STRUGGLE. It’s the opposite of moving swiftly and gracefully toward success.

make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction.”

Client: “Dr. Tricia—I should have figured this out by now. I own a successful company. I’m smart. Why is it so hard? I feel like something is wrong with me.”

Me: “Well, you could be mediocre. Then you wouldn’t be so frustrated. No one struggles when s/he is sitting on the couch. “

Struggling to win often makes us feel like a failure.

The very concept of high achievement pushes against all things that are normal, accessible, and part of the status quo. Struggle is inherent in the process, yet it feels like an indication of failure.  As much as I believe and live everything I teach, I hate struggle as much as anyone else. It always feels like I should be smoother, more efficient, and have an intuitive understanding of what to do and when to do it. I especially hate the days that I’m fighting against my own emotions and losing time in doing so.

I recently read several of the biographies of investors on the popular show called Shark Tank. One of the themes that ran among these investors from different backgrounds was a commonality of struggle. For some of them, it was their home life. Others had problems with learning. Most of them worked to build money without foundational funds. It was barely bootstrapping because one needs to have some funds to bootstrap. I got the feeling that the gritty parts they explained in their books were parts of the story, but there were some darker stories that were inappropriate for publication.

Other people struggle, but since no one talks about it, we all feel alone.

I remember having a really tough time after publishing my book, and the fact that I didn’t know anyone else going through it made me feel more alone. A year later, I was at a leadership conference where a popular speaker and author of numerous books talked about her first one. She spoke of feeling vulnerable, and alone, and curled up on her couch for two weeks.

Suddenly, my story of struggle felt normal. It felt like my reactions were simply part of the process for any new author.

I think that somewhere between self-criticism and cultural messaging, we not only think we should struggle less, but we also judge ourselves for struggling.

Struggle doesn’t mean you won’t win; just don’t quit.

Okay, let me clarify first. If you are struggling with something that steals your joy, your oxygen, or your health, please quit. Quitting the wrong things or relationships is an underrated strategy for success. However, if you are focused on a goal or dream that catches your heart and engages your mind, don’t quit. Sometimes we misread the negative emotions and the effort of struggle as an indication that we are pursuing the wrong thing. In reality, struggle usually occurs because we are in a learning curve, struggling against our own mindset, or encountering external variables that make the path unexpectedly hard. It’s pretty clear that the only way to endure struggle and come out on the winning side is to stay in the struggle.

At the end of the day though, some wins come easy, and some we fight for. And sometimes we feel like we are fighting all the time.

What do you value to make the struggle worth it?

Here’s the thing. The word “struggle” means the violent or forceful effort to get free of restraints or constriction. My number one value is freedom. I don’t struggle because I have nothing better to do. I’m not struggling because I’m dumb. I’m struggling because I want maximum freedom in my life.

I want the freedom to create my own life. To let go of what doesn’t work and pursue what does. To sculpt learning, experience, relationships, and dreams. I want the freedom to CHOOSE what I will not do, rather than to passively yield to stagnation because of fear, self-doubt, or lack of effort. I want to be an active participant in my own life, and that means constantly assessing what I am allowing to happen versus what I want to happen, what I “will” to happen, and what I work toward with relentless tenacity. Essentially, everything I want requires pushing uphill.

Trudging uphill is not sexy. It does not make me want to sprint out of bed and break into song. Rather, I’d prefer to pull the covers over my head, and then throw intermittent tantrums throughout the day,

I value freedom. What do you value? We only struggle for the things worth fighting for, so what are you fighting for? What is your answer to the question, “why am I doing this?”

What if struggling to win is confirmation that you’re getting it right?

We’ve already established that you are not struggling to stay in things that aren’t helpful to you. You’re struggling for something better. So what if the struggle is a sign that you are doing something right? Maybe you’re changing a personal default, pushing against the status quo, or taking on an impossible challenge. Aren’t those initiatives that make you proud? Would you respect someone else who is trying to achieve what you are trying to do?

What if the struggle to win is an indicator that you’re winning?

I know the path isn’t pleasant. We want the recipe, the ease, and most of all, to know that we’re getting it right. Instead, we’re often hanging by our fingernails and a thread of hope. I know you may be exhausted, wondering if you’ll ever reach the other side, questioning if the payoff is worth it. Keep moving forward a little step at a time, like the turtle lumbering ungracefully up the stairs. It doesn’t have to be pretty; just get it done. You’ve got this.