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  • Sharon Wallen

The Value of the Struggle

Have you noticed that a lot of people are struggling lately? Are you one of them? Do you wish you could just wiggle your nose like Samantha on Bewitched and make all the struggling go away? What would you wish for? Food for all? Everlasting life? World peace? An always-growing economy?  

 

Well, don’t waste your energy. As I learned 20 years ago while hatching some chicken eggs, struggle is an important part of life—if you help a chick out of its shell, it will die. Likewise, just as a chick needs to thrash and peck to finish developing into a healthy bird, struggle spurs learning, creativity, and evolution in all things. We can look to nature for examples: Not every acorn becomes a mighty oak tree. A little acorn has to thread the probability needle of being picked up and buried by a squirrel, but not be eaten. It has to split its tough shell to send down a fragile root tendril—that probably hurts! Another tendril needs to push up through sticks and leaves and other debris to find the light it craves without ever having known it. Then it has to go through a Hulk-like transformation to somehow bring forth a leaf, then a branch, then a sturdy trunk.


Very few acorns get to be an oak tree, but each one still serves a purpose. When we expand our viewpoint beyond ourselves and our finite physical existence, we can begin to understand the many integral connections that drive life as a whole over a longer sweep of time. One acorn might get eaten and nourish a squirrel, giving her the energy to nurse her young, or to frolic among high branches on a yellow spring day to the delight of a child. That child’s laughter may bring joy to his mother, and so on. Another acorn, no less fortunate than the others, melts back into the earth, enduring the ache of decay into its basic elements before becoming part of the little baby tree nearby that’s in the process of becoming a mighty oak.

 

Struggle is woven into the fabric of the world as we know it, and for good reason. If every acorn became a mature oak tree, oak trees would smother the forests they call home. If no person ever went hungry or endured any illness or accident or death, humans would overrun the planet and we’d have little to eat but each other. If the world suddenly adopted peace, there would be suffering as economies shift from their dependence upon military spending. If economies perpetually grow, we will exhaust the world’s resources and bury ourselves in pollution and waste. These difficult paradoxes reveal the contrasts between what we want, what we don’t want, and what we need. We must struggle with them wholeheartedly.

 

While there is no escape from struggle, you can find relief by dropping your mental resistance to it. Struggle is hard enough without us adding to the strain by fretting about how much we hate or fear it or by trying to wish it away. Resistant negative thoughts about struggle (or anything else!) are uniquely human and responsible for most of our suffering. When we can learn to see the value in the struggle, then we can all get to work creating and implementing the novel solutions necessary for our evolution as members of the community we call Earth.

 

So next time you encounter a struggle and start to tense up in resistance, take a breath and smile. Look for the blessing in it. Practice getting curious: How might this discomfort help me/us to become smarter, stronger, more resilient? Looking at it through this lens will give you more energy and creativity to do what needs to be done.

 

I’m interested in your thoughts. Share here or in our new private Facebook group,The Nest by Mastery and Me. Or send me a note via email or direct message.

 

Here’s to you reclaiming some of the mojo you're wasting on resisting... :)


Get out there and Live!


Sharon


*For more on The Value of the Struggle, check out Lesson 3 of my book Hatched. Stay tuned for Lesson 4 in April—Attitude is Everything.

4 commenti


humbug88
01 apr

Wonderful perspective, for all of us to think about and try to adapt a more positive attitude, about everything! My greatest lessons in life have come not from successful moments, but from my struggles and failures. This is where we learn most. Be grateful for them!

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emilypspence
01 apr

I love how you framed this and think it's very true but so hard to remember when confronted with a struggle. But like so many things, if we practice using this approach it will get stronger. I'm glad your words will live here on my phone to remind me. Thank you.

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Sharon Wallen
Sharon Wallen
01 apr
Risposta a

Oh, it is hard to remember! You are right, like anything else, practice is the key. Only a couple hours after I wrote this post, I got triggered at the first sign of struggle and forgot. My triggered self participated in making a mess — it's amazing how fast we fall down! But within moments, I also took a breath and became quasi-present again. Then I was able to ask my co-mess-maker, "What can we learn from what just happened?" We are learning, but slowly... There is something at the core of this particular issue that we are struggling with, and I can choose to see the blessings in that. 😊

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Leslie Lindeman
Leslie Lindeman
31 mar

Wise words for sure. Thank you for the reminder, Sharon. 💜

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