Life is hard. Learning a new language is hard. Building a new relationship is hard. Getting a big project done in half the time is hard. Learning calculus is hard. Resolving conflict is hard. Finding the right person to spend your life with is hard.
Building a great marriage is hard. Starting a new business is hard. Landing a big deal is hard. Raising up positive, faith-walking morally responsible children is hard. Getting out from a bad credit rating is hard. Winning a championship is hard. Getting a 4.0 GPA is hard. Finding the right job is hard.
I could go on and on. Losing weight is hard. Building an unshakeable self-esteem is hard. Going to a meeting where you know no one is hard. Asking for a raise is hard. Moving to a new community where you know no one and starting over again is hard. Confronting someone about a problem is hard. Loving someone when they’re not returning your love is hard.
Bottom line, life is hard.
And whenever something is hard or difficult for us, the natural response that most of us have is to wish for that something to be easier. If it was just easier to lose this weight, then I’d do it. If it was easier, I could get this project done. If it was easier, I could build a great relationship. If it was easier, I could get a 4.0. If it was easier, I could speak four languages. Etc.
However, that is not how life works. Relationships will always be hard. Work will always be hard. Winning will always be hard. Managing money will always be hard. Learning complicated concepts will always be hard.
Note: I’m not trying to be pessimistic at all. I’m an optimist. But true optimism is always rooted in reality. And the reality is that all of the above are hard. If everything in life were easy, everyone would be succeeding. But everyone is not succeeding because most things in life, especially those worth doing, are difficult.
As Mark Twain said years ago,
“Opportunity is missed by many people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
So, what’s the solution?
I. Don’t Focus On The Problem
Whenever you’re tempted to think, “I wish _________ was easier” where are you focusing your attention? Exactly, on the problem. And the problem with doing that is that one of the Johnson Rules is “You always move in the direction of your currently dominate thought.”
For example, let’s say you’re in class and you’re sitting there thinking, “I wish differential equations were easier.” What are you telling yourself? You’re telling yourself that what you’re dealing with is hard and difficult. That it’s bigger than you. That it’s challenging. That it’s uncomfortable. Etc.
And since you always move in the direction of your currently dominate thought, the more you focus on a problem the more you make that problem bigger and your capacity to handle it smaller. In essence, by wishing that the thing in front of you was easier, you’re disempowering yourself and removing personal responsibility from your life.
This is always true. Any time you focus your attention on a problem and wish that it was easier, you’re making that problem bigger and your capacity to overcome it smaller.
So, what problem have you been focusing on recently that you’ve been wishing was easier?
II. Focus On Your Ability To Be Better
Using the same principle as above (that we always move in the direction of our currently dominate thought), if you were to change your focus from the problem to you and your capacity to grow and change, what would the outcome be? Exactly, you’d be filled with hope (that’s true optimism).
You see, when you focus on a problem, you rob yourself of personal responsibility and the potential for change (“This is bad and it’s going to get worse”). However, when you stop focusing on the problem and you start focusing on the potential solution (you getting better), you immediately infuse yourself with the power for a positive outcome.
This is not Pollyanna-ism. You’ve already demonstrated in your life that you possess the ability to grow and become better. There was a time you couldn’t walk, but you figured it out. There was a time you couldn’t speak English, but you mastered that. There was a time you couldn’t do multiplication or division, but you overcame that. There was a time you couldn’t write a cogent sentence, but now you can.
Who you were five years ago, and who you are today are two completely different people. And who you will be five years from now will be radically different than the person you are right now … if you continue to focus your attention on your ability to grow and master things that at one point in time seemed insurmountable.
In fact, you may want to take some time to make a list of all the things that you’ve succeeded at or overcome in your life starting with, “Survived birth canal.” Review it as often as you need to in order to remind yourself that you have a long history of overcoming challenges and difficult things.
You are your best bet for your life. So, bet on you. Don’t wish something hard was easier, wish you were better. And keep reminding yourself that your track record says, “I can overcome this. I can do this. I can be better!”
III. Grow Your Ability to Be Better
Once you make the mental switch from wishing something was easier to wishing you were better, you then simply need to make sure you take the next step of actually growing you. The reason so many people tend to be so negative about positive thinking is because they think that positive thinking is simply about hoping—and that’s not true.
Positive thinking should always lead to positive action. Going back to the calculus illustration. Positive thinking doesn’t say, “Calculus is easy,” (that would be a lie). No, positive thinking says, “Based on my past record of overcoming difficult subjects, I can definitely master calculus,” and that thought should then lead to a series of actions that will allow you to master it.
In other words, once you possess the mindset for overcoming a challenge, you then have what you need to “get better,” (i.e. you now have the belief that you can do so). If you take the belief part out, it’s incredibly difficult to gain mastery over anything. However, if you have it, you then have the internal strength to take the next steps you need to take to master that problem.
For example, it’s incredibly difficult to resolve conflict with someone if you think it’s impossible. However, if you think it’s possible, then you’ll find a way. You’ll learn new conflict resolution skills. You’ll study negotiation. You’ll talk to other people to learn how they’ve handled similar situations. etc. And as you begin the process of resolving that conflict with whomever you’re in conflict with, you’ll also learn some new things about you. And, at the end of the day, regardless of what happens with that relationship, you’ll be a better person because you didn’t focus on the problem you focused on you becoming a better you.
If you do that on a consistent basis, you’ll become incredibly pleased with the person you are becoming and you’ll achieve all kinds of things that other people simply hope for.
So, don’t wish something hard was easier, wish you were better!
To your accelerated success,
Flickr photo by Dawn Huczek