6 Tools You Need to Do Hard Things and Answer Your Life Calling

Each of our spheres of influence is crackling with opportunities for us to reap significance, satisfaction, and strength (for ourselves and for our loved ones) by making new hardships.

The kind of hardships that are optional, anyway. While we use involuntary struggles by understanding them differently, and can be aided in this by putting on our trusty struggle-specs and peering through the potential perspectives to reframe the struggles, we use voluntary struggles by undertaking them diligently, and can be aided in this by putting on struggle-spurs and prodding ourselves with them to do the potential struggles.

What are struggle-spurs? Recall that, ideally, we’d with, be, and do. Certain types of ‘with-ing’, being, and doing can spur us toward the voluntary hardships we'd all otherwise be inclined to avoid.

So put on struggle-spurs and goad yourself toward the hard-but-rewarding works that have been set before you.

Prod yourself with the ‘with’ struggle-spurs to undertake potential struggles requiring some company

How do the communities you’re in move you? The camaraderie of struggle-spurs nos. 1 or 2 may be just what’s needed to nudge you to more than you could possibly imagine being able to do on your own.

Struggle-spur no. 1: sidekick(s)

Jim Rohn said that each of us is the average of the five individuals with whom he/she spends the most time.[1] It follows that if you surround yourself with supportive[2] people who deliberately undertake rewarding challenges, you’re more likely to join the fun yourself.

Want to move from selfishness to sacrifice? Join a generous community. When we look upon beautiful examples of selflessness, or are the recipients of prodigious generosity, we’re moved to give more ourselves. Want to move from self-sabotage to submission?[3] Get some gracious friends who’ll nonetheless call you to higher places. Want to move from squandering what you’ve been given to sweating for a worthwhile goal? Root yourself in a ‘going’ community, a tribe of people who aren’t stagnant but are moving outward, shoulder-to-shoulder, with a purpose.

Struggle-spur no. 2: solidarity

I once heard a speaker (his name escapes me) exhort his audience to reject the temptation to ‘castle’ through life. When we ‘castle’, we distance ourselves from anything that might make us uncomfortable, cause us harm, or disrupt our agenda, and I see in myself the tendency to do just that. I wall myself off from risk and from the needs of others. And yet, we’re called to do the opposite, to be our brother’s keeper. Of everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.

But it’s not just our sense of responsibility that moves us to sacrifice. Pope Francis, writing during the coronavirus pandemic, said, “If we are to come out of this crisis less selfish than when we went in, we have to let ourselves be touched by others’ pain. To come out of this crisis better, we have to recover the knowledge that as a people we have a shared destination. The pandemic has reminded us that no one is saved alone. What ties us to one another is what we commonly call solidarity. Solidarity is more than acts of generosity, important as they are; it is the call to embrace the reality that we are bound by bonds of reciprocity. On this solid foundation we can build a better, different, human future.”[4]

The ‘with’ struggle-spurs move us to make hardship from this; we’re abler because of the significance of being rooted with loved ones.

Prod yourself with the ‘be’ struggle-spurs to undertake potential struggles requiring some context

What encourages you when you encounter resistance? The reassurance of struggle-spurs nos. 3 or 4 may be just what’s needed to drive you forward in the face of adversity.

Struggle-spur no. 3: story

Each of us has a life calling, the set of frequencies at which we in our humanity and in our individuality resonate most deeply, and ‘personal leadership’ is the discipline of discerning, heeding, and humbly seeking to answer that calling.[5] Since there will be difficulties along the way, your calling is an invitation to hardship, to adventure. Your life therefore has all the makings of a story, and your story is, in turn, but one chapter in a larger tale.

A healthy awareness of the stories in which you have - or have been offered - a part can focus your attention, your intentions, and your energy. Moreover, this sense of where you come from, where you’re going, and what it’ll likely take to get there compels you to move forward. When you read a page-turner, the story pulls you in; when you’re in a page-turner, the story pushes you forward, wherever you are along the path. So engage in a little self-talk, reminding yourself of the stories you’re in, the roles you play,[6] and even how far you’ve come. Progress, even a little,[7] begets progress.[8]

Struggle-spur no. 4: success

As humans, we’re ‘successful’ when we’re flourishing, that is, when we’re growing in significance, satisfaction, and strength. Past struggles, your own or someone else’s, have the potential to produce in you significance, satisfaction, and strength, which in a kind of virtuous cycle, then form you into someone more willing to tackle the next hardship.

The newly-crawling baby has the courage to strike out even farther this time because of the significance she feels when she looks back and sees the smiling, trusted face of her mama, who’s sacrificed much for her. The disciplined employee again declines to gossip with his co-workers because of the satisfaction of believing that at some point others