No matter how hard we try, something unexpected can happen and throw off the results of our efforts. The art of living seems to be how we take that kind of blow and act during and afterwards. It’s hard to accept when life doesn’t go the way we expect. It’s hard when we have had success in the past, and with the same methods and skills we now meet failure. And it’s hard to change our ways to learn how to succeed this next time.
Yesterday I was thinking about how physical training tests the spirit to fight and thrive. It does so because hard exercise requires the will to accept pain in order to win. Whether you train your body or not, it’s the same deal with the mind, isn’t it? When we have adversity and perservere, we pass the test of our spirit to fight. We get stronger. If we don’t succeed, we still get stronger.
As long as you keep your mind on the goal, there’s no need to languor about the hardships. The hard stuff, the tiredness, the stress, the injustice, it’s part of the exercise of your spirit, your willpower.
I think that complaining about the hard stuff is like grunting too loud at the gym. Everyone knows that lifting a heavy weight involves strain and effort, sometimes gigantic effort. There’s no need to make noise about it. The act of lifting that weight is enough to make the body stronger. The strain, the struggle, the fight in itself is what builds your body and even your mind. To yell or groan or make other unnecessary show of the pain is irrelevant and ridiculous. It’s a call for attention, an indication that a person is not satisfied with the growth from training. This person is looking for acknowledgment of their effort and they will not get it from anyone who understands nature.
And so I look for parts of me that still want to complain. When am I looking for acknowledgment, when I could be still and realize my growth? When do I not feel satisfied with the work I have done, and instead look for approval?
When I’m in the midst of the struggle, I often lose sight of the goal. I try to remember that this hardship or that is sometimes a random occurrence that I can’t control. What I can completely control, as Ryan Holiday writes in The Obstacle is the Way, is my own self (142). And that involves not complaining, not looking for attention or acknowledgment of my struggle, but accepting the hardship, savoring the burn, realizing that I am in the middle of growing and achieving my goal.