This isn’t intended to be a post in support of drudgery or making life difficult for yourself. I’m all for doing things in the most straightforward and simplest way, however, believing that life should be inherently easy and straightforward is often a fast pass to dissatisfaction, anger and depression.
Sometimes things will come easily to you and it’s important to enjoy the parts of your life that seem to slot into place. However, when people assume that things should come easily and believe at some level that the core aspects of life such as relationships and work should generally be plain sailing, it often leads to feeling cheated. Also, it can feel as if there’s something wrong with you if you find certain parts of life challenging whilst other people seem to sail through; finding things difficult can somehow become a fault or character defect.
Understandably this often leads to people giving up or can contribute to a perpetual sense of failure. Relationships end because they feel ‘too difficult’, careers are cut short when it gets too hard, family rifts that could be resolved go unmended and challenging opportunities aren’t taken.
So, where does this belief that life should run smoothly come from?
One reason that we sometimes feel that life should be easy is that we compare ourselves to other people and tend to compare our insides to other people’s outsides. If other people seem to find things easy we assume that we should too.
As with most beliefs in adulthood, they often stem from our childhood experiences. Having a sheltered childhood that involved a lack of exposure to difficulty and challenge often means that when we face any level of adversity in adulthood it feels unfamiliar and intolerable. On the other hand, having a childhood of emotional or practical hardship can leave us exhausted and can create a sense of wanting to make it to the metaphorical finish line; we often survive difficult childhoods using the hope that one day it’ll get easier. As we come up against roadblocks in adulthood it can be easy to slip into wondering ‘am I there yet’ as if you’re waiting to enter the hardship free zone of life. Of course, life isn’t all bad, and over time with the right combination of focus as well as hard work and luck, you will hopefully experience life as being easier than it has felt in the past. However, even if life improves it is rarely easy….unless we choose to stagnate and stop growing.
So, this offers some idea as to why it’s common to feel that life should be easy but more important is to consider the consequences of continuing to believe this. Here are some of the problems that believing that life should be easy might create for you…
It creates pressure on certain areas of your life.
It can be common to acknowledge and accept that certain areas of our life require concentrated effort. However, all too often a double standard is applied to other areas and we expect them to be plain sailing. For instance, you might accept that in order to thrive physically you need to consistently make an effort to eat well and exercise, yet you might simultaneously feel that ‘relationships shouldn’t be hard’. You might acknowledge that effort and hard work is required for success in your career, but also feel that friendships should be automatically maintained over the years with ease and without effort.
This in-balance often places pressure on the areas of your life that are meant to be easy… If you focus on working hard at your career but think that relationships should be easy you’re likely to have a very low tolerance when you find yourself in a relationship that looks like it requires some hard work. Relationships are likely therefore to become more and more frustrating and feel harder as time goes on because your tolerance for hard work in that area won’t have developed. Try to recognise that all areas of your life will need attention for it to thrive and be maintained and all areas have the potential to be hard work. Use and apply the skills of resilience and perseverance that you can apply to certain areas of your life across the board.
The ‘should’ becomes the problem.
Telling yourself how things ‘should’ be is one of the quickest routes to distress. Believing that relationships, outcomes, feelings, people, careers and events should be a certain way is one of the reasons why it becomes a road block when you find something challenging.
So often I work with people who are stuck; perhaps depressed or frustrated with people who have disappointed them, careers that haven’t worked out, goals that haven’t materialized. Invariably, however, the issue becomes less about the events themselves and more about their belief that things ‘shouldn’t’ be that way. That people shouldn’t disappoint them. That a successful career should come naturally. That they should have achieved their goals.
Having the mindset that things should and shouldn’t be a certain way becomes the problem. The original issue often has a minor impact in comparison to the mindset which inflames and elongates the problem.
If you believe that things should generally be easy, the problem isn’t likely to be the difficult project at work or the relationship that is demanding your attention and effort – the problem is the layer of ‘should’ that you put on top. By changing the ‘should’ mindset you can lessen the impact when something is more challenging than you thought it should (or would) be.
When we aim for an easy life we stop growing.
When we try to eliminate challenge from our life and aim to create and live an easy life we naturally start to lose focus on areas of our life that need deliberate and specific attention in order to. Most aspects of life generally require on-going effort to grow and be maintained. Aiming for ease and therefore avoiding challenges will mean that you can’t make progress, and in fact often can’t maintain what you have. Maintenance is vital in all areas of life—from careers to financial stability, and from relationships to fitness. Aiming for an easy life is likely to end in hardship as you risk losing what you currently have.
It’s often said that ‘nothing grows inside your comfort zone,’ and of all of the motivational quotes you might come across this one certainly is true! The belief that life should be easy directly flies in the face of the barriers you will need to overcome if you want to grow – whether it’s in your emotionally, professionally, physically, financially or any other area of your life. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable and running towards challenges instead of away is the only way to keep growing.
Overall, it’s natural to want things to go well, but ‘going well’ doesn’t have to mean that it comes easily. And remember, being prepared for challenges doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself. Problems are an inherent part of life and there’s no reason why any of it ought to come easily.
There’s no glory in making things hard for yourself, but there’s danger in hoping for everything to be easy.
Featured photo credit: Denys Nevozhai via unsplash.com
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