Wellness Work

Struggle Not Required on the Journey to Joy

May 3, 2018

What if all your big plans for life went… well, according to plan?

Would you feel happy, satisfied, and successful? Or would you just constantly adjust the “plan” so your goals are always one step ahead of where you happen to be?

If you’re anything like me, you’re more of a moving goalpost type person. Recently, I’ve become hyper aware of how bad I am about this.

It started with a conversation I had with my mastermind group, where I admitted that on the business side of my life, everything was going really well. That felt like a weird statement to make, because I’m used to chasing after or struggling with something.

In fact, my brain is so used to operating in that mode that I started subconsciously seeking out problems to solve. I was reaching for challenges that weren’t there so I could feel like I had something to overcome.

It took some time to realize I was doing this — but even now that I’m aware of it, I’m not exactly sure what to do with it. The ideas that “you must struggle to reach success” or “the only things worth having come through hard work” and the related thought “if you’re not striving and suffering you’re not pushing hard enough” are so deeply ingrained in me that, right now, I have no idea how to drop or change those thoughts.

Letting Go of Sacred Cows That Don’t Serve You

But here’s the thing: I know I need to let these thoughts go because they aren’t actually true. “You must work hard, struggle, suffer, and constantly put yourself in a position where you have a problem to solve” is not a statement of fact; it’s just a thought I made up and then repeated to myself enough that it became a belief. And I’ve been living like it’s real ever since.

Again, I’m self-aware enough to realize that the belief is there and it’s not true. But asking me to drop it feels a bit like asking me to chop my arm off. I can’t just do it (even though I know the real answer is exactly that: just do it!).

I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. My friend Bailey and I had a conversation the same day I talked to my mastermind group, about how strange it is that the idea of just being is so difficult to embrace and practice.

Both of us struggle to not work on something, to not try to find a way to further develop or improve or grow. Sitting idly by isn’t something that comes easily to us, and I know for me, relaxing can feel downright uncomfortable.

Even when Eric and I went on a 7-day vacation last winter to an all-inclusive resort, we both thought we were going to go insane by the end of day 3. It was a great trip — but neither one of us could handle just sitting and doing nothing. We needed to be productive, useful, and engaged.

I’m not sure that desire to be plugged into life is a bad thing, but I can also see where taking it to an extreme (as I’m prone to do; I’m not good at balance) isn’t great either.

It’s one thing to want to improve and grow and become a better person. It’s another when you get so deep into a belief that you cannot let it go, that it becomes a sacred cow to you and you can’t imagine not believing that thing.

In my case, it should just be an easy fix. The problem is clear, I’m aware that it is a problem, and I have the tools to solve the problem. Recognize the thought, acknowledge the thought, then let it go.

But it’s not so easy when you’re talking about your sacred cows. I’m hoping that actually talking about mine and putting them out there helps push me to change or drop the beliefs that aren’t helping me get anywhere and in fact, stand in the way of allowing me to actually enjoy the fact that I’ve reached a level of success I’ve been striving for my entire life.

That’s what these sacred cows are costing me: the ability to be present at this point that I have worked so hard to get to. The plan is actually going according to plan, and yet these are the thoughts that are stopping me:

  • If I’m not completely overwhelmed by work or personal chores then I’m being lazy. I must work harder.
  • If it feels easy I’m not doing a good enough job. Quality work is hard work.
  • If I’m not struggling then I’m not going to get anywhere worth going. The best stuff in life does not come easy.
  • If I’m happy then someone else must not be and therefore I feel guilty.
  • If I don’t contribute to my household at a certain financial level (i.e. make a certain amount each month), I’m dead weight.

These thoughts are fear-based. I’m afraid that if I actually start enjoying life too much I’ll somehow be punished for that joy.

If someone else told me they felt that way, I’d say that’s no way to live. But here I am, living precisely that way: constantly looking for a problem to solve or worry over and completely missing all the good and amazing and fantastic stuff that makes up my day-to-day life.

Give Yourself Permission to Live Without Struggle or Stress

I said this to both my mastermind group and to Eric the day these conversations were swirling around: it’s almost like I need someone to give me permission, to give me the official thumbs-up, that everything is okay and more importantly everything will continue to be okay if I let these beliefs go.

The funny thing is, I have an inkling at the back of my mind that the actual next step or next challenge that I’m constantly trying to create so I have something to struggle with is this one.

It’s letting go of these beliefs. The challenge is to let go of feeling like I need to fight and struggle and battle to get what I want because I actually have what I want.

The challenge now is to learn how to be present to that. To be grateful and appreciative. To cultivate my life as it is now and find new ways to continue to grow it.

The old ways got me this far. But that doesn’t mean it’s not time to find new paths forward, new ways of doing things that come with less resistance and more acceptance. Less stress and more bliss. Less struggle and more joy.

I keep thinking I want someone to give me permission to feel joy and happiness, to enjoy my success and really take it all in (without feeling guilty for doing so). I know that’s not how it works, though.

The only person who can give me permission to do that is me. And I’m going to start trying to do just that, right now.

Keep up with the conversation as it unfolds.

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