Erin and I struck up a conversation with a group of people next to us while enjoying a drink at the bar in The Whale’s Tail in Anchorage, AK. We had said that Erin would be running the Mayor’s Half Marathon the next morning when a lady in the group mentioned a younger brother who was into 24 hour races. She opened her eyes a little wider, shrugged her shoulders and lifted her hands, asking “Why?”
While it is easy for someone already living in a mindset of facing tough challenges to provide an answer, the answer isn’t convincing or satisfying enough for those without that mindset. It takes a somewhat stoic mindset to understand why we choose a more difficult and challenging path than most others. Erin said I should read Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle is the Way, as this highlights a lot of what I was trying to think about and convey later during our dinner at The Glacier Brewhouse.
During dinner, I thought of a way to answer the lady’s question that may at least be a little more satisfying or convincing. In general, why do people choose to do things that involve a lot of suffering, or that are risky and will pose quite a challenge?
Consider what would be more memorable. When you look back on your life, what do you remember the most? Are your strongest memories flooded with all those times in your life when you took the easier path, or made the more comfortable decision? Or, are your best memories of those times when you persevered or conquered a difficult journey?
What is great about memory is that when you take on something challenging, you will remember the completion of your quest or goal the best, and the pains and suffering that occur during the journey will fade quickly. Indeed, this is why it becomes easier and easier to return to such pain and suffering. That isn’t what we remember. We remember the accomplishment.
Over time, when you flood your memories (and therefore, your life) with such accomplishments, time will slow. There is a sense of fulfillment. A level of zen is obtained.
I encourage you to take the more challenging path, and face any fear of pain and suffering you may have. Only then can you observe the memory of the pain fade while the memory of reaching your goal sticks firm.