Everybody struggles in life every now and then. Struggling is part of life. There isn’t something like a big or a small problem. It doesn’t matter what other people think or say, it all depends on your perception. That determines your personal struggle.
I struggle myself as well. I cope with bigger issues and smaller ones. No matter the size, a personal struggle makes me feel edgy, insecure, impatient, irritated, overwhelmed and sometimes angry.
I struggled a lot with the question ‘how do I cope with struggling?’
In our society struggling is a nasty word. Personal struggles are surrounded with assumptions. Those assumptions are created by others but have an impact on how you feel. And make your personal struggle even worse. In time assumptions of others become rules in your own head. You even don’t know how they got there in the first place.
We live in a world where you need to be sure of everything. Where you are supposed to have figured out all the possible answers and solutions to your struggle. If you don’t know how to deal with a situation it is your own fault.
Our leaders show confidence, whether they are truly confident or they pretend they are. They have answers to everything. Science is our modern religion and we have embraced the illusion we are totally in control. The funny thing is we are in control but only on the topics we know. Only with respect to the personal questions we already answered.
Struggling is characterized by not having the answers and the absence of confidence and happiness. You feel lost, insecure, irritated, ignorant or desperate to find an answer. There is an urge to solve your problem. I don’t know about you but I feel like this when I try hard and don’t know the answer.
What I learned about struggling is that a personal struggle always guides me to joy and insight. Not during a struggle but afterwards. I really don’t know when the joy will follow. I just know it will happen. Always. At some point. This confidence and knowledge help me to experience peace in a struggle. It is possible for me to let go and be patient. To lose the urge to do something, the deep need to control. I have learned I can give myself space for the answers to come to me. This is the theory I believe in. It doesn’t mean I control this process 😉
What makes a personal struggle a perfect struggle?
Before I can answer this question I need to know the opposite first. Why would a personal struggle be something bad? For me and many other people struggle comes with uncertainty and stress. Because I don’t know what to do and I don’t have an answer. That makes me feel unpleasant. Subsequently I want to fix this bad feeling. I want the unpleasant feeling to go away but I don’t succeed. And before I know it I am in a negative loop of stress and uncertainty. And this doesn’t help me in any way.
The key in turning a struggle into a perfect struggle is in the way of handling the personal struggle
# 1 See your own influence
The first thing I learned in coping with a struggle is to be aware that: this is a situation I created. Whether it is something that is happening in real life or in my mind (is there a difference anyway?). If you are able to really feel this perspective on your bother you have an opening to change.
#2 Allow yourself to be in a personal struggle in the first place
I believe that a struggle is a door to growth. The only thing you need to do is to learn how to open it and learn how to close it. If you dare to believe your toil is a good thing instead of a bad thing you are capable of opening that door. A struggle is not a thing you should try to wipe away as soon as possible. It is a chance to learn, to learn about yourself and to change things for the better. It is worth the uncomfortable feeling and to explore a bit.
#3 Have faith that personal struggle is a good thing
Allow yourself to believe a struggle is a good thing. It will feel like it on the long term. The situation brings you lessons, insights, personal growth and positive change. Although coping with your problem might really hurt in the moment, better times will come. Always (try to) believe that.
These are three ground rules – a basis mindset – to transfer your struggle into a perfect struggle. As a change management consultant I have coached a lot of people, I read many books about the subject and I have been through a burnout. I believe these three rules are by far the most important rules you need to integrate in your thinking to deal with a challenging situation in a good way.
What are the coping skills for the perfect struggle?
To effectively cope with a struggle – to make sure you make your struggle a perfect struggle – you need to master some skills.
#4 Allow yourself time to figure out what works for you
Sometimes time itself reveals answers. If you force it you will miss it. Be patient, you will see it.
#5 Learn to read signs
When I am tired it is a signal from my body to give myself a rest. It doesn’t mean I need to push harder. This is a lesson I learned recently and probably is my biggest challenge with respect to changing my behaviour.
I pushed myself for such a long time. I rarely see the purpose of slowing down. When I am tired I force myself to do a workout, go for a run or take my bike for a nice tour. It took me a long time to start yoga. To pace down. To relax.
This is my personal example of interpreting signs well. Do you know what is yours?
#6 Share and talk about your personal struggle
Two know more than one. Everybody has ideas how to deal with a situation. Listen to them and integrate what feels good for you. Talking about your trouble most often will ease it.
#7 Be disciplined and never give up
Dealing with trouble can be really hard. You feel bad and things don’t change the way you want them to be. The easiest thing to do is quit. But the certainty you have when quitting nothing changes for sure. Go back to the ground rules and start again. And again. At some point truth reveals itself and you will see some progress in your situation. It will give you some motivation to hold on. You will get there!
#8 Know where your influence starts and where it ends
I don’t know why I list this skill as number 8 but blame #4. This skill is as important as the ground rules. If you react on everything you will burnout. Being busy with things you can’t influence will worsen your struggle. If you respond to nothing you will vanish. Focus on what you can influence. The best seller book the 7 habits of highly effective people, written by Stephen Covey, will give you lots of insights about your own circle of influence.
The perfect struggle for me is
I realize I didn’t answer the question ‘what is a perfect struggle’ yet. For me it is a possibility to learn. Actually learning from your endeavour. Overcoming insecurity and fear, and not walking away.
A perfect struggle for me means that I am not afraid to look deep into the problem in trying to fix it. I overcome my fear and know it will bring me joy and pride in the end. The perfect struggle will open a door to new possibilities. It makes me learn and hereby makes me grow as a person. Exerting yourself as a precondition for personal growth.
I hope this blog and the skills mentioned help you to deal with struggles more pleasantly and effectively and turn it into a perfect struggle.
If you have questions or remarks please write them down in the comments and I do my best to respond.
Always remember there is no change without sacrifice. There is no joy without struggle.
Further reading about our personal struggles and personal struggles in general
Trying to be productive can be a personal struggle too. Read about Marleen’s personal struggle to become more productive – and how she feels unsatisfied – in the blog My struggle to become productive.
Or would you like to read this blog about a lighter personal struggle? Marleen went crazy from someone who was smacking very loud on a night train in China.
We are The Perfect Strugglers for a reason. We keep on trying, learning and struggling, and in the end.. benefit! And thanks to this blog you will benefit too from our struggling. Read which five lessons to live a meaningful life JD has extracted from his personal struggles.
Being a digital nomad couple involves personal struggles too. Read this blog and find out what the benefits and difficulties are in our nomadic lifestyle (already more than 5 years now!).