During a session I had with my new coach last week it became clear to me that I've been addicted to struggle for much of my life. While I wasn't super excited to admit this, it has actually been quite liberating to address my struggle addiction directly and to see how it impacts just about every aspect of my life and work. How about you? Are you addicted to (or at least very familiar with) struggling in your own life?
As I've thought about it more over this past week, I realize that I have some real resistance to allowing things to come easy, and that my attachment to struggling runs deep within me (as it does for so many people I know and work with). Here are some of the main "reasons" I've used and beliefs I've held for many years to justify my own struggling:
- If I don't have to struggle for something, it doesn't really mean all that much.
- If things come easy to me, other people will get jealous, won't like me, and/or won't respect me.
- It's not fair for things to be easy for me (i.e., I have to struggle) -- especially with so many people having such a hard time these days.
- I actually get off on struggling and suffering -- I'm quite familiar with it, and I've used it as motivation to change and "succeed" for much of my life.
- My ability to work hard, overcome adversity, and rise above challenges are all things my ego uses to feel superior to others.
- If I don't struggle for something, when it happens I won't feel like I deserve it.
- Struggling allows me to avoid taking responsibility for certain aspects of my life and keeps me "focused," so I get to avoid uncomfortable feelings, situations, and circumstances I don't really want to deal with.
Can you relate to any of these? Maybe you have others as well.
Getting in touch with some of these reasons and beliefs has been both painful and eyeopening at the same time. As I think, talk, and write about them, I realize how ridiculous some of them are and how much of my life's energy I've been giving away to them in the process.
It's almost like I'm walking around worried that someone's going to say to me, "Mike, you have it so easy," and I'm preparing my defensive responses: "Oh yeah, well let me tell you how hard I work, how challenging things have been for me, and how much stuff I've had to overcome along the way." What's up with this? It's like I'm preparing for a fight that doesn't even exist. Do you ever do that?
While working hard, overcoming challenges and adversity, and being passionately committed to important and complex things in our lives aren't inherently bad, resisting ease and being attached to struggle causes me and so many of us a great deal of stress, worry, and pain. And in many cases this difficulty is totally self-induced and unnecessary.
What if we allowed things to be easier? What if we started to speak about and own the aspects of our lives that are actually easy to us and started to expect things to get even easier? What if we let go of our attachment (or addiction, as it were) to struggle? Easy doesn't mean lazy -- that we aren't willing to work in a passionate way, or that we expect a "free ride." It means that we're willing to have things work out, trust that all is well, and allow life to flow in a positive and elegant way for us.
Our desire and ability to embrace ease in our life isn't selfish, arrogant, or unrealistic -- it's profoundly optimistic (in an authentic way) and can actually enhance our ability to impact others. The more energy and attention we place on surviving, getting by, or even "striving" for success, the less available we are to give, serve, and make a difference for other people. Although it may seem counterintuitive to us, letting go of our addiction to struggle is one of the best ways we can show up for those around us -- both by our example and with our freed up positive energy.
My coach suggested that I start wearing a "struggle patch," like a nicotine patch that people wear in their process of breaking an addiction to smoking. While at first it seemed a little ridiculous, I actually took her up on the suggestion and put on a band aid as a representation of my "struggle patch." I'm allowing the band aid to represent my own commitment to break this addiction, and it actually has been altering my perception of myself and my life. Feel free to use this technique yourself!
As Richard Bach famously stated, "Argue for your limitations and they're yours." What if we stopped arguing on behalf of how "hard" things are and started to allow our life to be filled with more peace and ease, instead of perpetuating the struggle? While the idea of things authentically being easy may not be, ironically, the easiest thing for you to embrace, I challenge you (as I challenge myself) to take this on in your life and become more comfortable with it. Maybe it will actually be easier than you think!
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Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info -- www.Mike-Robbins.com