“Without challenges, we would never grow or learn. Without suffering, we would never recognize joy.”
Life is hard.
That’s all I heard the other day when I was talking to a group of my writing students. There they were, slouched in their seats, looking worn and weary, venting about the hard things they are dealing with right now. Listening to them lament, I heard a range of stresses from too much work, to not enough time, to not enough sleep, to battling a cold—you know the fairly normal things college students face during midterm time.
I was about to jump right on board with them! Yes! I could relate to feeling like there wasn’t enough time and not enough sleep. I could relate to feeling behind on work. Count me in people!
But I instantly knew adding to that energy would only bring us more off track and make us feel more distressed and more overwhelmed. Besides, as a general rule I try to steer myself away from negative talk as much as possible. So I stopped myself and I decided to mentally switch gears.
I asked myself: What’s easy right now?
Because we were in the middle of a writing activity, I decided to jot down the things that came to mind first. Here’s what I scribbled:
It’s easy to take a deep breath.
It’s easy to love.
It’s easy to be present.
It’s easy to give thanks.
It’s easy to enjoy the little things.
It’s easy to get centered.
It’s easy to make time for myself.
It’s easy to go easy on myself.
It’s easy to acknowledge how far I’ve come.
It’s easy to keep being optimistic.
It’s easy to trust the Universe’s plan.
It’s easy to believe in possibility.
It’s easy to know the future is bright.
It’s easy to think the best is yet to come.
(Full disclosure: I would like to note that some of things I wrote down aren’t always easy like going easy on myself, and making time for myself to stay balanced. But the point is they should be easier and I think I wrote them in that moment to remind myself of that.)
Spoiler alert: Doing this didn’t magically solve anything or make my to-do list get any smaller. But it did make me feel calmer and more in control in the moment. It was a much needed reset from the bottomless pit of problems we tend to drown ourselves in.
Jotting this quick list on a scrap of paper made me realize that we often only notice what’s hard, what the struggle is. We fixate on the difficult and can work ourselves into a frenzy. We throw ourselves off track or paint a version of our circumstances that isn’t always accurate.
The thing is, of course life is hard. Life throws hard at us all the time. It’s how it works. And there’s really nothing we can do except try to make it less hard on ourselves. Sometimes we can’t do it all. Sometimes we can’t fix everything.
Sometimes the best we can do is to try and find ways to manage our fears, our time, our worries, our anxieties.
Instead of listing off all the things that are so damn hard right now—and we all know how easy it is to do that—try listing the things that are coming easily.
Focus on what’s easy right now. Start small and build your list from there. Push yourself to write at least ten things. When you see the list laid out in front of you, I promise it will change your energy.
I’m guessing you have skills and talents. Chances are you are a magnificent multi-tasker. I’m betting that even on the most difficult of days, you are inspiring someone just by being you. And I guarantee you are doing hundreds of things a day effortlessly and seamlessly.
But we rarely give ourselves credit for all the things we accomplish. We play it down or shrug it off as no big deal.
Writing your list may show that you are handling hard just by getting so much of the easy stuff right. And guess what? Some of the things on your easy list (cooking healthy meals, getting to the gym, giving support to someone who needs it, staying in touch with a faraway friend, doing your job well…) Other people find them hard.
Stop thinking it’s not enough, there’s not enough, you’re not enough. You are doing just fine.
Take a break from hard for a moment and acknowledge the easy. Post your list here if you want. Share and inspire everyone with what you’re feeling right now.
Life will always give us hard, but it throws easy our way too. Let’s give thanks for easy. (Tweet that!)