Why We Need to Struggle

May 22, 2012

“When we long for life without difficulties,
remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds
and diamonds are made under pressure”  

~ Peter Marshall

I was walking through Rocky Mountain National Park today when I saw a man struggling to climb a small rock face just off the trail. His friends had climbed it and were waiting about ten feet above him, encouraging him that he could do it. He kept telling his friends that it was too hard for him, he looked totally dejected and I could tell he was frustrated and wanted to quit.

I stopped and watched him for a minute. I noticed that I wanted to go help him — I could just walk over and boost him up to be able to grab the rock he was trying to reach, it would have been easy for me, and a really nice gesture.

But I didn’t.
I continued on my walk, and left him to struggle.

I love helping people, and especially lending a hand to strangers, but I also wanted the best for this guy.

Sometimes the point of rock climbing, hiking challenging trails or any kind of adventure activity is to overcome our fear. On this day, doing nothing was the best service I could offer, so I walked on.

Most of us want growth and comfort.

We think that if we find the right job, we can relax and enjoy the ride. We think that if we play our cards right we can create a business that will generate passive income so we can have a happy life with no insurmountable challenges. We think that if we figure out the system we can find a romantic partner that we’re so well matched with, we hardly ever have to put in work.

We think we can have growth and comfort, and we’re wrong.

As much as I wish that this sometimes isn’t true, in my life I’ve found that I’m the happiest when I’m growing. That means, no challenges = no happiness. And by the way, I’m not talking about challenges like how do I fix the clogged sink or how do I manage a busy schedule, I’m talking about putting your ass on the line. The kind of challenges that churn your stomach.

The breakthrough comes when you redefine your standard for comfort.

Just like a downhill skier that learns to lean in instead of trying to slow down, you can get used to the speed, you can get used to the discomfort.

If it was easy, everyone would do it. That’s why all the things you want for your life aren’t easy. They aren’t supposed to be.

Have you ever had a great workout without struggling? Have you ever competed in an sport and looked back to tell stories about how easy it was?

Not only do we need to struggle, struggling is the whole point of the game.

You can grow, or you can be comfortable, but you can’t do both.


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