This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled.
The last 2 years have been unbelievably difficult for many of us. People have lost their jobs, marriages have broken up, people have had to home school their children, get used to working remotely, and there is an epidemic of mental health issues.
Has this period of your life been more difficult than other periods of your life? For me, it’s not that it’s been more difficult. It’s that it’s been difficult in different ways. I can think of countless periods in my life where life has been difficult – times when I had money troubles; times when I started a new business; when a relationship broke up; when I was in a toxic work environment; when my son left home. Those were all difficult, but I can’t rate them on some kind of comparative scale.
The fact is that life is difficult. The real world is not for sissies. The world of work has no place for snowflakes. The social media space is brutal. Children and adults are experiencing bullying online and “out there”. There are no “safe spaces”!
We are also tiptoeing around everyone’s issues trying desperately not to offend anyone. That is simply not sustainable, and it’s just not authentic. How are you supposed to live a fulfilling and authentic life when you spend it worrying about who is going to be offended? We seem to live in a world where the worst thing you can do is offend someone. Really?
If you go through life looking for things to offend you, you will find them by the thousands. Looking for things to offend you is about hanging on to your wounds and making the rest of the world responsible for not “poking” those wounds.
Everyone has wounds! No matter how idyllic your childhood, or how charmed your life, there are experiences in your past or present that are wounding and that you can allow to define you.
Do you have a right to do that? Of course you do! But it is not about what you are entitled to do. You are fully entitled to hold onto every wound you have ever experienced. You are entitled to feel any way you choose. It is not for me or anyone else to tell you how to feel.
You can hold onto your wounds. You can pick them and scratch them and bring them out for everyone to see. You can yelp every time someone pokes or bumps them and hold them responsible for your pain. You can do that, but in the words of Dr Phil (McGraw), “How’s that working out for you?”
Or you can do the work of healing and getting on with making a successful and happy life for yourself. If you do that, nobody will be able to offend you. It will no longer be your stuff. People around you will make thoughtless or insensitive comments. They may even make outrageous comments that are deeply bigoted. You will have a wider range of choices if you are no longer defined by your wounds:
- You can choose to ignore it and move on;
- You can choose to point out that it is a bigoted remark that has no place in your circle of friends;
- You can pick up that it is a pattern and choose to move away.
Each of these choices can be made without your day being ruined. They are values-based choices. They don’t need to be fed with negative energy. You don’t need to talk over and over about how offended you are. You make a choice about how to deal with it and you move on.
In my opinion (as humble as it isn’t), there is nothing to be gained by hanging onto and being defined by your wounds. If you experienced abuse in your past, will you live the rest of your life defined by it? If you (or your parents even) experienced racism in their past, will your life be defined by that? If you have a boss who is a bully, or you work in a toxic environment, will you allow that to shape every aspect of your life?
You can choose to, but it is going to keep you hyper-vigilant (anxious), easily upset, constantly focused on the negative, offended, and it will suck the energy out of you. It will also suck the energy out of every interpersonal scenario you find yourself in. You will find yourself immersed in pity parties with other similarly wounded people – and you can scratch each other’s wounds in a continuous game of ain’t it awful.
Life is difficult. It is difficult for everyone in different ways. That’s just how it is. I believe we owe it to ourselves to embrace this as a fact - it is true for everyone. This means that some people will grapple with anxiety – that is their form of “life is difficult”. Some people will struggle with depression – their form of “life is difficult”. Some people will struggle with a toxic boss, or a challenging business environment. Some will have constant or repeated money challenges. Some will struggle with failed or failing relationships. Everyone is going to have their own struggles.
We need to be able to ride them out. We need to develop resilience. We need to raise resilient children. We need to have grit. We need to develop mental toughness. These are the things that enable us to rise above life’s difficulties and thrive. It takes work. It doesn’t just happen. It’s not about being naturally resilient, or naturally tough. It takes work.
I am on a bit of a mission in 2022. I want to bring the focus from our wounds and our difficulties to the things that will enable us to succeed and thrive regardless of what life chucks at us. Look out for articles that deal with issues such as:
- How to develop resilience;
- What is grit and how can you get some;
- How can you become mentally tough;
- Burnout: how it happens, how to recover and how to prevent it.
Let me know if there are any specific topics in line with this theme that you would like to read about.
For each and every one of you, I hope that 2022 is a kinder, gentler year and, if it is not, that you will have the courage and the fortitude to deal with whatever may come your way.