Not all hard work leads to progress. Be sure you’re choosing the right kind of effort.
Not all effort leads to progress. Be sure you’re choosing the right kind.
While being uncomfortable is necessary to learn, grow, feel confident and accomplished, that doesn’t mean that all discomfort will lead to growth.
Some actions are uncomfortable because they’re truly new. They’re valuable towards getting you closer to what you want.
Some actions are uncomfortable and very familiar. They may be useless for your progress.
Make sure you’re seeking the right kind of discomfort.
Shoveling to nowhere
Grab a shovel. Start digging a hole. C’mon now, put some elbow grease into it. Dig harder! Sweat! Dig!
Boy are you ever busy there. Working so hard. Bet you could increase your “shovels per minute” speed if you tried.
Just keep digging and digging and digging. By now that rhythm should be pretty comfortable and familiar.
Where does this hole go?
But you’re “busy” and “working hard”, right?
Welcome to “difficult-easy”: You’re not doing anything useful. The effort isn’t leading towards clear goals. But you sure are putting in a good, uncomfortable effort.
Difficult-easy is the stuff you do that feels hard, and is also very familiar. Maybe almost automatic.
For example, like grinding away at a job you hate. Taking care of everyone else’s needs but your own. Going on diet after diet, following repeated breakdowns in consistency without observing the root causes. Crushing yourself in the gym while neglecting longer-term consequences, and then getting injured or not recovering for days.
Or digging a hole without any real purpose.
Difficult-easy is Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill. Over and over and over. It takes a lot of effort, but it’s ultimately pointless. You don’t really go anywhere or learn anything.
As its name implies, difficult-easy is easy to fall into.
Maybe it can be easy to …
- feel pulled by others’ needs rather than your own,
- feel “responsible”, or that the task is something you “should” do,
- feel that any and all hard work is important and good,
- feel that the pot of gold is actually just over that rainbow and if we just… tried… hard… enough… this time it could happen.
On the other hand…
Difficult-difficult is the stuff that’s truly challenging.
- letting go,
- being vulnerable,
- asking for help,
- trying something new.
Difficult-difficult is easier to avoid, because it’s both effort and unfamiliar. Difficult-difficult is also where true growth lies.
How do you know the difference?
It’s different for everyone.
What’s difficult-difficult and difficult-easy for you?
Difficult-difficult isn’t just being tough on yourself.
In fact, if you’re used to pointing out all your screw-ups to yourself, being self-compassionate could be your difficult-difficult task.
If you’re used to “doing it all”, then doing less could be your difficult-difficult task (or doing nothing).
Difficult-difficult doesn’t have to involve climbing a mountain. It could be as small as saying “no”.
One key question to find what’s difficult-difficult to you:
What are you afraid of?
Write In Your Journal
What is your “difficult-easy”?
What is your “difficult-difficult”?
What is one small yet “difficult-difficult” thing you could do today?
If you’re stumped, think about what might be an Opposite Day for you.