Life is made up of a series of struggles. We struggle to find ourselves and are envious of those that seem to have it all together. We struggle through school. We struggle to find a career or job. We struggle to find a partner to live life with or struggle through life together with a partner. We struggle with raising children and maintaining a career. We struggle with an empty nest after the struggle parenting. We struggle with aging parents. We struggle with retirement. We struggle to make sense of it all at every stage in life. We obsess over the struggle. Why does it have to be this difficult? We act as though we are the only person on the planet that is struggling.
Here is a reality check for us all – life is a struggle. We have a choice to either suffer or thrive through our struggles. It is our attitude or mindset that will determine the amount of suffering we will have to endure. Most of our suffering takes place between our ears. Your boss is a great person but a struggling leader. Instead of grace, you focus on her faults or shortcomings, not understanding why management doesn’t see what you see. Going to work is a struggle because all you think about is what you don’t like your job. You forget that it allows for your child’s tuition to college. It feeds your family, will enable you to stay in your home, makes the car payment, etc. You get the point.
Instead of remembering the benefits of any situation, we tend only to lament the bad stuff. How do I know? I am just as obsessed with what is wrong as you are and need regular reminders to be thankful or to count my blessings.
As I write this article, I am struggling with a business that I am involved with managing and owning. The business is a real challenge. Financially it is struggling to keep up. The quality of the product has suffered due to a lack of disciplined oversight. It was not my core focus and was meant to be passive income. I expected to make an investment and watch it thrive as the cash rolled in. I laugh at my ignorance as I wrote these words. It has been a struggle from day one. Early on, I knew we had bitten off more than we could chew. Instead of admitting my error and exiting as quickly as I had arrived, I convinced myself it would get easier. Instead, it has steadily become more difficult. The quality of employees has declined right along with the quality of the product. You know why? Because of the quality of leadership. To lead requires pressure. To be a great leader requires showing up every day with consistent expectations and continual reinforcement of the vision. If you want to be great at anything, you must show up every day ready to roll up your sleeves and do the work.
“Honor the Struggle” -Brendon Burchard.
If you desire to stop your constant suffering experienced in the daily struggle, here are a few ideas to consider.
Accept the Struggle
Let’s be real. There is no easy street. Our minds won’t allow it. Consider this: an entire country is blessed with an unsurpassed standard of living (even for the poorest among them), and the majority still aren’t happy. Let’s do the math. There are 7.65 billion people in the world. There is a country with 327 million people that has a standard of living higher than 95% of the rest of the world, and the majority are miserable. Doesn’t add up, does it? Envy, jealousy, victimization, blame, and a host of excuses help the citizens of this country to validate and justify their apparent suffering. The rest of the world looks at them and scratches their heads at the dysfunction in a nation that has it better than other countries by leaps and bounds.
How could this be? So much to be grateful for yet, we live to complain about the struggle. How much we possess beyond our basic needs has no bearing on the level of satisfaction with our lives. If we have it all, why do we still struggle? Our minds continually seek to validate our existence. The struggle is for more, and if we are unable to achieve more, we feel inadequate. We look for reasons outside of ourselves to justify our lack of progress. It is our boss’ fault. If my husband wasn’t so overbearing, I could do more and have more. To struggle for validation, recognition, significance, material confirmation, wealth, biceps, endurance, revenge, etc. is to fight in vain. To struggle for truth, reality, freedom, justice, growth, understanding, wisdom, meaning, in service, etc. is a meaningful struggle because it will lead us to a better future.
Let’s vow to struggle for the right reasons. The right motivation can be for growth or for others but never for stuff. Too often, we are fighting for reasons over which we have no control. For example, we often obsess about what other people will think about us. The concern for what others will think prevents us from trying new things. We have an idea but don’t’ share it because the worry inside about being rejected has us all knotted up. The reality is people aren’t thinking about us at all because they are too busy thinking about themselves.
The struggle is far more manageable when others are with you. Help comes in several different forms. Going it alone has an almost romantic draw, but the fact is we can’t do it alone. Who can you partner with to join you on this journey? How do you avoid partnering with the wrong partner? There is no sure-fire method for ensuring the ideal partner. However, if you take time to clearly articulate a vision of the ideal partner, your chances of success significantly improve. Clarity about the ideal partner involves writing down the qualities of a person you are best suited to work with, including their subject matter expertise of your struggle.
To be clear, the partner is not an out for you. It is someone that can walk alongside you in your journey. You will slay the dragon together. Partners come in all shapes and sizes, so be creative in your search. Industry groups and communities are a great place to seek and find help. Ask people you know in your industry. Seek in earnest after clearly defining what you are looking for in your partner.
The struggle is less burdensome for those who invest in understanding. Every battle that has ever existed has been documented in some form. All that is required of you is inquiring and study. How have others worked through struggles similar to yours? Lose your job? Getting a divorce? Difficult teen? Failing health of parents? Terrible boss? The amount of knowledge available on millions of topics is staggering. Why do people not seek answers? Believe it or not, many people don’t want to solve their problems. How could they wallow in self-pity if they resolved their issues? Most people would rather remain in misery than apply the effort required to solve their problems. I am not being cynical or flippant. Think about a problem or struggle in your life right now or from the past. What are you proactively doing to fix the problem? How is your health? How is your marriage? How are your relationships? How are your finances? I bet that if you are like the overwhelming majority, some problems or struggles came to mind as you reflected on those questions.
Solving problems requires study and effort. I can say with a high degree of confidence that study and effort must be the two most demanding activities on earth. A study habit involves thought, and thinking is difficult. If it weren’t challenging, there would be much less demand for distractions like social media and Netflix. Effort must be more difficult than study because the rate of obesity is at an all-time high. Thinking without effort is fruitless. If you want to change your struggle in misery to a struggle in progress, study and effort are essential.
Plan & Execute
You have taken the time to study your problem. You have learned from others that have been through what you are going through and have made it out. Now you can use that knowledge to do the following:
- Create a list of their recommendations.
- Prioritize the list based on the speed of implementation.
- Create a practice of these recommendations.
- Go back to the list reprioritizing.
Seek someone that can help to hold you accountable. Ideally, your accountability partner has had a similar struggle to yours. Misery loves company, so avoid conversations that involve complaining about your problems (unless you are meeting with a psychologist). These complaining sessions serve only to place blame and trap us in our struggle. Quicksand will engulf its victims more quickly when they struggle. The only way out of quicksand is to stop struggling and seek help.
The next step is to make a plan by doing the following:
- Gather details. (Study)
- Clearly define the ideal outcome. (Plan)
- Lay out the steps that will lead to your desired outcome. (Define)
- Determine who can help you. (Get help)
- Go. (Action)
- Be consistent. (Persistence)
- Seek inspiration. (Motivation)
You are good enough and worthy of living a life of joy and fulfillment. Stop expecting the worse. Stop validating your misery. I understand you have been wronged. Get over it. You will never reach your full potential if you are obsessed with the past or worried about the future. This life requires action.
Too often, we struggle because we are afraid of what others might think or for fear of retribution. Sometimes it is necessary to end a current struggle and move on. If you have exhausted all options in your work, quit. Sometimes things must come to an end. Maybe you are in over your head. Find a way out. Society would like to convince us that only losers quit. The reality is that all successful people have left things that weren’t working. Quitting is scary. What will they say? So what, you do you after you have exhausted the available options.
The struggles of life strengthen our character. A bodybuilder struggles with the weights to build their muscles. A scientist struggles with a new idea until it is resolved. A couple struggles with their relationship with a determination to grow for each other. The struggle is what makes life worth living. The easy street doesn’t exist, as evidenced by those that have it all but are miserable. Life is meant to be lived, and it is during the struggles that we build our resolve to live. Embrace the struggle and battle resistance in progressing toward a solution.