Sometimes it’s easy to just to give up. To throw the towel in, to quit while you’re not ahead.
Sometimes the end goal seems too out of reach, too difficult to navigate, and not worth the effort – especially when the effort is thwarted, undermined or doesn’t even make a blip on the radar.
Life can be hard. Work can be hard. Dieting can be hard. Getting fit can be hard. Staying in a relationship can be hard. Study can be hard.
Yet without struggle, challenges, effort or adversity there is no growth. Life would be one big mediocre sandwich. We’d be living in blah blah land, all complacence-ed out.
I know all about struggle, and about set-backs, about goal-crashing, about giving up. About failure. There have been many times in my life when it’s all seemed too hard to go another step, and I’ve wanted to throw every towel I’ve had in. I’ve had to stare down It’s Too Hard many, many times.
Case in point: I’ve just spent four days on a hike on the beautiful north eastern shores of Tasmania. I’m not a hiker. My feet hurt and my back hurts and I don’t like the heat and I hate walking on sand and I hate mosquitoes, sand flies, leaky tents and too-hot sleeping bags. But there I was, with a back-pack on my back, trudging along in the heat and the sand with my eyes on the lighthouse we were walking towards, which was a mere stick in the distance.
Hour after hour, on a slanting beach with a heavy pack, I kept my eye on that little lighthouse, wishing and willing it to get bigger quicker, with the Little Red Engine song incessantly looping in my head: I think I can I think I can I think I can. I changed shoes, I walked bare-footed, I rested, I walked some more, I whinged and I moaned. Finally, the lighthouse stood in front of us up on the cliff. Destination reached! Wahooo!
But this was only our lunch stop. We still had another four hours to go.
Our final destination that day was the Bay of Fires Eco-lodge where hot showers, comfortable beds (with sheets!) and delicious food waited. Before we could get to the lodge, however, there were more beaches to walk, more rocks to clamber over and one very steep hill to climb.
Once I reached the balcony of the lodge – where a big glass of iced water greeted me – I wanted to punch the air and grunt like Rocky on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but the best I could do was collapse into the festive deck chair and gulp my water, sweat dripping off my beetroot-red face. Then, as I took in the magnificent vista of the rocky and rugged shoreline, and saw, way back in the distance that little stick of a lighthouse now far, far behind us, all the effort and struggle paid off.
“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)
Oh yes, I was stretched. And I met my limits, time and time again on that walk. Yes, it was difficult, but ultimately, it was very, very worthwhile.
I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.
And I still have my towel.