Much has been written about the human capacity to overcome obstacles. These “hard things” are the unexpected challenges we all encounter in our lives and need to figure out how to rise above. Maybe the famous quote by Friedrich Nietzsche says it best, “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”
We all need a sufficient number of challenges and obstacles put in our paths to build the capacity for both humility and strength. I, like Nitche, am a firm believer that bumps in the road make us stronger people.
However, a post by Katherine Sokoloski on her blog, Read, Write, Reflect, has me thinking a lot about the difference between the challenges that choose us and the challenges we choose for ourselves. In her post, Katherine reflects on helping children think about the importance of doing hard things by choice, with the simple words, “We do hard things.”
The hard things we do by choice are very different from the “unexpected complication” type of hard things that pop up along all of our paths. Choosing to do a hard thing is often a defining moment in our lives. It is when we say to ourselves, “Hey, this is going to be really hard AND I am going to set out to do it anyway, because it matters to me. I want this thing badly enough to push through the hard. I want this thing passionately enough to stick with it when it would be easier to walk away.” This life-changing kind of hard choices are ones that we enter freely and willingly, knowing that we have other options, and choosing to work at it anyway. When we succeed, these hard things that we choose are pathways to rich and wonderful lives. Lives worth living.
Want to run a marathon? Want to read ten books to your toddler every day of the summer? Want to write a book? Want to lose 20 pounds? Want to earn an advanced degree? Want to remodel your house? Want to turn the hickory log from Grandma’s backyard into a coffee table? Want to leave your day job and follow your artistic passion? Want to become an Olympic athlete? These are all incredibly hard things. These are all examples of things it would be so much easier to say no than yes. Yet when we commit to them, we immediately feel a greater sense of purpose and understanding of who we want to be in this world.
Heaven knows many of the people in your life, some of whom are closest to you, will discourage you from the hard things you choose. Possibly very loudly! They will suggest easier paths and different outcomes. They will tell stories of others they know who’ve chosen hard things and failed. They may not share stories of their own failed hard things, but chances are their comments will be based in their own fears and perceived failures. They love you and sometimes show that love by trying to protect you from your own pain and struggle. Love them back by showing bravery, resilience, perseverance, and success. Protect yourself, not from hard things or failure, but from fear!
Awhile back I gave a friend a birthday gift that was a small pewter sculpture of the word LIFE, with a corresponding deck of small cardboard cards that could be inserted in front of the word to make a new life-related phrase every day (good life, wonderful life, etc.). She drew out the first card and slid it in. It read, “Live a BIG” (followed by the pewter letters)Life. She literally cheered. “I love this one!” She said. “Live a BIG life! That’s exactly what I want to do this year.”
As I rolled this around in my mind later in the day, I suddenly realized how connected HARD THINGS and BIG LIFE are!
A safe life; one protected from failure and pain can never be a BIG LIFE! Living a BIG LIFE can only be accomplished if you continually commit to do HARD THINGS. By choice.
Live a BIG life. Do hard things.