Advertising
Advertising

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?

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Trending in Brain

1 How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly 2 11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind 3 25 Memory Exercises That Actually Help You Remember More 4 How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership 5 How to Avoid Binary Thinking and Think More Clearly

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on November 23, 2020

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

Advertising

After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

What can we learn from this historical lesson?

1. Focus on the Consequences

Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

So was Moscow not an important target after all?

Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

  • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
  • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
  • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

Advertising

Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

  • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
  • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
  • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
  • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

3. Ask for Advice

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

Advertising

Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

4. Beware of Biased Advice

Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

  • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
  • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
  • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
  • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
  • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

However, most purchases are unnecessary.

Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

After all,

  • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
  • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
  • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

Advertising

Bottom Line

It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

More Tips on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
[2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
[3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
[4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

Read Next