When students share their struggles with me, it becomes evident that this belief is deeply ingrained in them:
Life should be easy.
But should it, really?
Before I answer that question, let me tell you about two students I spoke to recently.
Student #1: I want to work in the media industry
After giving a talk at a local university, a student came up to me (I'll call her Mary) and began describing her job search difficulties.
Mary explained that she was studying economics, but that she really wanted to work in the media industry.
Unfortunately, all of her job applications to work in media companies had been rejected.
"I'm extremely passionate about the media industry. I'm so frustrated that I keep getting turned down!" Mary exclaimed.
"Mary, can I ask: What have you been doing to show your interest in the media industry? Have you been going for extra classes? Have you been trying to get some kind of certification?" I replied.
"You don't understand, Daniel. I live on campus. It's just so inconvenient to get out and go for extra classes," Mary answered.
Student #2: I want to find a job I love!
After delivering an assembly talk to a cohort of junior college students, a student (I'll call him Joe) enthusiastically approached me to ask for career advice.
Joe said, "I really want to find a career I love! How do you suggest that I go about doing that?"
I replied, "First, I highly recommend that you read these two books: What Colour is Your Parachute? and Do What You Are. These are excellent resources if you want to choose a suitable career."
Joe looked confused. "But, Daniel, I really don't like reading. I wouldn't be able to finish reading two books."
It's not just students
The conversations I had with Mary and Joe left me feeling puzzled.
Was it truly impossible for Mary to leave her university hostel to attend extra classes?
Was it that hard for Joe to read two books for the sake of his future career?
Somehow, Mary and Joe expected to be able to achieve their goals without too putting in any extra effort at all.
It's not just students who expect life to be easy.
Parents complain that teachers aren't doing enough in school.
Teachers complain that parents aren't doing enough at home.
Employees complain that their bosses aren't understanding enough.
Bosses complain that their employees aren't hardworking enough.
Are you insane?
It seems like we all think that our situation is the worst. No matter how much or how little we have, we're convinced that we've received the short end of the stick.
Please don't misunderstand; I'm not saying that certain complaints or criticisms aren't justified.
I am, however, saying that we ought to question the unspoken belief, which many of us have, that life should be smooth-sailing all the time.
The fact of the matter is that we should expect life to be full of challenges and strife.
It's psychiatrist M. Scott Peck who observed: "The fundamental sign of mental health is the realisation that life is tough".
In other words, according to Dr. Peck, if you think that life should be easy, then you must be insane!
The privilege of the comfortable life
The comfortable life isn't a right -- it's a privilege.
Yes, there are things the government can do to make our country a better one to live in.
Yes, there are issues we need to grapple with as a society.
Yes, there are terrible, tragic things that occur in the world.
But there's hope, because in every problem lies an opportunity—a challenging opportunity.
It's an opportunity to become people of greater character, people of greater courage, people of greater commitment. At a deeper level, don't these traits matter more to us than leading a comfortable life?
So let's not waste this opportunity by rejecting challenges, or by believing that life should be easy.
Our country and our world are depending on us.
Daniel Wong is a learning and personal development expert, as well as a certified youth counselor. A sought-after speaker and coach, he is also the best-selling author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He offers programmes to help students attain exam excellence while also finding happiness and fulfillment, and to empower parents to motivate their unmotivated teenagers. He writes regularly at www.daniel-wong.com. Download his FREE e-books, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?" and "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision". The views expressed are his own.