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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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Published on June 30, 2020

What Is Unconscious Bias (And How to Reduce It for Good)

What Is Unconscious Bias (And How to Reduce It for Good)

Many conversations are being held nowadays regarding unconscious bias, but what does it really mean and how can it affect your life and the people around you? With many types of biases, it can get quite confusing. In this article, we’ll touch on cognitive bias, and then zero in on unconscious bias. Both types of biases have an immediate impact on your life because they relate to how you and others think about yourself and other people.

If you want to protect your relationships and make good decisions about other people, you need to know what these biases mean[1]. Once we have clarity about that, we can explore in more depth unconscious bias and how to address it[2].

Cognitive Bias

Let’s start with cognitive bias[3], a predictable pattern of mental errors that result in us misperceiving reality and, as a result, deviating away from the most likely way of reaching our goals[4].

These mental blind spots impact all areas of our life, from health to relationships and even shopping, as a study recently revealed[5]. In other words, from the perspective of what is best for us as individuals, falling for a cognitive bias always harms us by lowering our probability of getting what we want.

Cognitive biases have to do with judgment, not mood. Ironically, cognitive biases — such as the optimism bias and overconfidence effect — more often lead to positive moods. Of course, the consequence of falling into cognitive biases, once discovered, usually leaves us in a bad mood due to the disastrous results of these dangerous judgment errors.

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Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is different from cognitive bias. Also known as implicit bias, it refers to unconscious forms of discrimination and stereotyping based on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, age, and so on[6]. Despite cognitive biases sometimes leading to discriminatory thinking and feeling patterns, these are two separate and distinct concepts.

Cognitive biases are common across humankind and relate to the particular wiring of our brains, while unconscious bias relates to perceptions between different groups and are specific for the society in which we live. For example, I bet you don’t care or even think about whether someone is a noble or a commoner, yet that distinction was fundamentally important a few centuries ago across Europe. To take another example, most people in the US don’t have strong feelings about Sunni vs. Shiite Muslims, yet this distinction is incredibly meaningful in many parts of the world.

Unconscious Bias and Discriminatory Behavior

Organizations often bring me in as a speaker on diversity and inclusion to address potential unconscious discriminatory behavior. When I share in speeches that black Americans suffer from police harassment and violence at a much higher rate than white people, some participants (usually white) occasionally try to defend the police by claiming that black people are more violent and likely to break the law than whites. They thus attribute police harassment to the internal characteristics of black people (implying that it is deserved), and not to the external context of police behavior.

In reality – as I point out in my response to these folks – research shows that black people are harassed and harmed by police at a much higher rate for the same kind of activity. A white person walking by a cop, for example, is statistically much less likely to be stopped and frisked than a black one[7].

At the other end of things, a white person resisting arrest is much less likely to be violently beaten than a black one. In other words, statistics show that the higher rate of harassment and violence against black Americans by police is due to the prejudice of the police officers, at least to a large extent[8].

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However, I am careful to clarify that this discrimination is not necessarily intentional. Sometimes, it indeed is deliberate, with white police officers consciously believing that black Americans deserve much more scrutiny than whites. At other times, the discriminatory behavior results from unconscious, implicit thought processes that the police officer would not consciously endorse[9].

After becoming aware that unconscious bias does exist, the next step would be learning how to recognize it in order to reduce it. I’ve outlined three crucial points to keep in mind below while further exploring the unconscious prejudice discussed above.

How to Reduce Unconscious Bias

Remember these three important points if you want to work on reducing your unconscious bias.

1. Unconscious Bias is a Systemic Issue

When we understand that unconscious bias is ultimately a systemic issue, we understand that internal cultures need to be checked and addressed first.

Interestingly, research shows that many black police officers have an unconscious prejudice against other black people, perceiving them in a more negative light than white people when evaluating potential suspects. This unconscious bias carried by many — not all — black police officers helps show that such prejudices come – at least to a significant extent – from internal cultures within police departments, rather than pre-existing racist attitudes present before someone joins a police department.

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Such cultures are perpetuated by internal norms, policies, and training procedures, and any police department wishing to address unconscious bias needs to address internal culture first and foremost, rather than attributing racism to individual officers.

In other words, instead of saying it’s a few bad apples in a barrel of overall good ones, the key is recognizing that unconscious bias is a systemic issue, and the structure and joints of the barrel needs to be fixed[10].

2. There Is No Shame in Unconscious Bias

Another crucial thing that needs to be highlighted is that there is no shame or blame in unconscious bias as it’s not stemming from any fault in the individual. This no-shame approach decreases the fight, freeze, or flight defensive response among reluctant audiences, helping them hear and accept the issue.

Unconscious bias is prevalent and often doesn’t match our conscious values. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs and prejudices stemming from our tendency to categorize people into social groups. This developed naturally as a way for our ancestors to quickly size up a possible threat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate well in modern life.

3. It Takes a Sustained Effort to Prevent and Protect Against Unconscious Bias

After being presented with additional statistics and discussion of unconscious bias, the issue is generally settled. Still, from their subsequent behavior it’s clear that some of these audience members don’t immediately internalize this evidence. It’s much more comforting for their gut reactions to believe that police officers are right and anyone targeted by police deserves it; in turn, they are highly reluctant to accept the need to focus more efforts and energy on protecting black Americans from police violence due to the structural challenges facing these groups.

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The issue of unconscious bias doesn’t match their intuitions, so they reject this concept, despite extensive and strong evidence for its pervasive role in policing. It takes a series of subsequent follow-up conversations and interventions to move the needle. A single training is almost never sufficient, both in my experience and according to research[11].

Conclusion

The examples and points raised illustrate broader patterns you need to follow to recognize unconscious bias. Only by doing so will you be able to determine if, and what type of, intervention is needed to address it.

Unfortunately, our gut reactions lead us to make poor judgment choices when we simply follow our intuitions. Unconscious biases are systemic and need to be addressed in order to make the best decisions[12].

We need to learn about the kind of problems that result from unconscious bias. Then, you need to develop the right mental habits to help you make the best choices[13]. A one-time training is insufficient for doing so. It takes a long-term commitment and constant discipline and efforts to overcome unconscious bias, so get started now.

More Tips on Overcoming Unconscious Bias

Featured photo credit: M.T ElGassier via unsplash.com

Reference

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