting an abundance mindset will determine that our perception of a given situation allows us to explore possibilities and opportunities of success despite any failure that we may encounter.
The following are two ways of transforming your belief system and outlook on life.
○ Discerning between Imagined Reality and Actual Reality
This is a simple exercise you can practice during a tough time to move forward from the belief that life sucks and all the odds are against you!
When dealing with bad luck, negative thoughts, and paranoia about living life, it helps to be aware of a simple truth. Your thoughts are not your reality.
The way you speak to yourself in times of crisis can be your best therapy to control the situation and move forward from it.
‘My life sucks’ and ‘I think my life sucks’ are two different things! In the former, you establish a fact and get sucked into the notion that there is no alternate reality. However, in the latter, you remind yourself of how fickle and tricky your thoughts can be.
You might feel a certain way right now, but that could also change depending on how you wish to look at the situation from all angles.
Such is the power of the mind. On the one hand, you could say, ‘I’ve failed in life since I didn’t get the job I so badly wanted. However, you could also rephrase this as ‘I feel terrible for not succeeding in getting that job, but who knows if this paves the way for something greater.’
Then, as if by magic, life begins to suck a little less, and you break free from that victim mentality to start crafting a better life for yourself.
○ Overcoming Negative Bias
‘People tend to focus and inflate the possibility of a negative outcome rather than a positive one.’ This was concluded by Nobel Prize Winners Tversky and Kahneman in their research on decision-making and analysis.
Despite the possibilities of both good and bad outcomes being equivalent, our thoughts tend to gravitate towards the latter. Losing a said amount of money evokes a more robust response than gaining the same amount.
With such a tendency, it’s natural for us to feel that life is continuously conspiring against us. If we don’t curb this tendency in time, we naturally become hardwired for thinking how living life is just plain cruel and unjust.
However, this mindset can be nipped in the bud from growing by re-interpreting scenarios and re-establishing new patterns. For example, rethinking unpleasant experiences with a new lens to focus on whatever good came out of them.
Secondly, consciously redirecting our attention to engage in a pleasant activity when experiencing negative thoughts is a great way to inspire constructive change to diminish such thoughts. This could mean turning on upbeat music, going for a stroll, etc.
By consciously elevating happier thoughts to the forefront of our awareness- we can overcome a negative mindset around challenges in life.
3. Getting stuck in a whirlpool of negativity
Once a bad event or experience occurs, we often give into worrying, fear, and frustration. Do you know what is worse, though? Our thoughts can form such a vicious circle that we get stuck in a whirlpool of all the negativity!
This is known as the ‘Feedback loop from Hell.’ In his book, author Mark Manson talks about how tricky this thought process can be. It can become challenging to escape a self-constructed loop of self-pity and despair.
Suppose we continue to worry about why bad things only happen to us sooner or later. In that case, we start worrying about the fact that we worry too much!
Similarly, the more guilty we make ourselves feel for our mistakes, the more guilty we feel for feeling guilty consistently. Also, we feel more sad and alone when we contemplate our belief that we are indeed unfortunate and isolated.
Life doesn’t suck; we make it suck.
In short, we begin with one problem in hand and self-multiply it into so many. This goes on until it becomes the very center of our focus, and it’s all we can think about.
○ Antidote to escaping whirlpool of negativity
The chances are that we’ve all engaged in the exercise of “Accepting the situation” and are perhaps doing it this very minute!
A simple antidote to escaping the Feedback Loop from Hell is to just accept things for what they are and come to terms with them. Does your life suck right now? Yeah, maybe it does. So what?!
Then, as if by a miracle, the minute we surrender control, we start feeling better almost instantaneously!
For starters, there is great relief in acceptance of the fact that we’re imperfect. This is the best response you can have since it helps you make sense of the present and take constructive action.
You basically ‘short-circuit’ the feedback loop from hell from spiraling out of control when you do this. You accept the situation for what it is, and that is a step in the right direction.
“The acceptance of a negative experience is itself a positive one. Likewise, desire for a positive experience is itself a negative one.” – Mark Manson
4. Prioritizing Instant Gratification
Living in the moment is excellent advice for being mindful of the current moment. However, one needs to also draw the line somewhere. Instant gratification can make us lazy and irresponsible.
Seizing instant pleasures at the moment may satisfy us for now, but they don’t necessarily lead to fulfillment. This is because they make us compromise on the proper behavior and discipline required for us to stick to our vision for long-term success.
If we keep jumping from one short-term gratification to another, we prioritize instant happiness over sustained joy.
No wonder life then becomes boring and monotonous for us, as we lack to see any depth or meaning to its longevity and a grander scheme.
The idea is not about sticking to any extremes but about striking a balance. We know that instant pleasure can create debt, mental chaos, poor health habits, dissatisfaction, and loss of focus. By being conscious, taking responsibility, and practicing deferred gratification, however, we can reverse things.
○ Make realistic goals that can be achived
One of the major reasons why we choose instant gratification is because we overwhelm ourselves with unrealistic goals; eventually, this ruins our self-esteem and makes us feel worse.
Instead, setting small, steady, and achievable goals makes more sense. Not to forget, our overall confidence and encouragement from that would push us further on the right track.
Building momentum helps to remind yourself of your long-term plans and the consequences of your present actions. More than motivation, one requires discipline for doing so. Discipline will hold us accountable till the end, despite the initial rush fizzling out sooner or later.
Being disciplined in our approach to handling life will ensure we don’t give in to momentary pleasures since our will to be purposeful will outweigh our need for instant gratification. Also, a strong sense of discipline will push us to the end despite the blows and setbacks we experience on our journey.
We need to remember that short-term pains and failures are an indispensable part of this journey. Though they might not gratify us now, they can elevate us to something far better in the future.
Do you have a problem? Write it down. Journal. Where did it come from? Why does it bother you? What are the steps you can take to overcome it?
Are you replacing the real problem with temporary relief, or are you facing it head-on? Have you learned something from this experience, or are you letting it take control of your emotions negatively?
○ Happiness: A created experience; not an end goal
“Happiness is not the end-goal of our existence.” If we make continual pleasure and satisfaction the aim of our life, we’re bound to find this life hard because things don’t work that way and again become slaves to instant gratification!
Philosopher Blaise Pascal said- “Being unable to cure death, wretchedness, and ignorance, men have decided, to be happy, not to think about such things.” Notice the word cure here.
We choose not to resort to the actual remedy, which could be hard work or self-control, to craft the change we wish to see in our lives.
In the absence of this cure, we develop creative ways to desperately find happiness despite the apparent reality. Pain and discomfort are conducive to growth and cherishing what true happiness really means.
To avoid them, we end up chasing the wrong goals and completely disregard the natural flow of life.
Happiness is an activity. It is not a goal; it is a continual work-in-progress.
It does not get served to you on a platter. Keeping this in mind, we can choose our problems wisely that we are happy to take on and solve in life. That’s where our control lies.
5. Step back. Breathe. Focus on what you can control
Life can seem meaningless and chaotic if our attention focuses on areas that are out of our control.
Death, suffering, failure, etc., are a part of life and necessary even. If our struggle revolves around running from these at all times, then we’re making our own life miserable for ourselves.
Instead, it helps to sit down and chart out what we can control and cannot.
Pay attention to where you are spending most of your mental energy, and then see what you can do about it. Is it toxic family or friends that are making you sad? Is it your job?
If you cannot avoid them, then limit your interaction with them. If your job makes you miserable, look for alternatives that make you feel more driven and excited.
Life is all about options and taking risks to find our way! The first step is being honest with yourself and analyzing why things are the way they are.
If it’s something absolutely unavoidable like work or daily stressors that you’re fretting about, then let go. You’re simply wasting your time and energy. Instead, find solutions to things that can be fixed, no matter to what degree.
○ Discover yourself through conscious questions.
We can get things moving when we’re stuck in a rut by asking ourselves concentrated, helpful questions. Don’t just ponder over why things are going wrong; take control and figure out the cause!
Enquire and ask conscious questions to understand yourself better and the reason for your dissatisfaction with your own life. Find patterns and themes where the majority of your complaints and insecurity stems from.
Instead of asking yourself-‘Why, does my life suck?’, ask better, specific questions.
What is a common area of frustration for me? Family, job, money, fitness, purpose?
Why am I lagging in that area? Is there room for improvement in my own perception and behavior? Am I making the same mistake repeatedly?
In doing so, we begin taking responsibility by understanding areas of our lives to exercise control and create change consciously. We can then become selective in what we choose to bother about and what we don’t. Imagine how much mental energy that could save us!
We will then possess the power of choice to pick our own battles and choose how to respond to any crisis or challenge.
Ultimately, ‘our world is defined by what we choose to struggle for.’ It’s as simple as that.
6. Mental Health and Need for Structure
It isn’t about arriving at some destination. It never was. Of course, hard work, perseverance, and stress are essential for us to live optimally. Still, we also need to enjoy this journey called life. Otherwise, what’s even the point?
Therefore, we need to take deliberate breaks intermittently, make time for ourselves, and give ourselves enough credit for our work. Without taking time to ground ourselves and recharge, we’re wiring ourselves for failure in the long run.
Meditation, paying attention to our health, journaling, practicing gratitude, carving out time for recreation, all of these are indispensable parts of the journey.
Without some kind of a structure, neither will we be able to live a fulfilled life, nor will we ever be able to hold ourselves accountable for it.
○ Carve out Time for your ‘Happiness Hours’
Do you know which kind of people succeeds and live fulfilling lives? The ones that know how to seize time, opportunity, and their day in short!
These people often have a structured routine, and no matter how busy they are, they always know how to make time for themselves and the things that matter most.
An example of this is waking up early in the morning. This is a time when you have minimal distractions and enough time to gather your thoughts for the day ahead. Carving out just a few hours for yourself each morning can have unexpected consequences over time.
This time is called ‘Happiness Hours’ since you get to spend this time doing absolutely anything that brings you joy! It could be reading, listening to music, taking a long walk, meditating, eating a leisurely breakfast, whatsoever. But this is your time.
It makes you feel recharged and in control of the day ahead. As a result, you’re prone to make better decisions and get less overwhelmed by the challenges that lie ahead in the day since you’ve got your cup already full!
“Why does life suck?”- An overview
Life tends to suck in our eyes because we choose to limit our vision and understanding of the plethora of opportunities and experiences that are ours to seize. As soon as we start seeing it through the lens of black and white, it ceases to be an adventure.
We overwhelm ourselves with the adversities, miss out on the lessons, hustle without meaning and beat ourselves up for not being happy with life. All of this is because we fail to see the bigger picture!
Perhaps our biggest blunder is creating unrealistic expectations about what life ought to look like. A mindset like that is one of scarcity and wires us up for disappointment and frustration. However, viewing the low points as temporary struggles and embracing suffering as a necessary truth is what makes life worth living.
It all comes down to perception, our appreciation and gratitude for what is and what can be, and our ability to humour ourselves when things don’t work out as planned. In the end, it’s not about the cards you’re handed but more about how well you play them.
If you can ride the crest of life and brave the troughs with equal grace and a passion for living regardless, then life is yours to seize!