I used to think that the only way to reach success was through struggle, pain, and sacrifice. I thought challenge was the only path to become better and certainly the principle of time under tension holds truth, but there is another key dimension to this truth that often gets overlooked:
We get to decide whether that tension feels good or not.
So many of us hit the wall with our goals because we get stuck in the belief system that struggle is the price for entry to success.
What if we could shift struggle and pain to insight and compassion? Unpacking our own relationship to discomfort is an opening to greater levels of satisfaction with the progress we're already making.
How we frame our relationship to discomfort, to fear, to work and to play determines how we feel as we move through our lives and how we feel as we navigate the ups and downs of life determines our ultimate ascension. If we take a deeper look at why and where these limiting beliefs come from, shifting out of it into a paradigm of ease and growth becomes much simpler.
Let's look at three reasons why we might believe that success (which we must carefully map out for ourselves so we don't accidentally chase someone else's version of it) requires pain and struggle, rather than joy and aligned action:
1) We live within a culture that normalizes work without rest.
Grind harder, hustle more, no rest for the weary and other anthems of struggle reiterate the belief that progress must feel difficult. This belief perpetuates burn out, which ultimately derails longterm progress. We're primed to succumb to the notion that feeling exhausted is a badge of honor which proudly announces our accomplishments. Rest and play are essential to our productivity.
2) Toxic overworking is celebrated in many professional circles.
Yes, success requires action, but it also requires rest, play, and periods of incubation. Finding a community who understand and practice prioritizing practices that are sustainable for long-term well-being through is essential to our holistic success.
Here, we must examine our overarching definition of success. Certain times in our lives might ask us to focus on different areas (and maybe even require sprints of productivity), but even in the most action oriented phases, the energy we cultivate is what determines our outcome.
Success is not something we acquire externally (through painful struggle), but something we become through showing up internally as we take action out in the world.
This is why cultivating a growth mindset and a spiritual or personal growth practice is something so many successful people talk about. It's the inner work that builds our capacity for joy as we reflect and learn from the inevitable mistakes along the way. Knowing this and practicing it can still be a wide gap to traverse. This is where practice must be fueled by a willingness for consistent self-reflection, rest, and support from trust mentors or friends.
3) We are taught to suppress our pain, ultimately giving it prolonged power in our lives, creating less airtime for joy.
Pain and other low vibrating emotions (see Dr. Hawkin's Map of Consciousness) are information. In this sense there is purpose to our pain, but it's not a signal to dwell there and avoiding it altogether is a recipe for making it last longer. Pain and discomfort are indicators to assess and act. Often we are so primed to avoid the discomfort of pain that we push past it or try to distract ourselves. Ironically this makes it worse.
My young adulthood was such a deep unraveling of misguided beliefs that I learned to give meaning to the pain I was feeling. I learned to create pain and I learned to associate that pain with progress.
I wish someone would have told me in my 20's that joy and ease can also be a path toward success; not that it would always feel easy and of course success requires tolerating discomfort. But, after a decade of focused healing and personal growth, my capacity for joy is so much greater. Isn't it freeing to know that we can prioritize feeling good everyday and find greater traction toward our goals? It's a different paradigm.
Sometimes we need to allow the suck to be what it is while we reset to our natural state of peace. Prayer, meditation, movement, creative practice, journaling, and reading are all great tools to bring us back to a baseline of courage in a hard season. Perhaps the most groundbreaking thing we can do for ourselves on this journey to prioritize our well-being is to get around others who understand energetics and who have done the work of unpacking their own limiting beliefs.
It's important for all people to know that there are other paths to success besides the hustle and grind 24/7 mentality, especially those early in their lives. We can slow down to prioritize joy and still find success. As we become who we're meant to along the way, making sure we have developed our capacity for feeling good for longer stretches of time helps us become our own version of success more quickly.