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Nothing Comes Easy: Four Things that Guarantee Success

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Nothing comes easy

While Nothing Worthwhile Comes Easy, You Can Be Successful By Doing These Four Things

The quote on the sticker read, “Nothing Comes Easy.” I smiled to myself and thought, “How appropriate,” since I was struggling with writer’s block. Instead of writing, I was wasting time surfing the internet. I had landed on an Etsy shop that sells motivation decals for laptops (proof that you can literally find anything on the web). Since writing and blogging can be a lonely proposition, I decided to purchase the sticker as a way to remind myself that persistence is the key to success.  So with a couple of clicks and entering my credit card number, my order was placed. Now I only needed to wait for my package to arrive. That was five weeks ago: still no package. After several attempts to contact the store owner, who never responded, I lodged a complaint with Etsy. Days later, still no word, still no package. They weren’t kidding… Nothing, indeed, does come easy.

Maybe the mere fact that “nothing comes easy” is why I admire persistent people. These are the folks who, come hell or high water, stick it out, make their dreams happen and live to tell the story. After all, the best books and movies are those about people who overcome insurmountable odds, succeeding in the face of looming fear and live happily ever after. Why, then, is it that sometimes I find it difficult to stay the course when things get tough?

When I examine the question deep enough, I find the underlining answer is clearly fear: The fear that I am not sufficient, smart enough, capable enough. I’m afraid that I simply cannot handle it. Fear causes me to run away rather than finish. When I’m afraid I quit. So, what is the secret sauce? What is the antidote to not just starting but finishing? I believe it is the virtue of tenacity.

Tenacity is a compilation of courage, confidence, clarity and drive. The courage to move forward in the face of fear, the confidence that I can handle it no matter what, the clarity of the value of my mission, and the drive to overcome any obstacle.  Unfortunately, tenacity, like all virtues, isn’t something you are born with, but it is something you can develop. Tenacity is a muscle, and like all muscles, it’s strengthened with exercise. Here are four exercises I use to push myself when the going gets tough and I want to quit.

Tenacity is a compilation of courage, confidence, clarity and drive.

Four exercises for developing tenacity:

tenacity
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I accept that It will be difficult. In his classic book, “The Road Less Traveled,” M. Scott Peck starts with the line, “Life is difficult.” Such an accurate statement. Life ‘s hard because life serves up problems. One after another, obstacles, setbacks, and complications come at us like an assembly line set on overdrive. Life is going to get in the way. The question is, “What are we going to do about it?” As my mentor once told me, “The only way to fail is to quit.”  I know it’s easy to get discouraged at the onslaught of problems. The bigger the problem the greater the fear of not being able to solve the issue.  But a problem is not a failure. In fact, I try to think of it this way: if the opposite of failure is a success, then by practicing tenacity I am by default a success. For example, it took me 12 years to complete my undergraduate degree. I had a ton of setbacks along the way but finally finished. Then it took another four years to finish my Master’s in Psychology and after that, I  worked three jobs to get my clinical hours for licensing. Little by little, year after year, I eventually built a successful private practice. It wasn’t easy, but I knew that if I showed up and did the work the result would be achieving my goal to become a psychotherapist.

I don’t go it alone. In the summer of 1992, I was watching the Olympics semi-final 400-meter sprint.  Derek Redmond was running that day, and I remember the race vividly because of what happened. Half way into the 400-meters Derek suddenly fell to the ground in agony; he had torn his hamstring. He clutched his leg and got to his feet while a winner was declared. But the race wasn’t over for Derek. He got up and hobbled down the track, still attempting to run, determined to finish the race. Suddenly, a man came running up behind Derek and began to help him to the finish line. It was Derek’s father. His Dad, seeing Derek fall, rushed down from the stands, and together they finished that race. Everyone was on their feet cheering. I don’t remember who won that day, but I remember Derek and his father. For me, my tenacity is increased when I allow others to come alongside and help.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for others people’s encouragement and support.

My “why” has to be big enough to keep me going in the face of adversity.  Why are you doing what you’re doing? I ask myself this a lot when it comes to writing. Why am I spending time writing a blog that may or may not be read by anyone? What is my “why” for writing? For me, it’s the same reason I became a therapist.  My why is simply because I want to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to be the guy who comes down from the stands and runs alongside the underdog. For others, the why might be to support their family or have more time to do the things they love to do. Whatever the “why” is, make it big enough to make you keep going when things get tight and compelling enough that you fall in love with it. Angela Duckworth author of “Grit: Passion, Perseverance and the Science of Success” puts it this way: “There are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine….you’ve got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people….Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it…it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.”

I have to keep swinging even when I don’t’ see results.  Pretend for a moment that there is a boulder and sitting next to it is a sledgehammer. If you hit the massive rock with the sledgehammer some dust will fly, but it won’t break apart. Hitting the boulder again will yield the same result: dust flies, maybe a few chips of rock break but the stone will remain intact. It can seem like a futile job. But on the inside of that boulder, with each hit of the sledgehammer, micro-fractions are made. Little cracks are developing on the inside of the boulder that expands with each impact of the hammer.  Then, without warning, one more swing of the hammer and the boulder explodes apart. Tenacity it the ability to keep swinging the hammer when it looks like nothing is happening and keeping the faith that eventually your impact will change the outcome.

What are you facing right now that you want to give up on and quit? Is there fear behind the impulse to drop out?  What would your issue look like if you were to face it tenaciously?

Tenacity is the one virtue that serves you like no other. When we practice these exercises for tenacity we increase our ability to overcome the fear, break through any obstacles and drive towards success.  Sure, it’s true, nothing worthwhile comes easy. But when it does come it’s a result our tenacity…and who needs a sticker to tell us that?

The Secret to Escaping Life’s Frustrations

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The Mindful Path to Self Compassion

The Mindful Path to Self Compassion: The secret to escaping life’s frustrations is something I learned when I was eight years old. However, I never applied that knowledge until recently.

“What’s this?” I asked my dad as I held up my prize.It was the spring of my fourth-grade year, and my school was hosting our annual PTA spring fair. My school’s cafeteria, now a boardwalk of homemade carnival games, smelled of popcorn, cotton candy, and sweat.  I had just tossed a ping-pong ball into a cup and won this contraption.

“That,” My dad said, “is a Chinese finger-trap!” He smiled as if he had a secret.

“How’s it work?” I asked. “Stick your index fingers in it, one on each side,” my dad replied. I placed my fingers inside the cylinder of woven bamboo. “Now try to get out of it,” he smiled.

As I pulled, my fingers were indeed trapped. The harder I pulled, the tighter the checkered device became. My dad looked more than amused as I struggled for a good couple of minutes until I felt like my little digits were about to pop out of their joints. Seeing my frustration, my dad said, “Don’t pull. Just relax. Now push in.” As I did, the trap loosened. Low and behold I was able to free myself.

“Where’s my little brother!” I said, scanning the crowd with a deviousness grin.

***

Somedays I feel like I am that nine years old, stuck all over again. Only this time I’m snared in my day to day struggles; traffic is bad, taxes are due, cars breakdown, deadlines loom, and people get cranky. I don’t mean to be negative, but the little boy in me wants to scream “Give me a flippin break!! Why can’t things just be easy for once?” I know, “First World” problems, right?  Nevertheless, I get angry, frustrated, anxious and sad, along with a myriad of other painful feelings when things don’t go my way.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way. In fact, for centuries, every school of religion, philosophy, and psychology has attempted to answer the question of human suffering. While they disagree on many things, they all tend to agree on this; Life, like the Chinese finger trap, is a paradox.  The more I think about it, the more I’m beginning to see that what I learned that day at the school fair applies well to life: Release control, press into “what is” to find my way through.  

As I’ve been thinking about this, I identified a few areas where releasing control and pressing into might make my life less complicated.  

Pressing into the uncertainty of the outcome
All too often I have already determined the “desired outcome, ” and I want things to work on my terms.  However, what I want and what I get are often mutually exclusive. When I have an expectation that goes unmet, it typically manifests into a resentment.  Resentments cut the soul with the blade of disappointment leaving the scars of discouragement and discontent.  Yet, when I release control and press into the uncertainty of the outcome, I free myself to explore other possibilities. The magic then is that I find the peace of mind I was looking for in the first place.

Pressing into the unpredictability of others’ behaviors
Oh, this is a bitter pill to swallow! Why can’t others just do what I want them to do or not do the things I don’t want them to do? After all, I only want what’s best for everyone… right? Truth be told, even under my most altruistic desire lays ego gratification. When I try to control others, I am in their business, I ultimately suffer and so do my relationships.  As Byron Katie (author of Loving What Is) puts it, “If you are living your life and I am mentally living your life, who is here living mine? We’re both over there. Being mentally in your business keeps me from being present in my own. I am separate from myself, wondering why my life doesn’t work. To think that I know what’s best for anyone else is to be out of my business.” I’ve found when I stay in “my business” I’m no longer stuck obsessively controlling others, which lead to greater satisfaction and enjoyment in my relationships.

Pressing into the uncontrollability of circumstance
My argument is that if I give in and let everything happen, I become a victim of circumstances.  I mean do I just accept injustices? Do I allow poverty, disease, global warming, homophobia, and bigotry to go on while I grab my banjo, folk song and bury my head in the sand? And yet the ugly truth is that I cannot change the circumstances of the world! Then I remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”  I unlock freedom when I press into the knowledge that I can only choose to control and change myself, and I become the change I want to see in the world.

All in all, I’m learning that there is a flow to life. Lao Tzu said, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Life is like a stream that runs a course, and I’ve often thought there are but two choices: go with the flow, or swim against it. The rebel in me wants to go against it.  But pressing in has taught me there is a third option: I can get in the flow and use self-control as my rudder steering out of the way of suffering.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find my nephew and show him my Chinese Finger Trap.

 

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