ESSENTIAL ELEMENT: Struggle
Critical Concept: Struggle Brings About Growth
What do we gain from struggle?
There is an interesting paradox that exists within the fundamental nature of man’s make-up. The Motivational Triad dictates that we are hard-wired to seek pleasure, move away from pain, and do it all with the greatest economy of energy. Yet, we are designed to grow – even flourish – under stress. Nearly all advancements that we make neurologically, physically, emotionally and socially happen as a direct result of some kind of challenge.
We encounter the challenge, struggle, adapt and move forward. This is the essence of growth. In days past there was the adage, “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”
Weightlifting stresses a muscle and causes an adaptation – muscle growth. The same response is evident in our neurological functions, immune systems and social skills. Resistance, friction and struggle produce advancement in our ability to cope and succeed. We get stronger.
Throughout our lives there are requisite struggles. As infants, we constantly put things into our mouths when teething, thereby opening the gums to create the ideal portal of entry for bacteria; this, in turn, triggers our early immune system responses. Among these is fever. Fever is the body’s innately intelligent response to a pathogen (germ). With very few exceptions, fevers are not dangerous - in fact, immunologists have coined the expression “Fever is your friend.” The fever will kill off the invader and save the child. Although a child may be temporarily uncomfortable, this “struggle” promotes a robust immune system for life.
Why do we feel the need to interfere with this time-tested and effective method of healing? Parents often want to make the child (and themselves) feel more comfortable. But what is more important, being comfortable or being well?
We require struggle.
Can you imagine interfering in a young person’s first experience with upset or heartache in a relationship? How would they ever develop the critical coping mechanisms that they will surely need in mature, successful relationships in the future if they were rescued at every sign of upset?
What if a young soldier skipped the conditioning and training of boot camp and was sent to the front lines of battle?
Our attitude will determine our experience with struggle. If you accept struggle as part of personal growth and embrace it, you’ll respond differently. Look at these moments as opportunities to grow and expand. Healthy people are always learning.
A Bonfire best practice is to train this new attitude deliberately. Your mindset is like a muscle – the more that you use it, the more coordinated and flexible it becomes. Unexpected life challenges can pose a heavy burden. Developing emotional fitness should happen before you need it.
Author Dr. Steven Covey teaches us another vital behavior: increase the time between stimulus and response. If we do not show this kind of restraint, we will most likely react, rather that respond. When dealing with others, it is always best to consider their position and feelings. In our adult lives, it is fair to say that a good portion of our struggles will involve interactions with other people. Developing this healthy coping mechanism is a priceless skill for those who seek extraordinary relationships.
If this creates a challenge for you, do not despair. The mind had the capacity to change. We have the ability to form new habits by repeatedly choosing new behaviors. Practice responding to struggle with a new attitude. An attitude is defined as a consistent thought process developed over time.
Choosing to practice a new behavior pattern is like cutting a new path in the woods. You have to pass over the same terrain several times before it gets easier. But this struggle is sure to leave you stronger…and enjoying a better life.