Are You Struggling? Take Heart


Struggling to accomplish something can be frustrating, irritating and downright maddening. You can become disillusioned, depressed and angry too. Then again, you could end up feeling amazing, stronger, wiser, more satisfied and ultimately successful.

All those struggles are good character-developing challenges that will change you in many ways, some for the better and possibly for the worse if you aren’t careful.

Can you imagine what life would be like without struggles and challenges? Imagine Frodo in The Lord of the Rings heading out to destroy The Ring, and he never gets confronted with anything more sinister than a tree root that trips him up. What a boring read it would be, and he’d never have learned so much about himself; what he was truly capable of. And along the way, if he and Sam had done noting but sing songs from the Shire, he’d have made no wonderful friends and the magnitude of what he was doing would be lost on him.

And what of Harry Potter? Had he killed his nemesis in the first encounter, all would be wonderful at Hogwarts forever, but what an incredibly boring read. Harry went to Hogwarts and had a wonderful time, learned many new things, met many people and lived a relatively comfortable life and died in peace. Yep, run out and buy a copy of that – not!

Now yes those are fictional works and life – your life – is real. Okay so let’s look at your life. Are you struggling to get a good job, launch your career or even figure out what you should do with your life in the first place? Although my pieces centre on work themes, are you struggling with things in your personal life? What about your mortgage, relationships, raising a child or children on your own, what colour to paint the living room or learning a new language?

Struggles are neither good nor bad in and of themselves, they are just, well, struggles. Two people from similar backgrounds can be faced with a problem of an exacting nature and while both struggle, they can react to that struggle very differently. So is it then more about the mental strength and the personal resolve to work or fight through the struggle that ultimately determines our success? Perhaps. And should the challenges we face be so monumental and significant that it seems the odds are highly stacked against us, does the likelihood that we will face more moments of contemplating giving up or giving in increase?

Everybody struggles; everyone. Some of us do a good job of concealing that struggle to those around us, and others are more demonstrative and show it openly. And those of us who work with vulnerable populations run the risk of endorsing challenges and setting these things up as norms. We run the risk of seeing a regular client and starting the conversation off by saying, “Hi Tom. So what are we struggling with today?” What we are communicating to Tom here is that he is always struggling with something, and for him that’s normal. So the assumption is voiced and Tom comes to believe his daily struggles is how he sees his world if enough people he respects reinforce this belief.

The more important a decision or goal is to us, the more we will struggle to resolve or reach it. Would you agree with this? Have you seen someone struggle to choose which chocolate in the box they want? Some struggle with which shade of white to paint the walls, which cereal to buy to please the kids, or which flowers to plant in the garden. These aren’t major struggles for many, but for some they are incredibly tough.

It may be that listing pros and cons can help us decide on one decision over another if we are faced with two tempting choices. Which career should I choose? Which interview should I go to? Which job offer should I take? But sometimes listing pros and cons falls short. You list all the right pros and cons and are still struggling to make a decision you are happy with. So are struggles more than listing empirical or factual plusses and minuses?

Perhaps when we struggle, it’s because our values are being tested. If we give up, are we admitting defeat? Does ceasing to struggle sometimes seem so tempting that we make a decision to do it and then feel guilt and restart because our internal values scream at us that we really haven’t reached the give-up point yet?

Take heart. Struggling to me means you’re still alive, vibrant, want something you currently don’t have, want to improve, still care. If you are struggling with your career, considering building a team of mentors, supporters, cheerleaders and advisors. Ultimately, you’re writing your own life story here, but all those protagonists, hero’s and heroines have sidekicks, supporters and believers. There’s nothing wrong or weak about asking for help and having some company along on your journey for a while.

Struggles point out in life what we value. If we value something a great deal, it’s more likely we will struggle against whatever puts that value in jeopardy. If you are currently struggling, what’s really being challenged. Deciding between two shades of white is more about your sense of good taste and style than about the paint itself.

So embrace your struggles as good things; big or small. It’s all about what you value.

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