Tuesday, July 28, 2015
I lived most of my life measuring my success based on how productive I was in a given day and how “hard” I worked. Like most of us, I thought being busy and having an insane, crazy, hectic, unmanageable schedule was normal. It was a badge of honor. I’m working hard. I’m struggling. No pain, no gain. Right? Um. No. I was very wrong.
Struggle is a normal experience in the American culture. And it’s a very abnormal occurrence in many other cultures around the world. I’m not talking about the struggle that comes from trauma or unexpected loss and pain. I’m talking about self-induced struggle; the excessive effort and need to overschedule our lives, which creates the self-induced struggle. Yet, it seems to be the norm and we like to struggle to succeed, don’t we? I know I did. I worked so hard for so many years that it became a habit. If I wasn’t struggling my way through something, anything (a work project, a long run, the latest round of research for a new service offering for my clients) my day felt unproductive. Through many life transforming experiences and much introspection the past several years, I realized that struggling is not how I want to live. In fact I wrote a blog post about this topic a few months ago; about how there are much better ways to succeed, which do not include self-induced struggle (read it here: A New Way To Achieve Success). Yet, even as I wrote that and attempted to live my life without feeling the need to struggle, it was always an underlying pull. For many years I believed that struggle meant productivity and success and it was hard to let go of that belief.
As I set out to begin my writing sabbatical a few months ago, I realized I just might be addicted to the need to create struggle. For me writing is anything but struggle. It flows. It feels like ease. But something about taking a sabbatical so I could do nothing but write propelled me into the need to struggle so I could feel productive. Because of my habitual behavior and belief that struggle and hard work equates to productivity, I began setting harsh expectations for myself on how much I would write each week and when certain parts of the book would be complete. I realized I was literally bullying myself into making the task of writing this book a big struggle. The voice track in my head was something like “If you’re taking the time off to write, you better make it productive and fruitful so here’s how this is going to work…”
Do you recognize this voice? It’s my ego. It’s filled with fear and judgment of how I am spending my time. (My last blog post addressed this topic of discerning between the voice of my ego and my Divine Self – check it out here).
Because my current focus is writing, I know very well that I cannot force or struggle my way through it. It either flows through me naturally or it doesn’t happen. The very idea of putting together a harsh project plan with some unrealistic milestones led me directly to writers block. I cannot force myself to sit down and write Chapter 5 of my book. Chapter 5 comes to be when it’s ready and when I’m inspired to write it. The only way that inspiration happens is through allowing myself time and space to be still and quiet, to mediate, and to do things that fill my soul. That’s when the writing flows. I have my most productive writing days after I have done things that fill my soul, not after I have penned a detailed project plan and then forced myself to sit at my computer and stare at a blank page on the screen. That creates the struggle that is no longer necessary for my productivity. Not only is it no longer necessary but it also no longer works.
The new process of allowing productive writing days has enabled me to give up my addiction to struggle. Because struggling no longer produced the outcome I was seeking, I had no choice but to realize it was a flawed and limiting belief I’d been feeding for most of my adult life. I believed struggling meant I was being productive and that would lead to success and in many instances it did. However, the success it led to felt empty and the need to force my way to the next thing never ended. It was a habit of behavior that thankfully, had run its course. I believe we all need to give up the need to struggle to succeed and the addiction to the idea that if we are struggling it means we’re getting ahead. We might be but is the struggle to get there worth it?
The ways that have worked for me to give up my need to create struggle are first and foremost, making a choice that it’s not something you want to do anymore. Second, do the opposite of struggling. Instead of hustling, hurrying, or forcing your way through something, try easing into your days and going with the natural authentic flow and rhythm of life. Imagine if you could be even more successful simply by listening to the messages from your body and heeding the tugs and pulls from your heart and intuition. You actually can. You just need to give it a try, like I did, and see where the results lead you. Go on. Give it a try…
If I, Type A, action-oriented, get it done, force it through Andria, can give up the habit of and addiction to struggling and forcing things to happen, I am certain that anyone can.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic of struggling to succeed and whether it’s something you’ve experienced or are experiencing. Please share in the comments below.