Cherish Your Struggles

The title of this article may seem as if it runs contrary to your common sense. After all, we all hate to struggle. Dealing with difficulties in life can be scary, frustrating and exhausting. No one looks forward to going through one of life’s rough patches, but…

I’ve found over and over again that it’s my struggles against obstacles that are my biggest teachers and offer the greatest opportunities for self-improvement.

I haven’t yet mastered cherishing my struggles, but I’m certainly trying. I’m trying to embrace the challenges I face in my life rather than curse them.

Like all of us, I have many struggles in life. One of my biggest struggles is living with the knowledge that my lung transplant will not last forever. I live each day with the knowledge that someday, probably sooner rather than later, my transplanted organs will fail. The average lifespan of transplanted lungs is somewhere between three and five years. I just celebrated the five-year anniversary of my transplant.

If the statistics are accurate, I am not likely to live to see my fortieth birthday. That said, I realized a long time ago that I couldn’t lead a productive and happy life if I was constantly worrying about when I would die and so I do my best not to think about it. Sometimes I fail.

Every once in a while it hits me that if my wife and I have children, I probably won’t be around to see them graduate high school. I won’t live long enough to retire. I won’t have grandchildren.

The way I deal with this is by remembering that every obstacle in our life can teach us something. There is something to be learned from every seemingly negative experience. So I look at my shortened life expectancy as an opportunity to remember to live each day more fully.

Life is a journey, but not in the traditional sense of the word. Unlike the wise men’s journey to Bethlehem, or a runner’s journey to a finish line, life’s journey is not about the destination, it’s about the journey itself.

Life’s journey is like a vacation to a foreign country or a great meal at a five-star restaurant. We don’t do these things for what we get at the end; we do them for the experience. Life’s isn’t about getting from Point A to Point B, unless Point A is one state of being, and Point B is a more evolved state of being.

Rather than thinking about life’s hurdles as obstacles that we have to leap over or find a way around in order to get to the finish line, try thinking of them like the waves of an ocean that crash on the rocks and slowly shape you into what you will become. It is your struggles, not your successes that make you who you are. Cherish them.

Action Item

Spend some time this week making a list of the three things that you’re struggling with right now. Examine each problem to see if you can find some hidden opportunity. Ask yourself:

  • What can this issue/problem teach me about myself?
  • Why am I facing this problem? Was there something that I could or should have done to avoid it?
  • Do I face this problem (or something similar) often? What does this tell me about me?

You will face challenges in your life. You will struggle. These are facts of life. It’s important to understand that struggling isn’t a sign of failure; it’s a side effect of being alive. Struggling is an invitation to be shaped into a better, more compassionate human being.

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  • Wow. You touched me deeply with how you acknowledge your shortened life expectancy…while also acknowledging that you haven’t yet mastered embracing your challenges.

    You bring a much needed message that there are no easy fixes — and it is our choice to LIVE in a state of gratitude. This is a choice that must be made again and again, as we embrace our role as a curious student.

    You are a light, Mark. Thank you for shining on us today.