doing hard things
Once upon a time, in one of our regular staff meetings, a colleague - let’s call her Dave (not her real name) - announced that she had just completed her first 5k. Others in the room who were not themselves runners began to talk of other races that they knew of … perhaps they had friends or family who were runners, or maybe they had been in the position to witness a race. Another colleague mentioned a footrace renown for it’s heat, crowds and a huge, difficult hill. “You don’t want to do that one”, he told her, "It's really hard". I didn’t say it at the time, but I thought, “how sad”. Why would we discourage someone from doing something just because it is difficult?
Dave was full of the satisfaction of having met a particular challenge for the first time. I can relate to this. It was twenty-some years ago that I had a similar experience - my first bike race - a challenge to try something difficult and somewhat frightening. In facing that challenge I had the opportunity to reframe my picture of myself, I was now an athlete, something I’d never been before. It felt good - it felt great. Here’s a whole new side of me that I didn’t know existed - a completely new Me to explore.
I think about some of the hard things I’ve done. Some of them have been challenges that I’ve willingly accepted and some of them have simply been the situations that life has presented: mountain bike racing - that’s hard. Speaking at a loved-one’s funeral - that’s hard. Going to work all week knowing that unless a miracle happens, on Friday I’ll have to tell twelve people that I don’t have the money to meet payroll - that’s hard. Pushing a level 3 pdf file through a Post Script level 2 imagesetter - that’s not hard, it’s impossible according to Adobe, but they don’t know who they’re dealing with … We all do hard things, sometimes willingly and sometimes not.
We are beautifully and wonderfully made - physically, intellectually and spiritually. To live at all is an amazing blessing and a privilege that calls for us to engage and explore ourselves … to test our limits. To be sure, there's risk involved. When we do hard things, we might get hurt. We might fail. But failure at a challenge isn't a reflection of our personal worth, it just means that we’ve bumped up against one of our limits. And that limit is something we should be aware of, right? The person who takes on a challenge to do something hard, even if they fail, will have learned more and will have lead a richer life than the one whose body and soul were never tested. It’s through doing hard things that we develop confidence. It’s through doing hard things that we get stronger. It’s through doing hard things that we learn our limits are not what we thought they were.
Let me be one to encourage you. Go! Go now! Do the hard thing. Run the race. Get the degree. Write the novel. Tackle the project. Explore your life all the way to the limits and be the full person you were created to be.
This was first written years ago, after the meeting described. The message ties nicely with the Hands posting, so I thought I'd share it now.