I’ve been thinking a lot lately how people try and set up stress free lives. They wear it almost as a badge of honour. We know there will always be situations where life hits you with unplanned circumstances or traumatic events. Whether it’s moving house, having to find a new job, someone you love is no longer in your life or friendships taking a turn for the worse. They will come – we just don’t know when. As Benjamin Franklin says: ‘The only thing you can be certain of is death and taxes’. Yet avoiding stress or what we may call ‘the struggle’ all the time. Is it really setting us up well?
You might be someone who choses to make a difference in the world. Avoiding obstacles and hiding from stress is impossible. If you are pushing against ‘norms’ and new ways of working, it’s gunna be tough. People will oppose you, systems will go against you and you’ll even question yourself. I don’t know any people, who chose this path, who have not felt the strain. You only need to read biographies on Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Ray Dalio, Cathy Freeman, Michelle Obama, to see that struggle was a consistent theme in their life. Or look at people in your world who are leading something. They don’t need to be famous to experience this.
Or you may be someone who wants to set up an environment that delights in the world you live in. You might avoid the news (it’s depressing after all), cut out those in your life that put you on edge (we all have choices after all) or decide that you don’t need to aim for collecting more ‘stuff’ (you can’t take it with you).
Neither of these choices are right or wrong. Yet what I have learnt from years of coaching, mentoring and working with leaders is whatever path you choose – there will be struggle. Hiding from it doesn’t make it go away. That just reminds me of playing hide and seek with the kids when they were little. If they shut their eyes then you couldn’t see them right?!
No matter how you chose to live your life, and it is your choice, you can’t avoid painful experiences. But that’s not the problem. The problem is how we view the pain. We may see it as the enemy rather than a guide.
Brene Brown’s Netflix program ‘The Call to Courage’ is so friggin’ brilliant! If you haven’t watched it. Do it! If you have, do it again! She reminds us that those people who are the most resilient have learnt not to avoid pain – but to do it well. “It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome”. It’s not ignoring the pain and numbing ourselves with Netflix (yes I see the irony), or being busy, or internet surfing or gaming. Feeling the pain and trying to understand what and why we are feeling the way we do.. is courage.
If I ‘numbed’ my pain when I walked away from another failed relationship, it would be highly likely that I could walk straight into another one and have the same outcome. Been there done that. Not gunna do it again!
If I blamed my past employer for losing my job I would never understand the role I played in that situation and learn a better way for the future. If I put my head in the sand about how I feel about someone I value ignoring my advice then I would continue to create distance in that relationship. I wouldn’t create the opportunity to heal it or learn from it.
Vulnerably is actually courage. The vulnerability to feel the pain and understand it. It’s how we measure how courageous we are.
To quote Ray Dalio, the Founder of the most successful hedge fund in the world and expert in understanding global markets:
‘Instead of avoiding the struggle let’s learn to struggle well’.
To live a life making a difference or making the most of your environment don’t have to be opposed. It can be both. It’s when we deal with the stuff that’s painful and see it as part of our transformation then we learn to walk differently. Pain is no longer the enemy. It’s our guide.
What do you need to be guided on today?