TIB #19: How to find meaning in struggle
You struggle because you care
In your struggles, you can find your values. They hold the key to what it is you find meaningful in life.
The mental hurdles you come across as a creator or entrepreneur, are expressions of your personal values. They are two sides of the same coin. Attempting to get rid of one, means losing the other. Think about it, would you beat yourself up over things that you couldn’t care less about?
Of course not.
Finding meaning or values this way is not always fun. It means digging deep, accepting your imperfections and flaws, and facing your fears.
You dread doing something because you know or feel it is beneficial to what you are trying to achieve. I am not saying “suck it up, just do it”. What I am saying is: lean into it, to learn why you struggle. To find out why you struggle is to find out why you care.
These are different things. One is not necessarily the cause of the other. We can struggle without suffering. We can suffer without struggling. So often we suffer from struggling, while it does not need to be that way.
This realisation creates an awareness that there is space between input (your struggle) and output (your response to the struggle). In that space, you can choose how you respond. It is often possible to choose not to suffer.
This is what it means to “embrace the suck”. Don’t fight it, that is a waste of valuable energy. Allow it to exist.
Use your energy to lean into it, explore it and dig deep to figure out why this is a challenge for you. That helps relieve the suffering or maybe even prevent it altogether.
This is easier said than done, of course. It takes practice and even then suffering cannot always be prevented.
If you do suffer and cannot find a way out of it, find help. Talk to someone you trust or go see a doctor for advice.
The first step is to notice your struggles in your work as a creator or entrepreneur. Become aware of the resistance. It may not always be obvious that you struggle. Or what you struggle with.
- Unable to push the publish button on your content?
- Resisting to make that phone call?
- Reluctant to discuss pricing or send an invoice?
These can all be indicators that your are working against a core value or belief of yours. Some more generic things to look out for when becoming aware of your struggles are:
- Lack of energy, feeling tired?
- Brain fog, unable to think clearly?
- Afraid of what others may think of you?
- Restless, agitated
- Scouring the net for more info (ie procrastination)
- Burning yourself out
Note: Resistance, struggle, stress, and anxiety can can have different causes. These are all normal, human feelings. It is our brain’s way of telling us something is not right.
These feelings put our minds in a high-alert state and cause us to focus on addressing what is not right. However, when the difficult situation is dealt with, we should calm down again. If that does not happen and you feel under continuous stress and anxiety, it can become a problem. Please talk to someone you trust about this, or visit a doctor, therapist or coach.
Now that you are aware of your pain point, it is time to find out what causes that feeling. Can you pinpoint the source, the cause of the unrest? You may already know exactly where your issue comes from. Maybe you dread “putting yourself out there”, or you fail to come up with content ideas or cold e-mail that high-profile podcast guest you dream of interviewing.
But if the struggle, the resistance does not have a clear source for you. These exercises can help you figure it out:
- Get a pen and paper or open a new text document and start writing. Stream of consciousness. You can start with sentences like:
– “I really don’t want to…” followed by whatever action it is you dread.
– “I struggle with … because …”
Then, write out your train of thought. Do not go overboard with this. Don’t make it perfect. Set a timer for, say, 10 or 15 minutes and just write. The goal is not to publish this (although you can consider using parts of it and show radical honesty to connect with your audience on a deeper level).
- If writing is not your thing, speak it out loud. Maybe even record yourself and speak your train of thought. The goal is to find words to express the thing you resist doing. By doing so, you will add clarity and detail to it.
- If you still can’t seem to put your struggle into words, do the “inverse” of these exercises: Put into words (written or spoken), what is definitely not the cause of your problem. Eliminating what is obviously not causing this stress (to you), helps to peel off the layers that obfuscate that personal value that may be hidden underneath.
If the previous step did not make it clear to you why you are struggling, now is the time to dig a little bit deeper still and try to put a label on it. Having observed it, and looked at it from different perspectives, can you tell yourself why this is a struggle for you?
Don’t judge yourself. Just describe why this is bothering you. Accept that this challenge may feel like an insurmountable hurdle to you now, but know you are working on it. You are actively taking steps to know, like, and trust yourself better. Also, you are definitely not alone in this. You are doing the work to figure this out.
So, now ask your self why is this a struggle for you. Be honest. Be blunt if you have to. Nobody has to know the answer but you.
Why are you afraid to publish that post?
Maybe because of your imposter syndrome.
Why are you reluctant to talk to your customer about charging all the extra work?
Maybe because you over-committed and do not want to blame him/her?
I am reluctant to give specific examples, because you have to come up with them and should not steered in any direction. If you have come this far, you are about to find out why this means so much for you, why you are willing to deal with this hurdle. Take your time to work on this. Write it down, speak out loud, but see if you can answer the “why” one level deeper.
You are now able to reliably determine if this obstacle is worth overcoming for you. Now you know why this is meaningful to you. You have a better understanding of what it is you are trying to work through.
So now what?
Now you can look at other ways to achieve the same outcome. Find ways to lessen your burden:
- Take smaller steps towards the same goal
- Brainstorm other ways to achieve a similar result
- Change your tone of voice
- Reduce or remove stress inducing aspects, such as deadlines (many are trivial anyway)
- Get help from a community of people on a similar learning curves as yourself
Whatever it is you end up doing:
You can’t avoid struggle. It’s a part of life. If you want to do something that matters, if you want to be someone who matters, then there will be obstacles, setbacks and challenges along the way. Struggles help us learn and grow, and they give us purpose and insight into ourselves.
What is it that you want to achieve? What is it that drives and inspires you? The answer to these questions should be able to give you some clarity on why you may be struggling right now. So embrace the struggle and see how far it can take you!
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