I ran 60 very boring laps on an indoor track recently. I had to find things to fill my mind to be able to put one foot in front of the other. I thought about why running felt so hard and really why life is hard. We all know life is hard but the question is does it have to be as hard as we make it?
Are you making life harder than is has to be?
There are some things that are just plain hard and you can’t change them like death, medical issues, and paying taxes. Then there are the other things.
During those 60 tedious laps I broke down what makes life hard.
- You’re just not into what you’re doing
- Expecting to be perfect at something new
- Being impatient
- Taking on too much
- Being reactive vs proactive
- Competing priorities
- Not having resources
Have you ever found yourself doing everything but the hard thing you have to do? A friend once said, ”eat the big frog first”. He learned the phrase from sales training and it meant do the thing you want to do the least first. The reason being if you do it first, it doesn’t loom over you all day. The more you think about what you don’t want to do the more difficult it becomes.
Stop avoiding it, just do it first, then you are done and it won’t feel hard all day.
2. You’re just not into what you’re doing
Things are hard when you don’t really care about what you are doing. Some of the hardest work for me has been when I have to do a project that my heart isn’t in, especially when I know that my time could be better spent elsewhere. Sometimes you have to push through it and just do it – eat the big frog first.
However, if you’re finding more often than not, you’re just not that into it, then you need to step back and ask yourself why. Is it your mood? Is it tedious but necessary? Or are you really just not into it?
We often do things that we think we have to but don’t. It creates undo pressure, taking away from things we want to do. I get it, there are things you have to do but be true to yourself and stop doing the things you just aren’t into.
Say no to volunteering for something you don’t really care about, skip the social event you feel obligated to go to, delegate work you don’t want to do when you can – hey someone else may really be into it. If you can’t, figure out how to create meaning for the work you are doing so it doesn’t feel like a waste of time or finding something new to do.
3. Expecting to be perfect at something new
People are creatures of habit. We perfect the way we do something. We gain confidence from doing that thing well. When we move out of our comfort zone things feel hard. We’re not masters and we have to think about what we are doing. We’re learning and that leaves most people feeling vulnerable.
Give yourself permission to learn and not be perfect the first time you try something new. Expect stumbling blocks and embrace them, that is where the real learning happens. The less pressure you put on yourself to be perfect the less hard it will feel. Watch a little kid learn something new, they are curious and have fun figuring it out. You could too.
4. Being impatient
When we are learning something new or building a skill set it takes time. If you’re impatient like me you want results fast. And aren’t we all a little impatient in this era of instant gratification?
Recognize how much time is realistically needed to reach your goal. Build a plan. Break it down into small achievable parts. Then when you are putting the time in and doing the work, you feel like you are making progress.
Commit to doing the best you can during that time and don’t put a half-hearted effort in. You’ll feel better after each block of time if you give it your all. You’ll also see the progress you make as you check the steps off your plan.
5. Taking on too much
Going into my training run today I was worried about how I was going to do all my miles. It felt unachievable. So, I made a deal with myself and I focused on a mile at a time instead of all the miles. At each mile, I committed to the next mile. Breaking it down to achievable pieces gave me permission to do what I could. Guess what? I could do all the miles – and each mile I put behind me helped my confidence grow that I could do what I had committed to do.
If you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and break things into smaller achievable pieces. Commit to the first piece you have to do. When you finish that piece decide to commit to the next piece. This builds momentum. Eventually, you can see the finish line and it is easier to push through and finish the rest of the pieces.
6. Being reactive vs proactive
I’m really good at being reactive when something pops up but when you find yourself in reactive mode all of the time it gets hard because you don’t feel like you are making progress on anything. I worked at a company that would celebrate putting out fires instead of preventing them. We were so busy doing things we lost track of why we were doing it. I instituted the mantra “results not activity” to keep us focused on our goals. Once we started celebrating results and not putting out fires the fires stopped.
You have to break the cycle. Pinpoint what is creating the perpetual reactive environment. It often times is not having a plan or not having clear direction. Once you have that it is easier to commit to what is a priority and what will have to wait. A lot of the reactive stuff starts to drop to the bottom of the list when you can focus on what matters most.
7. Competing priorities
Competing priorities also makes things hard. You have to work to pay the bills and care for your family but you also want to spend time with your family and be in a good mood when you are with them. This can be the case at work too when you have multiple projects on your list but limited time to focus attention on any of them. You can’t have competing priorities because when you do nothing is a priority.
Sit down and make a list of priorities. When priorities are clear you know where to spend your time and energy. When you are trying to do it all your attention is spread thin and nothing gets the attention it truly needs.
8. Not having resources
Not having the right resources or enough resources is hard. Sometimes budgets get cut, someone gets sick, or you don’t have the tools to get the job done. We’ve all been there. You can do the best you can with what you have – and it will be hard.
But what if it didn’t get done? Stop and ask should it be done? Is it really a priority if the resources aren’t available? Maybe timing isn’t right. Maybe you or someone on the team needs time to learn something. Maybe you need to take time to find the resources vs pushing through with what you have available. Sure, you can figure out a way to make it happen– but at what cost?
Evaluate the situation. Can you have more time? Is there budget from a different project that can be allocated? Is there someone looking to contribute that can be pulled in? If the resources aren’t available how critical is the project? Maybe the answer is not to do it the hard way but not to do it at all.
Life is hard
Life is hard, but it doesn’t always have to be. Figure out why it is. Take a different approach so you don’t waste time or energy. Make a plan. Prioritize the work. Stop procrastinating. Commit. Lastly, say no to the things you can’t or don’t want to do. Don’t make it hard