Real struggle disrupts our sense of wellbeing, security and happiness. Struggles are specific to each individual but common themes include breakdown/ loss of families and close relationships, career and financial issues, illness, disability and mistreatment by others. Living a life that is not true to who you are is also a struggle. Many of us experience struggle in some form.
Those who turn their struggle into success
To me, people who turn their struggle into success are the ultimate testimony to the human spirit. Looking at their struggles you’d expect them to be unhappy and unsuccessful. But they are not. In fact, those that struggle are often more successful, happy and flourishing compared to those who have had an easy life. Doesn’t that make you feel good? Humans can win against all odds, they can be resilient, amazing and inspiring – and that includes YOU!
How do we do it?
The path from struggle to success is multi-faceted, a myriad of character strengths, psychological traits and behaviours are involved. For now, here’s one important theme that helps along the journey: Perspective.
When things are hard it’s easy to get tunnel vision, to only see what’s wrong, to feel victimised, helpless and to lose sight of the future. We forget that actually, there is life outside of that tunnel, there are other paths and perspectives which offer healing, inner strength and progress.
Outside the tunnel: There are two sides to everything
Light – dark. Wet – dry. Positive – negative. Hot – cold, up – down, male – female and so on – everything has polarity, everything. It’s the nature of life. You and your struggles are not exempt from this rule. Do you see both sides of your struggle or are you only looking at the negatives in your tunnel vision? Push yourself to see the positives and the opportunities for growth, they are there – they have to be there because nothing is one dimensional.
Martine Wright lost both her legs in the London 7/7 bombings and she went on to represent Britain in the Paralympics. Could she have done this if she only focussed on the negatives in her situation?
Viktor Frankl survived years in concentration camps during the Holocaust, even he was able to gain inner strength by focussing on positives like escaping the gas chamber for one more moment.
Your thoughts affect your state, weak thoughts create a weak state. Success requires strength.
Outside the tunnel: There is meaning and purpose to your struggle
People generate strength by believing in a grander purpose to what is happening, that their struggle is part of a bigger picture. Often, we can’t see proof of this perspective until we’ve reached success, we look back and say ‘if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be where I am today’.
But the paradox is that you can’t reach success until you see from this perspective. Viktor Frankl observed that those who couldn’t find meaning to their suffering in concentration camps mentally checked out. And, a very short while later their bodies also checked out. Without meaning and purpose they literally lost the will to live.
Outside the tunnel: A higher power
The path from struggle to success is marked with the footsteps of people who believed in something greater than themselves. Stepping way out of their tunnel vision, they find strength in what they may call God, consciousness, the Universe – whatever works for them.
Oprah Winfrey suffered a childhood of abuse and racial degradation but went on to become a billionaire and one of the most well-known TV personalities of her time. She always maintained a strong faith in a greater power (for her, this was God) that supported her in her struggle.
‘Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change’ – Wayne Dyer
Perspective can be powerful or it can be a pitfall, it depends in which direction you look. You can look inside your tunnel or dare to step outside and see what else is out there. You might find something to hold onto, something greater… something empowering… something that gives you strength – the strength to move from struggle to success.