Seek Out the Struggle

I’m a very orderly person, to the point of being an anal stickler for details. I like to pre-structure my days as much as possible, following a number of habits that are set in stone. This might seem boring to most people – it often does to me as well – but I also get certain sense of security from it. I know what to do, I know when to do it, and I know it will get me the results I want in the long run.

As a result, I hate to deviate from my routine.

Deviations happen though, usually in one of two forms: There are either external interruptions, or internal disruptions. External interruptions refer to “things that life throws at you,” as I like to describe it. Your boss telling you to fix the computer; your car being due for the yearly check up; your insurance guy calling you with an offer. That kind of thing.

Some of these external interruptions you can cut short by ignoring them or by getting rid of time wasters; some of these interruptions cannot be helped, but need to be dealt with at some point.

But then there is a second cause that makes me deviate from my routine, and that is the aforementioned internal disruption. It’s a fancy word for something you probably have experienced yourself: It starts with a slight nagging at the back of your head; a certain new idea or doubt keeps popping up and makes you question yourself. At first, it’s just little flashes without a real pattern yet, so you can easily push them down again or just ignore them. But then this idea keeps coming back and it seems to be growing in size and most importantly, you can’t deny it anymore: It’s valid, so you have to act on it. But at the same time you don’t want to, because it is going to interrupt your current flow, the very good routine you have going. You just know it’s going to make everything more difficult – after all, it’s already causing you unrest.

All right, the last paragraph was a lot of vague story telling… How about some examples? Here we go: You finally realizing you are with the wrong person, just out of habit (the wrong type of habit). You leaving the safety net of your secure job and becoming self-employed. You selling all your belongings and travelling the world for the unforeseeable future.

I went through all of these myself, and am currently going through a new one (trying to survive as a writer). To keep me company in my misery, my best friend is getting started on the location independent track as well and already struggling with the uncertainty that comes with it. So on a regular basis, I cannot help but wonder: Wouldn’t it be easier to ignore these internal disruptions, just like I try to ignore the external interruptions as much as I can? (And for good reason).

It is tempting; I know quite a few people, even close friends, who do so and who have been “successfully” doing so for years. They simply hide behind the social status quo – the responsibilities of their jobs and their families mostly. They deny these internal disruptions, and allow these nagging ideas and the self-questioning doubts no room in their life. As their reward, they get stability.

But they also pay a massive price. Because for all the stability they attain, and for all the social acceptance that goes with it, they give up their potential for development.

Life is struggle; struggle is the most potent catalyst for growth; and a meaningful life comes down to which struggles you allow into it.

We are like these divided walking paradoxes: On the one hand, our subconscious mind seems to exactly know what stupid thing we should stop doing and what we should really do instead. That’s why it plants theses doubts and ideas in our conscious minds. But then we half-consciously deny ourselves, just to avoid any extra friction. We would rather not be frightened than become something bigger than we currently are.

In that sense, foregoing the (right) struggles is like a suicide installment plan; you might as well just do it now.

And vice versa: By seeking out these struggles that are worth it, you cannot help but improve in the process; even if it hurts at first. In that sense, internal struggles can act like a compass: They almost always point you the way you should go next.

Ah, it’s a day (or rather a night) for pathetic big phrases I guess… Can we even take this one further? With a little bit of help from Mr. Pathetic himself, my favorite philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, we sure can:

“For believe me: the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and greatest enjoyment is – to live dangerously.” (The Gay Science)

Now I go to sleep in my apartment that is paid 3 months in advance in one on the safest cities on this planet.

Good night.