Follow Your Suffering

We often hear the phrase, “Follow your dreams."  Media, movies, and well-intended parents promote this idea incessantly. 

Reach for the stars!

You can do anything you put your mind to!

Do what makes you happy!

Follow your dreams!

However you want to phrase it, it's everywhere.

We all want to see our dreams realized, and we have a certain idea of what the process will be like trying to reach that dream. As a kid I dreamt of being a professional baseball player. Many nights I slept with my baseball glove. The back of my parents house reveals severely dented siding from where I endlessly threw the baseball up against the back of house. As long as the sun was out, I was playing baseball. 

I reached the level of playing college baseball, but the process at that level wasn't much like a dream, but more like a discipline. It was hard work, really hard work. It wasn't easy. It wasn't dreamy.

Following your dream sounds like a great thing, and when you're a kid you don't realize just how difficult it will be because maintaining a certain level of comfort in pursuing our dreams is the unspoken agenda of the dream-pushing industry. Yes, you can do anything you put your mind to... as long as you grind out over 10,000 hours of work too. 

I think we do a disservice by telling each other to follow our dreams. Instead, we should be telling people, “Follow your suffering.”

Suffering teaches. It teaches in a way that nothing else can. Suffering gives meaning. It challenges. It disciplines and calibrates us for achieving something great. It delivers true fulfillment and accomplishment in ways that simply dreaming and comfort cannot. Suffering makes us who we are and marks us with scars, memories, and character that prove we’re actually alive and growing. "Follow your suffering" won't show up on many billboards, but those who embrace that call have a better chance of actually realizing their dreams. 

When it comes to our work, our faith, our families, our lives, the only thing that threatens true growth and effectiveness is a lack of suffering. Growing and become better at who we are and what we do means we must go after life in a way that feels, at first, beyond us. It must make demands on us. It must seem to be beyond our capacity. It must make us suffer, even just a little bit, in order to enlarge our understanding of what we’re actually capable of. 

So, don’t follow your dreams, follow your suffering.