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Lately it seems that more clients than ever are complaining about how hard it is to change. It’s likely that the stress of the pandemic is a contributor to life being more arduous and generating a larger chorus of frustrations. But there’s more to it than that.
Thinking about this issue brings me back to when I was getting my Masters degree in Education. I had some minor problem and asked to see my professor about it. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it boiled down to my insisting that something was unfair. As if it were yesterday, rather than the late 1970s, I clearly remember her response as she looked at me in astonishment and asked, “Whatever made you think life was going to be fair?” Her comment was a game-changer for my life. Why indeed?
A similar question could be asked about why many of us feel there’s something amiss when life doesn’t go smoothly or when we need to amp up the pressure to get over life’s hurdles: What makes people believe life will ever be smooth and easy? Sadly, most clients who desperately wish life would be a bit more manageable had dysfunctional childhoods. Is this what causes them to fantasize that when they grow up difficulties will have melted away? Understandable. Or are they so weary from abusive childhoods, that their hearts cry out for something light and lovely?
Either way, what’s the point of telling ourselves, “This is hard”? By saying so, especially repeatedly, we’re orienting our brains toward underscoring difficulty, which usually only makes us anxious. Saying that something you want to do or have been doing is hard will only make it harder. Sure acknowledge that it’s challenge, but then move on.
And what’s wrong with life being hard or difficult? Why is that bad? A few things in life come easily, but having that expectation is going on a fool’s errand. Wanting and only questing after what is easy or comfortable will teach you nothing about life or expand your horizons or abilities. You’ll never change or grow and will, in many ways, remain a child while the rest of us slip and slide into adulthood.
The question to ask when we’re about to do something isn’t, “Is it easy?” but “Is it doable or worthwhile?” No matter if it’s easy or hard, if someone can do it—especially if many people have done it—it’s likely that you can too. Stop fussing so much about things being hard. Doing hard things is worthwhile and that’s the point. Figure out what you want to do—go back to school, leave your spouse, move out from your parents’ home—and then go after it full tilt. After it’s done, you’ll be proud that it was worth it precisely because it was so hard.
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