Last Thursday, I had what I can only call a bad day. Everything that day felt hard. My writing, my training, my personal life — in all of it, I felt lost, frustrated, and unsure of what to do next.
After struggling through one thing after another, I began to wonder if I was on the wrong path. ‘Maybe it’s time to try something else,’ the voice in my head nagged at me. ‘You seem to be sucking at everything lately.’
Although most people see quitting as a sign of giving up, quitting isn’t always a bad thing. Conversely, quitting things that no longer match our current priorities can free up our time and energy for the things we care more about. But when I gut-checked myself that day, it quickly became clear that quitting wasn’t the right move.
Instead, I needed to accept that I was in a challenging place with each of my goals — and that it was not only OK, but it might also be a good sign that I was feeling that way.
Growth usually results from big challenges — whether chosen or not. So, what if instead of reacting to times of struggle as a sign that we need to back off or that we’re doing something wrong, we looked at them as a sign we’re doing something right?
When we’re in the gym, pushing ourselves through a difficult workout, we know that the challenge we’re putting ourselves through now will pay off and result in a stronger, fitter version of ourselves later.
We can learn to reframe other challenges in our lives in this way, too. It takes practice and might mean we must keep reminding ourselves that struggle is the path to growth, but it’s doable. It starts with the simple awareness that the feeling of struggle is normal — and even desirable.
As Martha Beck writes in Finding Your Own North Star:
“We see loss of identity, temporary lack of direction, and a sense of unfamiliarity as terrible catastrophes, instead of typical and essential parts of personal growth. Like a woman who can handle the pain of childbirth once she learns it’s normal, you can learn to recognize and accept the emotional agony of giving birth to a new you.”
When we recognize that most things worth doing are supposed to be hard, we become less surprised when we reach points in our journey where we’re lost, frustrated, or unsure of what to do next.
We can simply acknowledge it, accept it, and tell the voice in our head that it should feel this way. And then we must do the only thing we can do: figure out the tiniest possible next step to keep us moving forward.