I have always lived a -noble- existence, following the golden rule, working hard to earn/succeed/promote, helping old ladies cross the street and donating to charity. Yep, I was noble. I was also incredibly angry and frustrated that I hadn’t arrived where I wanted to be in my life. I couldn’t understand – why did everything have to be such an uphill battle? Why couldn’t things ever just work out my way without me having to FIGHT for it?
Why? Because I was self sabotaging my success by creating struggle to make my journey more -noble-. In effect, this gave my path purpose. I hated every minute of the struggle but at least, I had purpose. I was noble in attacking my adversaries head on. It didn’t matter I was unhappy now, when I arrived at the end of my struggle I would be happy then. Won’t that be noble that I made such a sacrifice?
We’re conditioned to this mindset from birth. It’s the hard work ethic twisted for the 21st century. It’s when you choose the road less traveled and ignore the big flashing danger lights because this is far more noble than the easy route. People who start as an intern and work their way up to CEO must be far more noble then that schmuck who -just- hired a good resume writer or knew someone. It’s the people who struggle with heavy loads of groceries, trying to carry it all in one trip or the women who -snag- that great catch of a man they chased for years. Think about it – what do we talk about at the water cooler? That brick that accidentally fell through the windshield and the seventy six hours we had to spend righting the wrong with the insurance company. Society tells us these strugglers are -noble- and by struggling we differentiate ourselves or achieve some form of better existence.
This is where capitalism, democracy and the entrepreneurial mindset have deluded us. Choosing to struggle does not serve us or advance our goals, it simply fills the void of an unmet need like attention, comforting or purpose. Rarely does struggle result in self-accomplishment because when we get to the goal, it’s anticlimactic. This is IT? This is what I worked so hard for? Retrospect shows us the difficulty in arriving far outweighs the benefit of the result. This builds more anger and frustration – I’m working so hard and it’s STILL not working out for me!
The solution to this hamster wheel is embracing the concept of challenge instead of struggle. Challenge is defined as difficulty in a job or undertaking that is stimulating to one engaged in it. This brings positive resistance to life – the kind through which you learn, build character and grow. It’s a stark contrast to struggle which is advancing with violent effort. Ack! Doing anything violently can’t possibly bring happy things.
Most people fear challenge because it requires them to innovate, to change, to feel uncomfortable. It is far simpler to wage forward with brute, animalistic force. A challenge is finding a way to network yourself into a company, research to obtain a grant to fund the education you want or introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met. A challenge is walking away from something with too high of a risk, too little of a return or too difficult of a path in relation to the result. A challenge is saying no to that -great catch- because your pursuit of him makes you unhappy. A challenge is finding a bigger, better, faster more efficient way of doing things to catapolt you to the finish line faster. (Think of the inventor of LinkedIn who tired of keeping track of his contacts’ contacts in a little black book).
Challenges improve our lives not only in the end result but in this moment because they deliver a sense of self accomplishment. Happiness comes from being proud of who you are and what you do. Conversely, struggle steals your joy and makes the path long, lonely and frustrating.
So I challenge you – evaluate the parts of your life that aren’t flowing – which path are you on?