How to Not Struggle

Struggling

Struggle can be good sometimes. We step out of our comfort zone and venture into uncharted dreams and aspirations.

A good dose of struggle strengthens our resolve and builds character.

This article is about the other kind of struggle. The one that robs this moment of its beauty and value—the inner struggle we have when we’re trying to do or justify not doing something.

This is the type of struggle you want to manage and reduce as much as possible.

Understanding struggle

What creates the bad type of struggle?

Why do we struggle with some things but not with others? Why do we struggle with a certain type of activity while others seem to be doing it with ease?

To answer these questions, we need to look into how struggle begins and what causes it to stick—more than we like.

Struggle starts with a conflict.

Struggle starts with a conflict between two opposing thoughts that are tugging at your soul. Your heart tells you to do something different and your mind tries to justify staying with the old pattern.

Let’s take the example of waking up earlier than your normal routine. You decide you really want to do it and set the alarm for an hour earlier. The alarm goes off, but you’re still in bed feeling tormented.

On one side you want to get up to start writing before you go to work. On the other, you feel cozy and safe in bed; there is no urgent need for you to move.

If you want to get healthier and seem to struggle with your diet choices, you have two thoughts that are pulling you in opposite directions. Your heart wants you to have a salad. But your mind wants the instant gratification of those tasty French fries.

Paradoxically, struggle grows with choosing the easier (or more familiar) option.

It’s easier to stay in bed. It’s easier to have the fries. But that’s not all. The easy option usually has a price—more struggle in the form of self-defeating judgments and guilt. You feel you’re weak and can’t choose what’s right for you. And you feel worse.

The better choice is usually not the easiest. If you’re used to doing things a certain way, your mind will throw in every possible justification and roadblock to stay right where you are.

Struggle can become an addiction. The drama queen within is always up for more misery.

A continuous cycle of sabotaging our own desires for better choices will keep the relentless negative voice alive—well fed and always hungry for more.

This is the payoff for constant struggle. We get to dwell in pain that sucks  the life out of our hopes and desires. Struggle becomes the master.

The most important question you can ask yourself

This question will awaken you to the price you pay for struggle. You get to determine for yourself what is of value to you.

Would I rather struggle for hours and days or choose the better /harder option right now?

How to not struggle

If you answer the question honestly and follow up with the best action, your struggle is over.

The price of the familiar and easy is usually momentary pleasure and long lasting pain.

The price of challenging and hard is usually brief discomfort and long lasting peace.

Who wouldn’t want long lasting peace of mind?

For example: Would you rather sleep in and beat yourself up throughout the day, or get up and feel tired for a few minutes then feel good that you did it?

Obstacles to action

When you start and take action, your progress can be impeded by one of these conditions.

1. Unfamiliarity

When you start something new, your mind will kick into resistance mode.

The solution: Make a conscious effort to turn the unfamiliar to familiar.

Remind yourself of everything you learned in the past and how it became familiar. You moved through fear and ventured out slowly—one small step at a time.

2. Lack of clarity

If you don’t have a clear desire, you will struggle with overwhelm and confusion.

The solution: You need to do one of the following:

  • Get clear on what you desire. Determine exactly what you want. Then give up the distractions and go for it. Or
  • Allow yourself to meander and experiment with different options to gain clarity. It’s okay if you get lost for a while. And if you can’t find your way after, just start with one thing and give it your best.

In both cases you need to trust in your abilities to venture into the unknown. And to believe in your dreams.

3. Unrealistic expectations or attachment to a specific outcome

You start something with high hopes. But things turn out differently and you give up. You stop pursuing your dream—but don’t let it go. So the unfulfilled desire sits in the background of your mind compounding your struggle.

The solution: It’s hard not have any expectations. But the best fun is had when we just do something and not worry about what happens next.

You don’t worry about what others think or how you would feel if you fail. You do what you want—for yourself and for the experience.

4. Interruptions and giving up too soon

If you keep starting something and stopping, you will eventually give up. It’s really hard to get back into something after a few interruptions.

The most important things don’t scream out loud demanding your attention. They will linger in the background and keep nagging—unfulfilled.

The solution: Make a point of picking yourself up and starting again as soon as you can. Don’t let something that’s really important to you slip for more than a couple of days. Otherwise, it’s going to sit for a week, a month and before you know it, a year.

Keep at it no matter what. Don’t allow yourself to give up unless you’ve decided you no longer wish to pursue this experience. This means you gave it your best and don’t want to do it anymore.

5. Wrong focus and complications

When we focus on what we don’t want we end up with more struggle. The wrong focus complicates the process needlessly.

For example if you keep thinking I don’t want to gain weight, you will think and act based on the fear of gaining weight. You don’t have a goal to achieve but a fear to avoid.

The solution:  You need to focus on being and feeling healthy and doing what it takes to get there.

Focusing on what you want is simpler and more empowering. You can start with small steps towards eating and feeling healthy, without paying attention to your weight.

For more resources on dealing with struggle and taking action, check out these articles from the archives.

And when all is said and done, let the journey itself be your guide.

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. ~John Steinbeck


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