When The Hard Stuff is the Good Stuff

Photo by g-stockstudio/iStock / Getty Images

I've been hearing from friends and clients about things in life that are really hard. Jobs, leadership, families, health, entrepreneurship...just to name a few things that have come up in conversations of late. These things are real. They matter. And not one of the stories I've heard is anything short of hard.  

For some time now, I've had a favorite mantra to use when hard things come up. It's borrowed from Glennon Doyle, an author and speaker I admire. Her simple reminder that, "We can do hard things.", has been an anchor for me to hold onto when my own "stuff" gets tough. A simple and true reminder that each one of us has the capacity to handle whatever life throws at us.  

But I'm wondering lately if the hard things are actually maybe more than something to handle or to get through. Maybe the hard stuff is actually the good stuff. Think about it. If you've ever tried any kind of exercise that requires you to hold a position for a period of time, most likely you've started to shake at some point. If you've tried to lift heavier weight, the repetitions get harder towards the end. The further you run, the harder the miles become. Any trainer would tell you, that's when the good stuff happens. When the exercise becomes the hardest, the muscle you're working to build is actually getting stronger.  

Consider the perspective that this also is true in life.

  • Managers lean into hard conversations with employees and  grow leadership capacity
  • Leaving a comfortable job and moving into a challenging new one develops new skills
  • Feedback from a disappointed client results in learnings that improve process or service
  • A health crisis strengthens family communication and relationships
  • Taking on more than we can handle teaches us valuable lessons about the importance of boundaries

Grow, develop, improve, strengthen, learn. The good stuff. Just like a muscle, we are built and changed as a result of dealing with what is hard. 

In my own experience, searching for what's good makes the work feel a bit less heavy. When we only see what is difficult, our thoughts stay in the negative and whatever we're dealing with feels harder. When our perspective shifts to finding a way to grow or learn, we suddenly relish the challenge. We might even say, "Bring it on!" if we're feeling especially courageous.

If you need a reminder prompt or a way to reflect on your situation through the lens of growth and learning, I've created a helpful worksheet for just that purpose. Print it out, post it and ask yourself these questions when you're feeling the weight of a challenge.

You've got this. Hold the pose a second or two longer. Lean in a little bit further. Practice saying no sometimes. Take the road less traveled rather than the easy path. Ask for help when the going gets too tough alone. And by all means, rest along the way.

Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and all the growth occur while you’re climbing it.
— Andy Rooney