I Have No Idea What to Write
First, I struggled to come up with something to write about today. Then, I struggled with the realization that I was struggling. “Why is this so hard?” I thought. “Surely I should be better at coming up with things to say at this point.”
It’s not easy to write something new every week, or to say things that will be valuable to [at least some of] those who read it. I was lamenting this fact as I walked my dog this morning, and I was honestly beating myself up a bit. At some point, challenges can start to feel like failure and I was reaching that point.
When I got home, I mentioned to my wife, a college professor who is fascinated by how people learn, that I was having a hard time getting anything good on paper. I told her I was feeling a bit stuck and demoralized.
In response, she shared with me that one characteristic that correlates with academic success in students is how they perceive struggles like the one I was facing. Students who believe that struggle is a sign of weakness are less likely to be successful academically than students who believe struggle is part of learning and improvement. The ability to frame struggle as progress (and not as a sign of impending failure) makes a big difference in how we think we are doing. How we think we are doing, interestingly, tends to correlate with where we actually end up.
As I sat down to write to you today, I had two thoughts. The first was that I’m glad I wrestled to come up with what to say. The struggle was part of the process. Without the frustration, I would not have learned the lesson that I want to share today.
The second thought I had was “I bet I’m not alone.” I suspect that everyone has something with which they are struggling. Whether it’s working up a tough case or juggling family schedules, I think everyone faces challenges pretty much continuously in one way or another. We all toil and feel frustration.
My hope for today is simply to ask the question “How are you looking at the struggle?” Are you seeing the hard work you are putting in as the required path to improvement and ultimate success? Or are you internalizing it as a sign that you are weak, unprepared or failing?
We can choose how we perceive hardships. The middle of success often feels like failure. Maybe the struggles you are facing are not red flags and stop lights. Maybe those struggles are the rocky path you are simply required to climb to reach your goals.