We’ve all had this thought in our lives and probably even more so in the last year: “When will things just get easier?”
I’ve found myself saying that several times over the last six months as I experience different challenges, take on more responsibility, and push myself to grow in multiple areas of my life — all concurrently with quarantine. It’s been a truly challenging time. Difficult for routine. Time to work or time to spend with my family changes often and on a dime. The pandemic, challenges of two working parents during quarantine, and trials in my personal life have been fluid and unpredictable at times over the last six months.
Isn’t that life?
Do things ever really get easier or ‘normal?’
I’m 38, and when I look back on my life, I don’t recall a period of complete smoothness in all areas of my life. Life is challenging, and in most personal periods, we experience things that, at the least, take us out of our comfort zone, stretch us, force us to grow and become more. That’s completely normal.
It’s in these times that we must remember a quote from Jim Rohn,
“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.”
The most challenging economic environments built some of the most outstanding companies, from General Motors to IBM to Disney to FedEx to Microsoft — during a recession, these companies started. There is a reason that metal forms under fire.
In the moments you feel like you need relief or a pause or some change in direction from our dear friend fortune — it would help if you got better.
This mindset has served some of the greatest men and women throughout history, and the strategies below will help you in your pursuit to get better in your life — no matter what season you may be experiencing.
Be Prepared For What Life Requires of You
I would challenge you to find any man or woman who has experienced success in their lives that hasn’t overcome meaningful obstacles in their way — big or small.
Theodore Roosevelt, upon losing his wife during childbirth, only 11 hours after losing his mother, stated, “The light has gone out of my life.” Yet, through pure determination, and probably a little stubbornness, Roosevelt went on to achieve a long list of accomplishments, which include: author of 18 books, Governor of New York, Medal of Honor for his role in the Spanish — American War, 1906 Nobel Peace Prize, and a two-term President of the United States of America.
Not bad for a guy who said in 1884 that his light had disappeared.
Frederick Douglass had to free himself from slavery and teach himself to read. Einstein didn’t speak until he was 4. Edison took at least 1,000 attempts at inventing the light bulb. FDR was paralyzed at 39, Katherine Graham was the first Fortune 500 female CEO after the death of her husband, and Oprah overcame childhood abuse and poverty. Jay Z was unable to get a record deal. Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team, and Tom Brady was a backup in college.
Yet, you probably don’t know half these stories because they took their lives in a direction that we now celebrate and are in awe of.
In each of these situations, these great men and women faced obstacles — ones in which they had no control over. In each individual, we find the perseverance to overcome the obstacles and push past them with strength and courage.
You, I, all of us must do the same thing in our own lives. As Ryan Holiday asks, in his great book on this same subject, Obstacle is the Way,
“Will we be blocked by obstacles, or will we advance through and over them?”
Step Up When Your Circumstances Step Up
One of the many exercises in Navy Seal training is called “surf torture.” In this exercise, the whole group locks arms with one another and stands in frigid ocean water until your body is on the verge of hypothermia. Then, each Seal covers themselves from head to toe in sand. With sand all over them, cold and uncomfortable, they proceed with the rest of their day and duties. This exercise is a daily occurrence early on in their training, and it’s intended to help a Seal adapt to getting comfortable being uncomfortable or, as they say, “embrace the suck.”
Embracing these uncomfortable and less than pleasant situations in our own lives is not nearly as desired. Instead, we’d prefer to run away, slip under a rock, ignore it, or hope that it goes away. Stepping up and facing it is rarely our first instinctive move when facing something challenging in our lives.
Still, no matter what we are facing, the next move will always be facing it with the strength and courage necessary to move past it. Whether it’s something small or something that looms much larger, we all need strength and courage to face what’s in front of us and what lies up ahead.
Stepping up, facing it, dealing with it. The damage that’s been done, the problem that needs a solution, or the uncomfortable conversation, which must occur. Your circumstances will require and demand something more of you in life. You won’t be given the luxury of sitting idle without consequences on the other side.
It Won’t Get Easier
Life doesn’t get “easier.” You grow more confident. You become more fearless. You develop more grit, determination, and fortitude.
What you can’t do is wish it to get better, or worse, have fear. As legendary collegiate Squash coach Paul Assaiante said, “If you feel fear, you will live with regret. You will fail. You will not learn. You have to feel brave and calm. You have to run to the roar.”
So we must run towards it. Face it. Move with courage. Build our confidence and understand that it won’t get easier. We will get better. As the Hall of Fame NFL coach Bill Walsh said about overcoming setbacks,
“you’ll find an increasing confidence & self-assurance that has been created by conquering defeat.”
Don’t wait for it to get better. Become better.