Are You Struggling With Struggle?

03/01/2015 11:00 pm ET | Updated May 01, 2015

How much have you thought about struggle? If you're like most people, you try not to think about it. And yet you think about it a lot, especially about how hard it is and how much you hate it.

Most people hate struggle, primarily because they see struggling as a sign of lack of intelligence. This belief leads to equating struggle with shame.

And this has devastating consequences.

I see this over and over with clients and the mindset issues that block them most. They believe that if they were smart enough, they wouldn't have to struggle to build their business. Or that if they were creative enough everything would just flow. They feel stuck and humiliated by the struggle itself, by the fact that they have to work hard at it.

All of this comes from a complete misunderstanding of struggle. It's the equivalent of thinking that if you were smart enough you could pick up a new language in a couple of lessons. Or believing that if you were energetically aligned, you could easily run a marathon without training for it.

The tragedy is that these entrepreneurs are ready to give up on themselves and their businesses. Or they settle for just barely getting by. At a minimum, they spend valuable time and energy struggling with struggle and feeling stressed and humiliated by something that's totally natural and even beneficial.

Struggling is good for our brains.
Research has shown that the brain is like a muscle -- it gets stronger the more you use it. Not only that, but more neural connections develop when you make mistakes doing something tough than when you keep successfully doing easy things.

Struggle lets us stick with a project.
And let's face it -- creating a business is a LOT of work! Does being energetically aligned help? Absolutely! Does it help to be taught how, to have guidance from someone who knows what works? You bet!

And it will still take a lot of work.
The perseverance that comes from allowing yourself to struggle can make all the difference in the success of your business.

Struggle helps us get clear.
When you're wrestling with an idea, starting down one path and then realizing you need to be on another, you get a deeper understanding of your subject.

Writing and rewriting a sales page helps you come to a greater awareness of just what it is you offer and what the true value of your work is. When you hone your bio from time to time, you get more precise about what you do and the results you give.

Even having someone say 'no' to working with you and going back to figure out what happened helps you come up with better descriptions for your packages, or even come to a deeper truth of who you work with best and how to better serve them.

The biggest mistake I see people make is not realizing that there are two types of struggle. I call them inner and outer struggles.

What I described above is outer struggle, when you're wrestling with something on the outside. It's the productive type of struggle, the kind that builds both brain power and clarity.

This is the struggle that is simply a part of business and a part of life. The kind Nietzsche was referring to when he said, "That which does not kill me makes me stronger."

This kind of struggle can be energizing, even uplifting as long as you embrace it and don't create shame around it.

Inner struggles are the ones that truly block you and keep you stuck. They sap your time and energy. They erode your self-confidence and your commitment.

Inner struggle is the biggest reason that entrepreneurs get stuck and small businesses fail. It's when you're fighting against yourself. When the voices in your head are so loud with the negativity that you can't focus on the work in front of you.

The voices that say things like:

  • I'll never make enough money.
  • I can't do this.
  • What if I really try and I fail? What will people say about me then?

This is when you feel like your own worst enemy. Your energy plummets, your focus disappears and you reach for your favorite distraction. Anything not to hear those thoughts or feel those feelings.

There are things you can do to relieve and sometimes even stop your inner struggle. There are many tools and techniques that can make vast changes for you.

And it all starts right where you are now with seeing the difference. Now, you have a choice.

You can choose not to go down the path of shame and embarrassment (or at least to get off when you realize where you are).

When you're struggling, you can ask yourself, "Is this an inner struggle or an outer struggle?"

If it's an outer struggle, embrace it. Look for the ways you're growing through the struggle, how you're getting stronger and what muscles you're developing.

If it's an inner struggle, recognize it for what it is. You can get help to release it. You can choose not to believe it. You can make those thoughts part of what I call the "Bless and Release program".

You came here to create something special, to do what only you can do. The world's been waiting for you, so invest your energy in the kind of struggle that really counts and builds you up rather than tears you down.