Are you easily discouraged or distracted from pursuing your dreams? When something goes wrong and you find yourself on the floor, how good are you at getting up and pushing on with a smile?
Personally I’m pretty easily disheartened by setbacks and challenges. I tend to take them as a sign that I’m doing something wrong, or spending my time and energy on the wrong things. Surely, if I’m doing everything right, things should just happen easily, right?
I’m starting to realise that in fact the complete opposite is true. I’m finding that hitting opposition is actually often not a sign that I’m heading in the wrong direction, but rather the right one.
It’s pretty obvious if you think about it. There are very few great things that have been achieved without a fight. So in fact, if we have a dream that can be reached without a scrap or two (or a hundred), it’s probably not even worth pursuing.
I get really offended by this sometimes. Why isn’t easier? I think. My intentions aren’t bad, why don’t things just happen with ease? Why am I getting nowhere?
Thankfully there is a reason for the challenges and opposition we face. Do you know what it is?
I think that the fights along the way are training and preparation, so that when we achieve the things we long for, we will have the ability to manage and fully enjoy our success.
If we were to attain our dreams overnight, they would crush us. We have all heard stories of people who experience instant success – things always seem to go pear-shaped. This is because these people didn’t gain through hardship and perseverance the things they needed to manage their success once they attained it.
Even cute little chicks have a battle to fight
We had loads of pet chickens when we were growing up, so there were often flocks of fluffy chicks chasing their mums around our garden in spring. Have you ever seen a chick hatching out of an egg? It’s an an incredible struggle for them. When I was little I thought it was so cruel of the mummy hens not to give their scrawny babies a hand. I wanted to dive in to the rescue, and break the shells off for the little guys.
But there’s actually a good reason why their mothers don’t help them, and why my older brother warned me not to either. The process of breaking out of the shell is an essential strength-building exercise, enabling the chicks to survive and thrive in the big wide world.
Life in our modern society is often so comfortable and convenient in many ways. We’re not used to hardship – we don’t face operations without anaesthetic, winters without electricity and long journeys without cars. We are far, far less familiar with pain and adversity than those who have lived before us. As a result, when it rears its head we assume it’s a bad thing.
However, like the battle the chick has to face, it’s often simply a part of the process required to teach us how to manage the freedom and success that is coming our way.
My teacher was wrong
There’s a memory that keeps wiggling its way to the forefront of my mind lately. For a while I wondered why – it’s a seemingly insignificant event in my childhood.
I am sitting in a row with my primary school class, cross legged on the sports hall floor. It is morning assembly, and the teacher is giving an anecdote as part of some disciplinary lecture.
‘When I was ten I wanted to ride my bike with no hands,’ he said, labouring to emphasise the foolishness of such an aspiration. ‘When cycling in the lane outside my house, I removed my hands off of the bars, and fell straight off onto the road. I broke my arm.’
He was using the story to illustrate the consequences of being cocky and over confident – traits sure to end in the demise of any child.
I was wondering why this particular moment in this school assembly out of the 1,638 that I attended had been singled out in my thoughts. There was something about the story that irritated me somehow, like a splinter under the skin that you can’t quite locate.
I’ve realised why I think this is; it’s because he was wrong. A child breaking his arm because he tried something risky and adventurous is not a sign that he is wayward or conceited. The hardship he experienced should not have been interpreted as failure or evidence of arrogance, as his parents must have done.
I wish the story took a different course. I wish that he told us with childlike excitement, of how when his arm was healed and his cast removed he got back on that bike and tried again, and fell again, and then tried again, and kept trying and falling, until eventually he could cycle with arms thrown high toward the sky; the warm breeze on his face, his body wearing bruises and scars like medals, laughing with wild joy because he overcame, because he fell down but got up again. I wish he taught us that the greatest victories are won in the face of hardship and fear.
And that’s why it was getting to me, because he was teaching us that opposition and failure are signs of defeat, rather than mere landmarks along the road to greatness.
Luckily I grew up in a home in which this culture was cultivated. This particular teacher did not take much of a liking to me – I believe he saw too much a of boy who liked to ride his bike with no hands.
I can guarantee that the thing you are called to do, your purpose in life, lies on the other side of fear, adversity and challenge. Your greatest fears are not supposed to be left alone, but confronted head on, as they are the very things that stand between you and your destiny.
So take heart. Be encouraged if you’re going through hardship. Keep going, keep pushing, do not turn back or be diverted off course. You can do it, and you will.
What challenge are you facing at the moment? Could it actually be helping you in the long run? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
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