I’m not sure if it’s my Germanic heritage, or just the way I’m wired, but I’ve always thought, “If things aren’t hard or a struggle, they’re just not meaningful”. I also believed that if things came too easily, they wouldn’t last, or people would say, “Oh isn’t she so lucky”. Or, “did you notice she served salad dressing out of a bottle?”
I believed that if I took the “easy way” I wouldn’t get credit for the outcome or recognition for how HARD I had worked. My belief system was such that struggling, whether it was with a project in my business, or learning a new piano piece, or making dinner for a dinner party ALL from scratch, was a good thing.
You know the old adage, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I once had a boss who loved that quote-and used it constantly. It was in the newspaper business, and believe you me, there were a lot of struggles- particularly since I worked in the advertising arena and revenues were plummeting.
I had a coach several years ago, who recognized this belief system in me and said to me, “You know, Mandy, struggle is optional; it doesn’t always have to be so hard”.
This subject really came to light for me the weekend right before Valentine’s Day. I realized I had not come up with a plan to create about 40 homemade Valentine’s cards for my children’s classes. “Come up with, you ask?” Why yes, even though I am NOT the arty-craftsy mom, I have always believed it’s VERY important that you must make homemade cards for Valentine’s Day. I had done so with my older son for nearly seven years and was very proud of that fact. I really believed that buying Valentine’s cards was “the easy way out”.
So now, it was Saturday, and Valentine’s Day was on Tuesday and I was out of time. I had a lot on my plate that weekend, basketball games, swimming lessons, birthday parties. I could not figure out when we were going to have time to make these cards, when my husband said, “Just go to the store and buy some cards”. And so off I went.
And in that store was when I had my transformation! The card choices were minimal, now that it was three days before Valentines. But they were only $3 a box! And up until that point, I had not only spent a lot of time on making “The Great Valentine Card”, I had spent a lot of money on materials-certainly more than $3. So I bought three boxes, headed home and my kids were thrilled to have Cars 2, Star Wars and Hello Kitty cards! And all my boys had to do was write the receiver’s name and their name on the cards-twenty minutes max and we were done!
This was when I REALLY embraced that struggle is optional! That most of my struggles if not all of them were controlled by me! So this past week, I have really looked at other areas where I realized it doesn’t have to be that hard. That if we occasionally have take-out during the week, it doesn’t mean I’m still not committed to putting healthy meals on the table for my kids, or when I’m stuck on a business issue, stop struggling and ask one of my many colleagues if they have a solution to my problem.
I challenge you to look at the places in your life or business where you struggle, and try to see areas that you may be imposing a “this is the way it has to be”, or an “I can do this on my own, I don’t need help” attitude. I’m strongly urging you to embrace the notion that struggle is truly optional.