Choose Your HardFeb 20, 2023
It shouldn't be this hard.
I just want it to be easy.
I need a break.
Between my job as a psychologist, networking with other professionals, and just because I'm chatty, I meet a lot of people. People with different backgrounds, life situations, and pain points. Yet, I hear that sentiment frequently.
We're tired. Tired of the struggle. Tired of feeling certain ways. Tired of working hard. And we just want it to be smooth sailing. How incredibly understandable is that? Especially when we consider what being on the brink of (or deep into) burn out feels like. We do get exhausted or overwhelmed or maxed out and just need some breathing room. That's a very real need.
At the same itme, there seems to be this pervasive core belief that it is possible - and desirable - to be problem-free. It's understandable that we would hold this belief. After all, our minds are designed to solve problems. We are driven to and quite capable of doing so. Take that natural tendency and then factor in societal messages that if you just solve this one problem, you'll be happy, whether that's getting that new thing you just have to have, an appearance issue, a relationship problem, you name it, and it's no wonder that we see problems as bad and are striving to get rid of them. Fix this one last thing, and voila, life will be easy. No more problems. It's Easy Street from here on out.
But that's B.S. and you know it.
There's No Such Thing As Problem-Free
Life is hard. It's solving one problem after another...and that's not necessarily a bad thing. While the promise of getting to a problem-free point is alluring, I don't think it's possible. Solving one problem creates another. If I solved the problem of needing money to fund my lifestyle and became independently wealthy, I'd no longer have financial problems. Sure, but new ones may arise, like higher tax brackets or people using me for money.
If I solve the problem of dissatisfaction in a relationship, job, or location by moving on, don't I create the problem of uncertainty, starting over, or figuring out all the logistics?
If we go to the extreme and I solve the problem of removing every demand for my time and every stressor in my life, might that be replaced with the problem of boredom or purposelessness?
Even on a biological level, if I solve the problem of hunger or thirst, I'm creating the problem of needing to use the bathroom in the very near future.
So if solving one problem will create another, then we're unlikely to get the point of being completely problem-free, at least in a sustainable way.
Having realistic and helpful beliefs about problems is important. Perhaps problems aren't necessarily bad. Perhaps they can be reframed as challenges or even opportunities. And perhaps we can embrace or even welcome the idea that life is a series of problems to solve.
We're big proponents of the concept of radical responsibility at Peak Mind. Radical responsibility holds that you are 100% responsible for 100% of the situations you find yourself in. It's not about fault or blame. Those are backward looking things. Radical responsibility is about acknowledging the situation you are currently in, regardless of how or why you got there, and taking ownership of your next step.
Think of it as "What response am I able to take?" Response-able. Responsible.
What if we applied this radical responsibility mentality to this idea that life is a series of problems? What if we started asking ourselves what problems we want to solve? What if we started actively choosing our problems, at least when and where we can?
Choose Your Hard
In my clinical practice, I tell my patients, "Once is a fluke. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a pattern." Well, as embarrassing as it may be to admit, I'm well on my way to acknowledging a pattern of getting life changing, perspective shifting advice from Facebook memes. First, it was: Just because life gives you a cactus, doesn't mean you have to sit on it. I have said that countless times to my patients, to my friends, to myself over the years. Now, it's: Choose your hard, which was the real inspiration behind this week's post.
Choose your hard.
Meditating every day? Hard. Having a busy, racing mind. Hard. Your choice.
Working out. Hard. Dealing with poor health. Hard. Your choice.
Having a difficult conversation or being vulnerable. Hard. And hard. Having unhealthy relationships, lacking intimacy, being treated poorly. Hard. Your choice.
Learning new material that makes your mind stretch. Hard. Losing cognitive abilities. Hard. Yep, still your choice.
See what I mean? Hard now or hard later, which will turn into Now very quickly. Solve one problem, create another.
Life is all about choosing the problems you want to solve, choosing your hard.
(Disclaimer: Yes, I absolutely realize that sometimes problems happen that we did not choose and had zero control over. We don't actually get to choose every aspect of our daily experience, but refer back to that first life-changing meme. We can sit on the cactus. Hard. Or we can do the work to take radical responsibility and take charge of our suffering. Hard. Your choice.)
"What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?"
- Mark Manson
Written by Dr. Ashley Smith
Peak Mind Co-founder
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