Why We Need to Stop Bastardizing Struggle
I’m going to Baader-Meinhof you: “STRUGGLE.”
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon occurs when you become aware of something, and then start to notice it everywhere around you.
Like Cole in The Sixth Sense who saw “dead people,” I see struggle.
If you don’t see it already, you’re about to see struggle too.
I don’t actually see people struggling.
I see and hear people write and talk about their struggle. However, the situations they describe as struggle are nothing more than the challenges of everyday life.
We live at a time when when things are fairly good for most people.
However, the human mind has a way of finding problems. In the absence of major problems, we tend to make the minor ones major, at least in our minds.
We literally make mountains out of a mole hills.
We start to believe the little stuff that’s part of life is a bigger deal than it is.
That’s dangerous. If you believe the little stuff is a struggle, you’ll be woefully unprepared for the big stuff that truly is a struggle.
In addition, you’ll perceive everything that’s a challenge as a struggle. Eventually, your mind will be overwhelmed with all the “struggles” you face, and you’ll feel like something is either wrong with you, or the world is against you.
What does it mean to struggle?
According to the Collins English Dictionary, the definition of struggle is:
to contend with an adversary or opposing force.
to contend resolutely with a task, problem, etc.; strive
to advance with violent effort
Each of the three definitions involves a tone of action and tenacity.
To advance with violent effort means you deliberately, intentionally, passionately do whatever it takes to reach your goal.
Sometimes the opposing force is you. Sometimes the opposing force is a false perception of the world you live in. Sometimes the opposing force is all the stuff you have to get done to reach your goal.
The point is, for you to truly struggle, you can’t passively sit around and talk about how hard things are. You don’t search for sympathy or settle for things staying as they are. You don’t whine and complain. You don’t wish for someone else to deal with your stuff for you.
If you truly struggle, you take all the action necessary to achieve your goal, in spite of the resistance pushing down on you.
Struggle is Not…
When someone says…
…they struggle to eat well, while they have a refrigerator full of junk food, or
they struggle to build a home-based business, while they spend their evenings scrolling through Facebook, or
they struggle in their marriage, while pointing their finger at their spouse, and doing nothing to change their own ways of communicating and relating to him or her, or
they struggle in college while spending study time in a drunken stupor, or
they struggle to get a promotion at work, while doing the bare minimum to keep their job, or
they struggle to get out of debt while buying toys and TVs on credit…
…they do not struggle. They face a reality of life that comes from choices that take them down a different path than the choices that are proven to work.
a student with ADHD who controls his impulses long enough to study the material for class, even though it’s 10 times harder for him than it is for his classmates, or
a stay-at-home mom who makes the most of the job she has, so she can provide for her family, and brings joy home with her even though her days are long and the deadbeat dad is nowhere to be found, or
an alcoholic who holds true to his sobriety, even when friends drink all around him, or
the husband who encourages and lifts up his wife as she battles through one health complication after another, not knowing what the future might hold, or
the parents who unexpectedly lose a child, and work through the grief together, while lifting up and encouraging their other children, or
the athlete who’s badly hurt, and deals with the pain and frustration of therapy to battle her way back, or
the husband who swallows his pride, sets aside his ego, and goes to work on how to understand and communicate with his wife in order to make good on the vow he committed to, or
the youth who refuses to live the life of those around her, and perseveres to build a better life and legacy for herself and her family
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.
Choose Your Struggles Carefully
I try to be intentional about the words I choose. The words I speak become beliefs I build up in my mind.
If I tell myself that every difficulty in my life is a struggle, eventually I’ll feel defeated by all the “opposing forces” working against me. Eventually, I’ll feel like a victim. And that is a very sad and helpless state to live in.
Not only is a victim helpless to fix his or her own stuff. Victims often suck the energy out of others as well.
If everything around you feels like it’s a struggle, you might need to shift your perspective.
Stop talking about your struggles, unless your consulting a close friend who will help you find a solution. Otherwise, stop talking about your struggles as struggles.
Start looking for solutions, and the clouds depart, the sun shines brighter, you feel a resurgence of energy, and the people in your life seem more eager to help you.
Life is full of challenges. Embrace them.
They help to soften your rough edges. They refine you.
Struggles are the life-altering, growth-inducing, rock-you-to-your-core obstacles that redefine you.
If you tell me you’re struggling, I expect that you’re doing everything within your power to overcome. If there’s some way I can help someone who’s truly struggling, I will do that.
If you’re just using the word struggle to describe normal challenges you face as being a human, sprinkle on some suckituptitude and get going on a solution.
Save the word struggle for those who really do struggle
I believe that the more we overuse struggle to describe the inconvenience, effort, discipline, consistency, and persistence that’s part of life, the more indifferent we’ll become toward those who truly struggle.
Sometimes, we just need to get over ourselves.
A Special Message to Men
I’m a little old-fashioned when it comes to the leadership role men are tasked with. It’s not that women can’t or shouldn’t lead as well. However, the brain chemistry of most men is different than women.
Physiologically, most healthy men are created to deal with more stress.
To persevere in spite of more difficulty.
To get by with less sleep. To display strength and confidence to the family even when thing are uncertain.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share some stuff with some men.
You need to share with a few other guys, but those guys ought to challenge you, not just cheer you on coddle you.
Sometimes even us guys can fall into a helpless victim mindset. I did too, and it hurt our family, business, and of course, our marriage.
Just be careful about oversharing your circumstances.
We need a few guys who lovingly correct our perspective, and then give us a kick in the butt to take care of our stuff.
It’s not what we always want to hear, but it is what we need to hear.
Hard times create strong men.
Strong men create good times.
Good times create weak men.
Weak men create hard times.
Your eyes and ears are open now. Pay attention to how often people use the word struggle. Then pay attention to how often it’s said about stuff that really isn’t struggle.
What Do You Think?
Agree? Vehemently disagree? I’d love to hear what you think.
If you agree, share this with others who could use the shift in perspective. If you disagree, share it with others and keep the conversation going.