We have conflated happiness and comfort. And in my thoroughly unscientific opinion, we have lost the connection to the reptilian brain that got us here as a species. We're all neocortex now, a jumble of stress and worry. So we reach for various pacifiers: sugar, sex, drugs, alcohol, social media, consumerism. I believe it's growth through discomfort that produces happiness, and by seeking comfort instead, the circuit gets broken.
I think of the most rewarding pursuits of my life, and I wanted to quit all of them in the beginning. I walked onto a football field not knowing what a down was, and proceeded to get body slammed by another, much larger boy. I learned the offensive line and the defensive backfield, mastering my small portion of the game, learning to push past physical pain inflicted by bigger opponents -- which was pretty much everybody. It became a joy to play.
Learning Latin was a lesson in constant failure that churned up a maelstrom of self-pity and doubt. My brain was tearing itself apart trying to stretch and wrap itself around the language. Only after I surrendered did it make sense, did its athleticism and poetry make itself understood. It became a joy to learn.
And finally, there was Jiu Jitsu. There's meme of a drowning white belt making it's way around BJJ social media. He's trying to keep his head above water, clawing at the surface for survival. This -- the drowning of Jiu Jitsu -- was the hardest part to accept. It's difficult for a grown man to make himself so vulnerable, to admit to himself and to others that he couldn't save his own life from a somewhat skilled or a stronger opponent. You fail quickly and often in BJJ. There are two mental approaches you can take in the face of such failure: 1) Rationalize it away, saying to yourself that we live in a world where such a skill isn't necessary; 2) Push yourself harder than any opponent, real or imagined, can. I chose to push myself.
One day, I got my first submission. I don't remember the move. I don't remember the training partner. And I don't remember because those facts are inconsequential. I learned to take more joy in the hundreds of times I've tapped out, or been submitted, ever since. That is where the growth comes from, as well as the grin I can't wipe off my face. It became a joy to train.
This is growth. This is discomfort. This, my friends, is happiness.