Struggling with Daily Difficult Things
I looked at the golden light reflecting on the pool’s clear blue. “This is going to be cold.” I told myself. I had gotten up at 4:30am to get a swim in before devotions, and make it to my daily morning huddle with the Bridge Southeast Asia team at 7:00am.
Yes, we start our first meeting at 7:00am. What time do we end?
When the job is done.
People don’t exit movies after a certain time. People leave the cinema when the movie is done – which many times includes scenes after the credits. People don’t leave their favorite restaurants after a certain time. They leave when they’re done eating (or hanging out). The point is this, if you want a good career, just as with a good movie or a good restaurant, don’t base your exit on the time, base it on your purpose. Leave when the job is done not simply because you ran out of time to succeed.
Back to the pool.
I stood at the edge of the pool, preparing myself for the upcoming freeze, “Just jump in already. No more thinking about how cold it is.”
And I jumped in. And I felt the uncomfortable cold all over my body. And…
… And my body acclimatized – like it always does.
I share this to highlight two realities:
1. Like most people, I struggle daily with my disciplines
I struggle with doing the necessary things, especially when it is uncomfortable to do so. Like pretty much everyone, I struggle with paying the necessary cost of achieving goals. And I struggle with these things everyday. Overtime, I find that some struggles are not as difficult as they once were but there’s always a bigger dream or a new pursuit that introduces new struggles. The path of constant growth doesn’t get sucked into a lifestyle sweet spot but adopts rhythms of continued progress.
The point is, like all people, I have my struggles and face them daily, and it’s not because I’m especially great or especially stupid, but simply because we will find difficult anything that is beyond than our current capabilities. This is why we have to grow. But while we’re still growing, while things are still difficult, we need to keep our struggles in perspective.
It’s very common for our vanity to make us think that our challenges are unique to us, are more serious than the challenges of others, or are of greater significance or greater difficulty. The reality is these thoughts are emotional, and there is no objective proof that our circumstances are so special. EVERYONE goes through things at different points in their life. I’ve had my financial highs and lows. I’ve had my joyful days and my crushed days. I’ve had my victories and shames. And you have too. Our circumstances don’t make our situations special, even if our entitlement likes to think they are. I need to remind myself of this when I face my own struggles or when I see others struggle. It helps correct my perspective.
It also reminds me of the second thing I want to highlight: 2. Do them anyway. Everyone struggles. The difference is not in our struggle but in our response.
It’s funny how I replay the same episode pretty much on every swim day. I wake up early and think, “This is too early. I’m still tired. I want to sleep more.” Then I get up anyway. I put on my trunks, grab my goggles, go down to the pool, and think, “This is going to be cold.” Then I jump anyway. It’s not different from running days, when my brain comes up with reasons not to run. Then I run anyway. It’s not too different during days I don’t feel like working, I work anyway. When I don’t feel like reading, I read anyway. When I don’t feel like having my devotions, usually out of laziness or guilt or some pressing concern, I pray anyway. When I don’t feel like confronting an issue, I face it anyway.
I’ve found that that it’s a myth that I always have to like something to do it. And I also don’t have to like something to receive its benefits. Just like a child who hates vegetables can still receive its nutrition if he eats it, a lot of success requires doing things we don’t feel like doing. To believe that we can succeed doing only the things we feel like doing is foolish. There is no way I’ll achieve my health goals if I only eat what I want to. There’s no way I’ll achieve my financial goals if I manage my money based on how I feel. There’s no way my relationships will last either. A lot of achievement rests on our ability to do the necessary difficult things.
It’s not enough to know what the right thing to do is. We need to do the right things even when we don’t feel like doing them.
Name Your Solutions
I’ve been reading a bit on mental disorders like depression and ADHD. I know a lot of people like to “spiritualize” everything, but there is a physical, emotional, and mental dimension to things. It’s very possible to be feeling down due to hormonal changes or some bodily function going nuts. But while it’s great that we’ve named “challenges” and identified in more detail the things people struggle with, I believe it’s more important to name the solutions and apply them.
Yes, there is depression, but there is prayer, exercise, relationship, and good old fashioned grit, among other solutions. There are lazy days, but there’s also responsibility and purpose. There is traffic, but there’s planning and discipline. There is fear, but there is courage and faith. There are financial limitations, but there’s hard work, frugality, and contentment. There is ignorance, but there’s study, research, and discovery. We succeed not by having no challenges but by defeating our excuses. As we persevere, we find that for each challenge more solutions come up as our character develops.
Then I realized this idea isn’t original at all. It’s found in Romans 5:3-5. When we persevere and develop our character we find hope, a hope that does not fail.
We arrive at another simple point, and this article’s last, while we all struggle with daily disciplines, if we keep doing them anyway, we can live each day hopeful that today’s struggles will be tomorrow’s victories.