When The Struggle Is Real, It Will Be Worth It

Running Away From Pain Only Intensifies It

“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” — Orison Swett Marden

The American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a letter to his daughter Scottie in 1940 saying: “Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat; the redeeming things are not happiness and pleasure but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle.” Struggle is closely tied to the human condition, a simmering battle of opposing forces. It lurks amidst the anguish of opportunity and seizes us in moments of weakness. The struggle is obvious, whether we’re chasing our dreams or caught up in the grind of everyday living. Embedded in each person’s struggle is a purpose waiting to unfold. Yet, many people never make it this far because the struggle intensifies their pain, and they quit while they are ahead. In fact, the biggest impediments faced during times of struggle are the thoughts that get in the way. Just think of the last time you were angry and considered writing an abrasive email, yet came back to it the following day. I’m sure the intensity waned, and you no longer felt the same. Why is that? The point I wish to emphasise is that your thoughts and corresponding emotions are real. You experience their intensity and feel compelled to act on them. We ought to feel our emotions, but avoid being trapped by their impulsiveness.

Running away from pain only intensifies it. That is why we should explore our emotions but not stuff them down. The problem is that we become trapped in our thoughts and overstate what is taking place. We assign a storyline that does not reflect reality. Looking back on history, the greatest stories arose from pain and struggle. Joseph Campbell’s mythological narrative of the Hero’s Journey draws on twelve distinct themes, the two major encounters being Crossing The Threshold and The Ordeal. This same narrative is the basis of every successful Hollywood film. The main character experiences an obstacle in the beginning, only to overcome it in the end. Moreover, the American writer Mark Twain once wrote: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” We identify with this narrative because it is the human story we know all too well. These forces are sewn into the fabric of life; designed to help us discover our greatness if we dare.

Embrace The Struggle, The Pain And The Disappointment

“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.” — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Inner growth does not occur without resistance and struggle. Those who accumulate financial riches are not immune to life’s challenges. The struggle is the seed that gives life to the unfolding story that beckons us to explore. What if our struggles lay the foundations for something greater to emerge? Is it worth exploring? If there’s a compelling enough reason, it may ultimately lead us to success. Nothing should stand in the way if our motives are strong enough. Rest if you must. Take a break, however long, but don’t give up because you interfere with the unfolding story if you exit midway. How can you maintain a hopeful outlook during uncertain times you ask? First, embrace the struggle, the pain and the disappointment. By associating with it, you appreciate the goal or dream is real. The frustration, the heartache, and misery are inviting you to reach higher. Recall the Hero’s Journey?

No one portrays this more persuasively than the former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, in a speech entitled Man in the Arena: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Don’t run away from the struggle, as it will linger longer than it needs to. Consider it an old friend who comes to stay for a while, yet is still sleeping on your couch six months later. The struggle is not constrained by a timeline nor concerned by your disappointments. When it ushers into your life, it will turn you inside out and entrench itself deep within your psyche.

So, invite it in, make it a cup of coffee since it will stay longer than expected. Become acquainted with what it wants you to know and why it has called upon you. Identify with the struggle and don’t defeat it sooner because it will overstay its welcome if you force it to leave. The spiritual author Mary O’Malley wrote in What’s in the Way Is the Way: A Practical Guide for Waking Up to Life: “In fact, everything in your life is a part of the journey into recognizing and living from a place that is beyond struggle.” Then one day, the struggle will disappear in search of another person to befriend. Bid it farewell and be ready to welcome the next episode; reward. When she sweeps in, it will be as though the struggle was a moment frozen in time. It is with that we return to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s opening quote and draw your attention to the deeper satisfaction that emerges out of our struggles. If you did not experience pain, how would you know the depths of your character? For hidden within the recesses of your soul lies the need for glory, made apparent as struggle.

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