Reality Check: Doing the Hard Thing

“I don’t even know why I am doing this.”
My friend, who we’ll call Julie for this little story, had hit a rough spot on her way toward a goal that’s important to her.
Because I’m a loyal friend with a pretty good memory, I was able to remind Julie of why she was doing this. Julie had taken on this task because it is a step toward achieving a bigger goal. I just helped refresh her memory—to see that big picture again.
Then, it was ok. Julie regained perspective. She could see how small this current challenge is when put in the context of the big picture. She got a little help with the task and now she’s back on track; once again enthusiastic, reinvigorated, and closer to her goal. It’s all good.
Whenever we do something difficult, there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll run into a rough patch along the way. To maintain perspective, it helps to keep our big goal in mind.
If you don’t have a big goal, it’s more difficult to answer the question of, “Why am I doing this?” When we choose to do hard things, it’s easier to continue with enthusiasm when we know the reason.
A hard thing can be physically difficult, such as running a marathon or even walking every day. Gardening, building, landscaping can all be physically challenging. Hard, but not impossible.
A hard thing can also be mentally difficult. Taking a course, learning a language, or learning to play a musical instrument can be hard things. Perhaps you find it hard to be organized. If so, taking on the challenge of organizing your life would be a hard thing, indeed.
No matter your age or your abilities, you can find a hard thing to work on if you wish to do so.
My little interaction with Julie took me back to a fundamental question, “Why do we choose to do hard things, anyway?”
One response, consistent with choice theory, is that the accomplishment of a difficult task satisfies one of our basic needs: that need for esteem, power, recognition.
When things don’t go well for us (and that’s inevitable if we are doing a hard thing), how we respond contributes to our perception of ourselves. If we manage to muster up an effective response, then from that experience we know that we can overcome challenges. We develop character and resilience. We become a stronger person.
Another reason from choice theory, which applies especially to the mentally hard things, is that hard things can involve learning. Learning satisfies another basic human need: the need for fun.
One more reason I’ll offer for why we choose to do the hard things is that many also give us the opportunity to be helpful for others, satisfying our love and belonging needs.
During this restrictive time, while our regular lives and routines are disrupted, some people are choosing to take proactive action by doing hard things.
If you have a hard thing to do, you may as well embrace it. If you don’t have one, you might find it satisfying—and fun—to choose one. I’d suggest choosing a hard thing that will bring value for yourself or others; one that will ultimately bring you joy.
Then work on it, even when it’s hard. I came across this quote attributed to Jerry West, “You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days you feel good.”
It’s not always easy to do the hard thing (or it wouldn’t be hard, would it?) But it’s easier to continue when we know why we are doing it.
Have you chosen to take on a hard thing that isn’t demanded of you? How’s it going?

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