Love the Struggle

Learn to love the struggle. Learn to love the work.

That’s what I kept telling myself as I was tearing out the drywall on our house. We’re renovating the place right now and it isn’t easy. There is some hard work to be done. Even though my dad and father-in-law are very handy we will still need to bring in a few professionals to handle some of the more critical work. That will cost money. Appliances will cost money. New floors, new lighting, new bathroom, new kitchen, it will all cost money.

I could sit around and stress about it. I did that for part of today. The thing is, when you are tearing away drywall and punching holes in the walls you tend to let some of that frustration and stress go. I’m not too worried about the cost of the renovations. Eliz has been hunting down the best deals on all the merchandise we need for weeks. It’s reassuring to see her in her element. She’s been renovating houses with her family since she was in middle school.

I’ve done work with my dad for other people before too. It’s different when it’s your own house. There’s a sense of pride associated with every action. It’s a great feeling. I can’t wait to see the result. Eliz and her mom have been working to get the plans finalized. I say I can’t wait for it and usually that would make me anxious. Basically, wishing that the work would end and we would move into the house but I keep telling myself to enjoy the struggle.

Time is zooming by right now. We’re already midway through 2017. I can’t believe how fast it feels. I find time goes by even faster when I continually look forward to the next thing. Instead of being present, I’m looking towards the next thing that needs to happen to be happy.

It’s challenging for us right now. We aren’t living in our own space. The setup is very comfortable but it still isn’t our own place. I can easily be upset about it but I’ve decided not to be. Doesn’t mean on some days I don’t feel the stress but I try to catch myself.

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” – Seneca The Younger

As I face challenges I can approach it one of two ways. Let it affect me negatively or find the positive in it. I was listening to a podcast and the guest said he tells his daughter that if she works on being positive at age 21, she will be great at finding the positive in every situation when she’s older.

Seneca wrote “Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”  I completely comprehend this quote now. When I’m sitting idle it’s easy for my mind to wonder and stress. When I begin to take on the challenge and take action the stress begins to melt away. In one form or another whatever I’m putting off will eventually catch up to me. It may be more frightening to face it right on but, as Jamie Foxx asks his kids when they are faced with a challenge, “What’s on the other side of fear?”

We build up the fears in our head. Think about the million things that will inevitably go wrong. Put ourselves down and by the time it’s time to act we’ve already crushed the goal, crushed the dream.

Yesterday, I met this guy at a coffee shop simply because I complimented him on his beard. I may never meet him again but I was able to peep into his life for 5 minutes. It intrigues me. He was born in Brisbane, Australia. He moved to Waterloo, Ontario a few years ago and he is waiting for the LRT to finish because he will oversee the operations. He had the coolest accent and he was a pleasure to talk to. We shared a few good laughs. The moment before I said something to him, I remembered a quote from Tools of Titans “Be First.”

The idea behind the quote is to be the first person to smile at somebody. Be the first to strike up a conversation. People have become shy. Afraid of one another because of what we constantly see on the news or read on social media.

Few days ago, I was helping a friend of mine move and we were waiting in the lobby waiting for the elevator. It was interesting to see how people would avoid eye contact and did everything they could to get out of there quickly. I must admit, I probably needed a haircut and a beard trim but I didn’t think I looked that scary. Although, who knows maybe I did.

Where am I going with this? Well, Dr. Phil Zimbardo, the man behind the Stanford Prison Experiment and most currently the Heroic Imagination Project, said something along the lines of, small acts of kindness lead someone to have the courage to act in dire situations.

Life is full of small moments. Every time you feel you want to compliment someone but you don’t because of a social norm or because you are afraid how you will come off, you are training yourself. It’s incredible what I’ve learned from training Niko. We reward him on the smallest accomplishments and then within a few weeks he is doing what we ask of him. For him, he remembers the moments he gets rewarded. Then as he does it more and more he continues to be rewarded. Slowly he understands what he needs to do and picks up on the behaviour.

If we continually look away when people pass us. If we are too afraid to ask the server for a napkin. If we get frustrated because the barista added the sugar. If we get angry because there is work to be done. Then we are training ourselves to be that way in everything we do.

On the other hand, if we make the most of the moments then we can train ourselves to fear less. We can train ourselves to be more understanding. We can learn to be more patient. Small wins throughout the days add up to big wins in the long run. A Turkish proverb comes to mind “Damlaya, damlaya göl olur.”

My advice is to train yourself to win moments. It may not happen every time but try to win just one moment today. The moments I’ve been winning lately have been because of the work at the house. As I continually tell myself to enjoy the struggle and enjoy the work I stop the felling of frustration. I used to hate doing the work but I’m learning to love it. If I continually win those small moments then within a year, or two, or five, I may, in fact, genuinely enjoy the work.

Win the moment and you may be on your way to winning life.

Work towards happiness

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Author: Mehmet Akcagliyan

I am the Master of my Fate. I am the Captain of my Soul.

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