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The Problem With Wanting Life To Be Easy

The Problem With Wanting Life To Be Easy

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?

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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.[1] 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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Reference

More by this author

Sian Morgan-Crossley

Psychotherapist and Coach

The Problem With Wanting Life To Be Easy How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself) Perfectionism: the perfect route to depression

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

“The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

“The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

    Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

    1. Build a Memory Palace

      What is it?

      The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

      How to use it?

      Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

      “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

      Example

      An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

      • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
      • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
      • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
      • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
      • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

      You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Mnemonic

        What is it?

        A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

        How to use it?

        Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

        Example

        I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

        I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

        Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

        Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

        Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

        Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

        C

        J

        H

        D

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        P

        Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

        Cubs

        Just

        Hate

        Doing

        Push-ups

        Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

        3. Mnemonic Peg System

          What is it?

          According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

          How to use it?

          The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

          Example

          Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

          0 = hero

          1 = gun

          2 = shoe

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          3 = tree

          4 = door

          5 = hive

          6 = sticks

          7 = heaven

          8 = gate

          9 = line

          Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

          4. Chunking

            What is it?

            Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

            How to use it?

            In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

            Example

            Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

            Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

            081127882

            Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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            081 – 127 – 882

            Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

            “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

            5. Transfer of Learning

              What is it?

              Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

              “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

              How to use it?

              There are two specific ways to use it:

              1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
              2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

              Example

              I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

              Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

              The Bottom Line

              The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

              We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

              Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

              “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

              More About Enhancing Memories

              Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
              [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
              [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
              [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
              [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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