Timing and magnitude vary, but struggle doesn’t discriminate.
It’s one of the few things in life that connects us all — we all have “something” we are working on. Some insecurity that we’re posturing against. Some grief that we’re pushing through. Some grudge that we’re holding onto. Some purpose we’re searching for.
That’s okay. In fact, it’s better than okay. It’s good. In every struggle, there is an opportunity: to learn, grow, and become. Struggle very well may be the only pathway to really understanding life, ourselves, and others. And that is beautiful.
But you must choose to work through it. Choose to break down barriers, rather than let them limit you. Choose to take back control, when you’ve seemingly lost it. Choose to use this moment of pain as fuel for something better.
You can choose these things, you know, no matter how hard it seems. You can and you will — I have faith in that.
For everyone in human history who has ever done something great has been in the same position as you are right now. At a crossroads, with a decision to make:
To go on or to give up?
It won’t be easy to “go on” when you feel like curling into a ball. Struggle isn’t meant to be. But every rep you put in, every fear you face, every prayer you send up, every tear you wipe dry: you will become better because of it.
I promise you that.
But when you are in those down moments where you believe you can’t “go on,” come to this list (or create your own). It’s a smattering of ideas, from people way smarter than me, that have weathered difficult things, that have helped me choose to go on instead of give up, over and over again (in no particular order):
- Has anyone who has ever been what you want to be, done what you want to do, or had what you want to have gotten to that place without going through something similar first?
- Oprah had a tough life. She was born to a thirteen year-old mother. As a young girl, she was sexually abused by a close family member. As a thirteen year-old, she, too, became pregnant. Motherhood ended before it began, as she gave birth to a stillborn child. These events could wreck anyone, let alone a child. But she was determined to make something of herself. She was fired from her first role on TV because they told her she wasn’t a “good fit” for the screen. Now look at her.
- “You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually of your biggest advantages.” — Michelle Obama
- Will this matter in 5 minutes? 5 hours? 5 weeks? 5 months? Or 5 years?
“Pain + Reflection = Progress” — Ray Dalio
- Who can you call? Not to unload. Not to go nuts on. Not to bust ghosts. Just to talk — even if it’s not about your struggle directly. [Full disclosure: I’m terrible at asking myself this.]
- “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” — an excerpt from the Serenity Prayer (used frequently in the AA/Recovery community)
- What can you do today that will excite you?
“Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” — William Shakespeare, Hamlet
- What could make this situation a lot worse? This one’s from my mom. She was very ill. We were picking up potted flowers at Home Depot and she couldn’t make it back to the car so I left her sitting on the sidewalk and brought the car around. When I came back, she was smiling. I asked her why. She said, “I was just picturing how much worse this would have been if it was snowing…”
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” — Mark Twain [Fear often manifests itself as an emotional “struggle.”]
- “Perhaps some of us have to go through dark and devious ways before we can find the river of peace or the highroad to the soul’s destination.” — Joseph Campbell, A Hero With a Thousand Faces
- If you haven’t taken care of the basics, you aren’t going to solve your problems today. How much sleep did you get last night? Did you meditate this morning? When’s the last time you ate? How much caffeine have you had today? Have you gotten any sunlight? Or exercised at all?
- What action can you take right now that will make you feel better?
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
- Your story is your power. This thing that’s gone on, that’s breaking your heart — it’s your gift. That’s the story that holds the power to inspire, motivate, save, and change the world. That includes your struggle.
- Depression is external — not internal. You are not depressed; you are experiencing a period of depression. Externalize this idea and it’ll change your life because you’ll remember: this sadness is NOT you.
“Do not let anything that happens in life be important enough that you’re willing to close your heart over it.” — Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul
- “It doesn’t matter whether this is the worst time to be alive or the best, whether you’re in a good job market or a bad one, or that the obstacle you face is intimidating or burdensome. What matters right now is right now.” — Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is The Way
- You can likely make it through anything. You are resilient beyond your imagination. You can push through far more than you can wrap your mind around — rather, you can push through precisely what you can wrap your mind around. So start wrapping.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning
- What can you gain from this? What can you learn from it? What virtues can you practice? What skills can you build? [It’s terrible, I know. But there’s something.]
- “Most people overestimate what they can do in a year. Most people underestimate what they can accomplish in two or three decades.” — Tony Robbins
- What can you do that’s different today? Do something unexpected. Do something that breaks up the pattern you’ve been living in. Make a big change. Take some bold action.
- “Saying it’s hard is ultimately a justification to do whatever seems like the easiest thing to do — have the affair, stay at that horrible job, end a friendship over a slight, keep loving someone who treats you terribly. I don’t think there’s a single dumbass thing I’ve done in my adult life that I didn’t know was a dumbass thing to do while I was doing it. ” — Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things
- Cultivate a Growth Mindset — or the belief that your effort determines the outcome. If you want to surmount this obstacle, so to say, the only thing that stands in the way is time spent working on it. Believe that you can surmount it and you’re already 50% done. [Hint: you can overcome it.]
- It’s more painful today than it will be in the future. Whatever it is, whatever you’ve done or has been done to you, it hurts more today than it will eventually. I know it doesn’t seem that way. I know it doesn’t make sense. But time really is your asset in the matters of struggle.
“Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand, and ask, ‘Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?” You’ll be embarrassed to answer.’” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
- What do you need to do to build up escape velocity?
- Even on a cloudy day, the sun is still shining bright as ever. It’s just hidden behind the clouds — that’s all.
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
- There is no use in making excuses. Excuses and blame disempower us to make the necessary changes and adaptations to survive. Imagine a woman in hunter and gatherer times blaming her friend for not bringing home enough berries. What the heck is that going to do? She needs to go out and find some of her own. We can only change that which we take responsibility for.
- People don’t succeed in spite of their struggles; they succeed because of them. Adversity makes us stronger — it forces us to adapt, build resilience, and generate greater strength. This is called Post Traumatic Growth.
“Human potential is nearly limitless.” — Tom Bilyeu
- You are going to die someday. What are you going to do about it? Is it worth squandering this moment wondering “what if” or when? Use this pain as fuel to remind you: Truth is about life before death.
- Are all of your needs met? Your heart may be broken. Everything may feel wrong. Your finances may be out of control. Your business may have just gone under. But are you breathing? Do you have water? A home? Someone you can call?