I like to write down my thoughts not because I believe I have it all figured out. In fact, I am quite far from that, but it helps me structure and memorize important learnings. I do have quite a good level of self-awareness. I realize when my feelings might be a bit distorted or „not well grounded“. For sure every feeling has its validity but as someone who is pretty rational AND sensitiv/emotional at the same time, I know when my prefrontal cortex (rational side of the brain) is telling „Oh please get over yourself, you lousy limbic system (emotional side of the brain)!“. In some phases they are discussing very strongly back and forth – let’s call them phases of struggle. These phases of struggle are mostly those moments in life where fundamental – potentially life changing – decisions have to be made, like right after high school, after you graduate, when you change jobs… or even when you decide to be with or leave someone. You name them, there are many struggles in life. They can also be of smaller nature, but I want to focus now on how to deal with the bigger struggles, the ones that take time and wont be resolved in a matter of minutes or hours.
The struggle is real (and important)
For the majority of people, opportunities and solutions dont just come flying in; instead they require time, patience and (mental) work. You have to gather information, you have to deal with a multitude of contradicting emotions, you have to give up something, you have to accept and acknowledge other things, you have to oppress, you have to embrace, you maybe have to fail at first, but one thing is for sure: You have to struggle before you can arrive at the solution. And yes, it is an unpleasant feeling and we would rather „skip to the good part“. But eventually, we need to acknowledge that the struggle is the key to the solution. No struggle. No solution. We have to go through this rollercoaster of emotions and burning brains because this is exactly the breeding ground for the solutions and answers we are seeking. The struggle is essential to the solution.
What to do in times of struggle
I can sing a song about how annoying and frustrating it is to be in the phase of struggle – but to spare you my terrible voice, I will try to write down some tactics that I have learned from my own experiences as well as from people I talked to. This helps me to internalize them and maybe also helps you.
1. Associate „struggle“ with something positive
We tend to think about struggling in very negative ways; with someone who barely makes it; someone in times of difficulties. But if struggling leads to solutions, then why don’t we see it more like a „phase of experimentation and creativity“? I dont want to bluntly say „just embrace the struggle“, but if you find yourself in a situation where you have to make a life decision, you are holding so much power! Maybe the struggle can be empowering? Mh. If you see it that way, it might make you already feel so much better about yourself.
2. Establish your safe space
Making it through the struggle, or as we now call it „phase of experimentation and creativity“, it is super important to create a safe and comfortable space in which you are able to figure things out. Where is it that you are most focused to think about your big next step? Who do you want to involve in this process, if at all? Get rid of the unnecessary distractions, get rid of people’s loud posts about their successes (unless it somehow inspires you), get rid of negative energies. Things are already extremely complicated and your brain is working at 120%, so you have to create yourself the right environment that makes you still feel at ease despite the hard work you are doing.
3. Have patience and manifest it
Probably the most annoying thing about the struggle is its variable time. We do not know how long the struggle will last. We do not know when the solution magically pops up and leads us to making the final decision. Even if you think that you are already putting in all your heart into this, it might still need a little bit more until you arrive at the „Aha“-moment. And you may encounter even some solutions that will only lead you into the next struggle. So you have to be patient. Great things don’t happen in a day. Impatience will be a roadblock in your journey and simply create more stress and anxiety. Manifest it – keep believing that after the struggle there will always be a solution.
This post was heavily inspired by the many recent talks I had with family and friends as well as by the book I am currently reading: Next! The Power of Reinvention in Life and Work by Joanne Lipman.