The Struggle Is Real

Happiness is one of the biggest goals for most of us in life. But what impedes happiness for most people in life is the struggles we face. Struggles make us stressed and worried and often unhappy. So to become happy, it seems as if we need to find a way to reduce or eliminate struggle. But the problem is that struggles, obstacles, problems seem to be the nature of the universe. Everyone in the world experiences some form of struggle no matter who they are. Whether you choose to be a circus performer or a Wall Street investment banker or a fruit vendor or the CEO of SpaceX, there will be struggle. Whether you live in Afghanistan or Norway or Jamaica or Dubai, there will be struggle.

The fact of the matter is that no matter who you are or what you do, you will have problems and face struggles. We cannot avoid struggle.

But struggles make us unhappy, no? If we cannot eliminate struggle, does that mean we cannot truly be happy?

Of course not.

Choose Your Struggle

Since struggles exist on every path, running away from one struggle simply means running towards another kind of struggle. That seems kind of demotivating but I am not saying to just  accept your struggles and submit to “the way life is”. What I am saying is to indeed run away from one struggle and towards another!

The secret sauce is in the solving of the problems, not in not having problems in the first place. To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action
– Mark Manson

So the idea is not to eliminate all struggle from our lives but to actually choose our struggles. Choose the fight we are willing to fight. Choose the problems that we feel driven and motivated to solve.

The first video I included in my post on passion mentioned that one of the ways to find your passion is to determine what problems you want to solve. This is choosing your struggle. Every one of us has a struggle that we are willing, or even excited, to endure in order to achieve certain results. For example, working 100-hour workweeks to become the CEO of a corporation. Or training every day to become an olympic gymnast. Or hustling as a fruit vendor everyday to feed your family.

Overcoming struggle is how we learn and grow and evolve. So instead of trying to avoid struggle, we need to determine the things we want to learn and the ways in which we want to grow. Then we need to welcome the struggles that are associated with that. If those are not struggles we are willing to endure, then we choose another struggle. For tips on how to choose your struggle, check out my post on How To Find Your Passion.

The Obstacle Is The Way

This is the title of a well reviewed book by Ryan Holiday – The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage. I haven’t read it yet but I’ve seen excerpts and interviews with Ryan and it’s definitely high on my “to read” list.

Ryan was inspired by a school of philosophy called Stoicism and a Roman Emperor by the name of Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius is known as the last of the Five Good Emperors and he led the Roman Empire through two major wars. His writings have had far reaching influence and are known to have comforted Nelson Mandela during his 27-year imprisonment under the apartheid system in South Africa. Aurelius has a famous quote which goes:

Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

This quote captures much of the essence of Stoic philosophy. It speaks to the ideas that:

  • We control our perception – We have little control over what happens to us in life but we have complete control over how we perceive and respond/adapt to what happens to us. If we internalize this, we realize that there really isn’t such a thing as a setback. Instead there are opportunities to adapt, learn and grow.
  • The obstacle is the way – Obstacles are not the problem. It is our belief that the path is obstacle-free that is problematic. If there is an obstacle in the way, then the obstacle becomes a part of the way. 

It’s important to remember that the focus should be on growth and progress. So no matter what the environment is, we must find ways to grow. So if something tries to hinder our growth/progress, we must learn to use that very thing to propel our growth. That can be in the form of learning how to endure it and progress regardless. It can be in the form of recognizing a hidden opportunity which actually advances us further. It can be in the form of adapting our strategies to be resilient to the obstacle. Whatever the situation is, the obstacle can make us grow. So don’t run from obstacles. Practice overcoming them.

Here is a great talk by Ryan Holiday on the subject:


So here are the major takeaways from this post:

  1. Choose your struggle. Since struggle is unavoidable, we should not try to eliminate struggle, but instead choose which struggles we want to face. Choose the problems we want to solve and the dreams that excite us enough to endure the associated struggles.
  2. Reframe obstacles. We cannot remove obstacles but we can and should control how our minds perceive those obstacles. So view obstacles as opportunities to learn and grow. Use the obstacle to your advantage and let it bring you closer to the goal.

By choosing our struggles and learning to use obstacles to our advantage, we can truly follow our passions and grow in magnificent ways.

I hope this brings value to your life. May you learn, grow and solve problems that excite you 🙂

#growthpree

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