Life Doesn’t Have to Be a Struggle

Life Doesn’t Have to Be a Struggle

Let me be the first to say that I believe heart and soul in the power of perseverance. I busted my tail through several college degrees, always studying hard to get the most out of the experience. I worked for a start-up company where long hours and imminent deadlines were the norm. I powered through those days, learning a ton in the process. Now with a 1-year-old child, I’ve had all the stereotypical experiences that define new motherhood: sleepless nights and constant worry. These experiences have helped define me and I would not trade them for the world.

That being said, they are not the only things that have defined me.

I used to believe that anything worth doing involved struggle. That you had to put forth 110% of yourself and push, push, push or you weren’t trying hard enough. I came to this conclusion partially because so many good things in life have come to me by hard work.

The idea that good things involved struggle extended to my first marriage. We started dating during college and married in our 20s. We floundered as a couple on many levels: how we communicated with each other, our goals in life, the way we dealt with conflict. I saw this struggle as yet another challenge, something to overcome on the obstacle course of life.

Unfortunately, the longer the struggle went on, the more miserable I became. I threw everything I had at that relationship to the point of ridiculousness and overcompensation. After trying so hard for several years, I changed. I lost interest in things I used to love. I didn’t care about things that used to mean a lot to me. I didn’t like who I was. I remember thinking that if things continued, I’d look back at my life full of regret, but I told myself it was all part of the struggle. That eventually through perseverance things would get better.

In the end, struggle didn’t save our marriage. Newly single, I braced myself for more hardship. Either I would be alone for good – something I dreaded – or I would find myself back in a similar relationship defined by conflicts with no resolution. In my mind, the divorce confirmed the fact that life centered on struggle.

Then I met my current husband. His philosophy that love is a choice not only changed my perspective, but also changed my reality. With him, I do not struggle. We feed off each other in a harmonious way, building a relationship that is 10 times stronger than either of us left to our own devices. At first, I held my breath and waited for conflict to define our relationship. It never has, not even with the life-changing introduction of a baby girl.

My husband made me realize that many good things in my life don’t involve struggle. I have many fantastic friends who have always been there for me. I enjoy spending time with distant family, even if all we do is chat and eat whenever we get together. I cherish the moments I can go for a long run and meditate. I enjoy good health. I get involved in causes that mean something to me. Looking at this list of great things, I feel at once silly that I took these for granted and relieved that I don’t have to constantly struggle for life to be great.

So first, know that I respect the power of working hard to get what you want. I still try to put forth my best effort in all I do. But I also know that it’s okay to relax and enjoy the moment. That sometimes the best things in life come from a lack of conflict that makes us feel at peace with ourselves.

Photo by Angelo González

Deborah Fike

Deborah Fike is the Director of Educational Outreach for Spotkin, an educational games company that marries fun with learning.  She’s also the founder of Avalon Labs, which provides marketing consultations and writing services for start-ups and online businesses.   She carves out a significant portion of her time to raising her two younger daughters.

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24 Comments

  1. Deborah, thank you for this post! If your readers only remember the part about struggling and marriage, it will change their lives.

    I’ve learned that there are many paths to take. When the path feels good, is enjoyable, and there is an absence of struggle, it is the right path for me to take.

    When the path is full of struggle and strife, it’s a signal that I’m on the WRONG PATH FOR ME.

    Such a simple concept…but the execution can be such a challenge!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Wendy. Sometimes a path can involve struggle, but I’m glad that you’ve found ways to have a good life without always seeking it out.

      Reply
  2. While I fully understand what you are trying to convey, I believe that you’ve missed an important piece of the “life puzzle.” Struggle is NOT our enemy. A seed struggles against the soil to shoot itself upward. The seedling must bend and stretch (also, struggle) for its share of light and water, enduring the changes in weather, all in an attempt to grow. Our struggles are our best teachers. It is through them that we gain resilience and it is because of them that we reach out to one another for assistance and comfort. Had you not gone through your struggles, the reader would not have been given the insight that they are not alone (nor are they the first…or last) in their struggle. Psalm 119:71 says that, “It was good for me that I have been afflicted (struggled)…” Because it has taught me some things about myself and now I am able to share and teach someone else who may be dealing with those same problems. Yes, we should enjoy our lives but, the struggles help to put (and keep) everything in perspective.

    Reply
    • You are right that struggling is not the enemy. I have been involved in a lot of struggle in my life, and again, those experiences have made me who I am. However, I used to believe that everything good in life began with struggle, and I have found over the years that this is just not the case. Sometimes, great things begin with the absence of struggle. And for someone like me, who felt guilty if I didn’t struggle, it has taken me many years to realize it’s okay to simply enjoy these things, knowing that you don’t have to have conflict to enjoy all that is great about life.

      Reply
  3. Deborah

    Thanks for sharing your story. I agree life shouldn’t always be a struggle. There are times when we need to work hard with focus and dedication and there are times when we need to take a step back and rest, relax and reflect. When life becomes a struggle we need to ask why. Is it because we’re fighting for something we’re passsionate about and is worthy of the effort or are we in conflict with something that needs resolving. Often conflict starts from within ourselves when we’re unclear about who we are and where we are going. Taking time out can help us see better what’s going on.

    Thanks

    Peter

    Reply
    • That’s very well stated, Peter. If we are struggling because we are passionate or it’s for an end goal we know is worth the effort, then we can continue on knowing we’re doing the right thing. I love the idea of taking time out and evaluating ourselves from time to time. Thanks for sharing that idea.

      Reply
  4. Thanks for this post, Deborah. So often we hear that “marriage is hard work,” but I have always thought that sounded counter-intuitive. I am more inclined to say that marriage takes the ability to choose to love every single day. Likewise, it is important to remember that while we may make that choice, sometimes the other person chooses not to love and that is their choice. Remembering that can help some, I think, with the pain of a broken relationship. Love is a verb, not a noun, and if we live and love with that in mind, the benefits are astounding – not just in marriage, but in all relationships.

    Hard work and struggle have their place in our lives – as others have said here above. But like you said, life does not need to be defined by constant struggle. All of the harships of my past have made me who I am today and even in those instances where the struggles were the result of poor choices, the consequences brought about the opportunity to learn and grow. I think if those things are present, the human person is doing her job – becoming a better person, little bit by little bit. If we allow those dark times to define us and do not move forward and grow and learn from them, we do ourselves a disservice. Kimberly makes a good point above with the words from Psalm 119. Sometimes without the struggle, there is no triumph.

    Thanks again for some great words to think about!

    Reply
    • Thank you too for reflection on this article. Like Psalm 119 says, it can be good to struggle, but I do believe that there is balance to be had when we are not struggling. Many experiences can shape our lives to the better. We are defined not only when we struggle, but how we appreciate our lives when there is no need to struggle.

      Reply
  5. A great balanced approach Deborah. Thanks. Getting anything in life can require hard work and that is great. If we make life about hard work we end up missing on the sweetness of a job well done, celebrating our accomplishments and the simple joy of it when things go almost effortlessly.

    Reply
    • To your point, Brian, I know that in the past I have not always appreciated moments of triumph or success. Quite the opposite, when I was much younger, I always looked critically upon times when I had reached a goal, almost chiding myself for not having a new goal immediately to strive for. As I’ve matured, I’ve found that enjoying quiet moments can be just as rewarding as working towards goals. They both have a place in our lives.

      Reply
  6. With security comes peace. I am so very happy to know that you’ve achieved peace. You and your beautiful little family deserve it. <3

    Reply
  7. I feel struggle all the time. I wish i could get to that relax point in life, but i think we are conditioned to believe that hard work gets us somewhere. Makes it hard to relax in the moment. At least for me.

    Reply
    • It’s okay to struggle if you’re working toward something that has value to you. You should feel proud if you’re doing what you want to better yourself. I hope, though, that if struggling is weighing you down, you can find your own kind of peace.

      Reply
  8. i believe this article was written for me
    i always consider every life problem a challenge and i say it loudly that i love struggling to get what i want
    i think i should take it easy

    Reply
    • I think you can find balance, Farouk. Struggle isn’t bad if it gets it where you want, but do take it easy if you need a break. I know you’re a pretty hard working guy!

      Reply
  9. Thank you for that article. I have recently begun a new chapter in my life as an entrepreneur in graphic arts after working very hard for someone and getting little out of it in the end.

    Being from Detroit, keeping your head down and working hard is in the blood. Right now I am in a difficult adjustment period of life (being self employed is quite different from 9-5) but I keep tying to remind myself that now I am now fully in control of my life and to appreciate the situation and see it as an opportunity and a challenge, not a struggle.

    I think by being more fully aware of oneself, life becomes less of struggle and more of a series of choices. By being more aware, you know when to rest, when to work all night, when to enjoy the sunshine or when to move on.

    Good on you for finding balance. That is what it is all about.

    Reply
    • Sounds like you’re moving from a work situation that held little advantage for you to one that has much more potential. I agree with you that this is an opportunity. You’ll be working hard, but with a reason. As someone who’s worked for start-ups (and really enjoyed it, including all the hard work), I wish you the best! It’s an amazing journey.

      Reply
  10. Your marriage situation is what I am battling with right now. My wife and I met in college and married in our 20’s as well. There are things about her that I will always love, but she and I have changed so much. We have so little in common now, the only real things we share in common are the most important things in our lives, our two children. While I think that I would be happier (as would she) if we separated, It breaks my heart to think of breaking up the family and the impact on my two sweet children. In addition, we are in bankruptcy for another two years, and until then I don’t see how we could separate financially. Help…

    Reply
    • Jason, I am sorry to hear about your situation. Although we went through a similar experience, mine did not involve children, which I know makes your situation infinitely harder. Obviously, the financial troubles create an extra layer of complication as well.

      My best advice would be to seek someone who can sit down with you and your wife to discuss the intricacies of your relationship. My ex-husband and I saw a marriage counselor, and we really liked her. She told us up front that her ultimate objective wasn’t to “save the marriage” (which surprised me), but to help us find a way to communicate and make a decision for ourselves on what to do. Once we decided to separate, she taught us methods how to cope with that decision. It was great to have that objective ear who wasn’t siding with anyone, and only wanted us to find a resolution that would satisfy both parties.

      On a more personal note, I had a mantra during my divorce, and that was “One day, it will be better.” Giving yourself a daily reminder that you’re working towards a resolution helps. Even on days when it feels like everyone is utterly wrong, remind yourself that you’re in the middle of the journey, and you already have some part of it behind you that you’ll never have to do again. You’ll know things are better when you don’t need the mantra anymore. So I’m sending you positive thoughts, wishing you to the day when things are better because from experience, I know someday, that day will come.

      Reply
  11. Thank you for sharing your story. I have learned a lot from this post.

    Reply
  12. Im 19. But this inspires me a lot :) Thanks for this!

    Reply
  13. I thought I was reading my own life story. I never gave up on the marriage though and suffered until he passed away. It was then that I realised what a mistake we had made and how the struggle hadn’t been worth it. I am yet to find love again but I know it will not be a struggle next time,I won’t allow that to happen.

    Reply
    • I wish you the best in the future. Just know that every new relationship is different, and there are people you can love who won’t require that relentless struggle.

      Reply

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