Should we Struggle?

I’m struggling knowing how much to struggle, how much to push myself.  It’s hard to know isn’t it?  When are we trying “hard enough,” and when are we trying too hard? How do you find the sweet spot?  Right now, I am in the middle of career transition, family transition (being away from the home/my children a bit more), trying to learn some new very specific skills (ones that don’t come naturally to me since they involve numbers), while relying on and leveraging the skills I know I am good at.  The part where I often get stuck is, knowing how hard to push myself.  Sometimes it feels like an exciting and interesting challenge…and sometimes it feels like trying to stuff an octopus into a sack.
We have grown up with slogans like “no pain no gain,”  “face your fears,” and “no guts no glory.”  And while I often disagree with these sayings, I believe deep down I still hold on to them in a self-punishing kind of way.  So much so that when something is easy…I usually think I am doing it wrong!  For example, if I make my kid a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread (very easy for me), my self talk usually jumps to something like ‘well you could have made the bread yourself and made it much more nutrient rich…ect’.  In the past I have delivered extremely successful workshops (based on both feedback and being paid to repeat the workshop for other groups), but if I enjoyed myself “too much” while giving the workshop (because I prepared ahead of time and the delivery is easier than the prep for me), I might focus on what might have been wrong with it rather than what worked.  I would likely identify that as negative self-talk if I were one of my own clients, especially since it isn’t a useful thought pattern as it eclipses any positive outcomes that might benefit repeating and highlights only the negative.  So back to my point, do we need pain to gain?  I looked up this phrase and found some pretty cool counter statements such as this one: “I don’t accept the maxim ‘there’s no gain without pain’, physical or emotional. I believe it is possible to develop and grow with joy rather than grief. However, when the pain comes my way, I try to get the most growth out of it.” – Alexa McLaughlin.   I also liked this one I found: “I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable.” — Anne Morrow Lindbergh.   So where does that leave this concept that is widely believed,  ‘anything worth doing is worth suffering for’? It sounds kind of silly.  Studies have proven that hugging someone lowers your heart rate.  So clearly it is worth doing and few would say hugging is a form of suffering. That being said, exercise might be considered suffering to some people, but clearly it is worth doing.  I think hard meaningful work must be differentiated from suffering by choicesuffering because we mistakenly equate suffering with accomplishment.  The way we move through a process must hold at least as much importance as the outcome…right?

So really, after all of these words what I am trying to explore is my commitment to a peaceful process.  So quickly, when I decide to take on a new challenge do I often abandon my intention of a peaceful process.  Fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of the unknown make me hold tighter, be more rigid, set a bar that I am not even sure I want to meet, and because it becomes a fear driven process, rather than a curious process, I often fail to reassess, likely missing important tweaks that might be needed along the way. With a nose to the ground attitude we surely miss out on other better opportunities along the way, or perhaps better and g-d forbid different ways of accomplishing what we originally set out to.  We leave little room to change our mind, even if its for the better.  As the quote above says, we must remain vulnerable throughout the process.   It is this very vulnerability that will enhance our chances of the best outcome. When we are suffering, we lose this vulnerability for sure.  

So perhaps that is our answer to the question…We know we have gone too far, pushed too hard when we fail to hold on to our vulnerability, our ability to remain flexible and adaptive.

Cheers to you and your adaptability
**If you want help taking ownership of your time, contact me about my time-management workshop.   It’s fun, personal, and will leave you with a calendar you will love.  Interested in shaking things up? Contact me about my individual, couples, or group Vision Board workshop and discover new ways of creative planning.