You are obese and you see a movie starring people with ripped bodies. You look at these great physiques in awe, and you feel thoroughly pissed at your own state. A strong resolution enters your mind. You feel determined to change the way your body looks and feels. You start on an ambitious exercise regimen.
Week 1 : You are all enthusiastic and running on the treadmill. You are lifting those heavy weights.
Week 2 : A period of getting back to Earth. The initial enthusiasm is gone and it is an effort to find time away for the gym. You look at all the sweet food you enjoyed before and ask yourself – ‘How long can I go before I give in?’
Week 3 : You cheat for the first time. Once you do it, your determination crumbles and you just let go. You are feeling miserable eating all the junk, and you are feeling even more miserable at the hopelessness of your case. You are mad at yourself and you are mad at everything.
You are back to square one(which is most probably the couch in front of your TV).
Why does it happen? It’s not that you didn’t make an effort. You gave all that you could. Why then are results denied to you? It seems so unfair that all those people on TV have those great bodies.
This is how life is. Even with the best intentions, even with all the effort, a lot of times you don’t get what you want. When you try hard and meet with failure, it seems like there is no point in trying again and facing the same humiliating, debilitating defeat again. You feel totally in the dumps and there seems absolutely no point continuing, absolutely no way forward. You have done all that you could, and that is it.
Wait! If you are in this state, you have a golden opportunity. You have tried and been humbled. Your ego is broken and your naked self stands before this challenge. It is at this rarest of moments, at this juncture where you feel totally spent, lost, out of control and hopeless, that your future will be decided. It is at this point, and only at this point, that you have the window, the opportunity, to make a big jump, a clear shift from your past. With a little push, you can change things from a tendency to fall back to what was, into a tendency to fall forward, in the direction you want them to go.
This golden moment is a potential permanent shift.
The difference between your fat self and those on TV who claim they once were as fat as you are today, is the choice you, and they, individually make in this golden moment.
The moment of complete despair hides the seed of positive change in itself.
The nature of struggle
Struggle seems in-built into the path to success. Pick up some great people of your choice and read about their lives carefully. One common thread is that of repeated adversity and the constant struggle of these people against it.
One common difference between the auto biographies the world reads and those that it doesn’t, is the choice made, repeatedly, in the golden moments.
Struggle starts from day one. Surviving after birth is a struggle that is universal to the animal kingdom. Learning to walk or fly is always a struggle. For humans, making sense of things while growing up, finding meaning in life, finding happiness, is all a struggle. Struggling constantly for something or the other is part and parcel of life.
Is there a way to escape struggle?
Unfortunately(or fortunately!?) there is none. You may think getting a lottery or a big inheritance is a shortcut to success. But the ultimate aim of all successes, happiness, will elude you. There are studies showing that lottery winners, interviewed a year after their win, are found back at the same level of happiness as before. Contrary to popular belief, their win causes more stress than happiness. They are not used to handling so much money and feel stressed about how to use it well. They try with all their might to hold on to it. It doesn’t get them lasting happiness. The elation is fleeting.
Struggle cannot be avoided. Look at the pupa of a butterfly. When it is breaking out of its outer shell(chrysalis), it struggles a lot. If, out of pity, you break the cocoon to ease it’s efforts, it actually dies. This struggle is nature’s way of ensuring growth. The effort the insect makes during chrysalis, strengthens it’s muscles. It makes it strong enough to manage the big and beautiful wings that it is going to use for flying. Can you now relate this struggle with your’s? Can you see what the cocoon and the wings represent in your life?
Is their a way to like it, or are we condemned to suffer for every success?
I think we can enjoy struggle. You see, sports is also a struggle, but we enjoy it. What will be a sport like if you take the struggle out and just award victory. No one can enjoy such victory. What do you think the ‘sportsman spirit’ does. The primary purpose is not to ensure fair play, it is to ensure that you enjoy it!
To see how you can enjoy struggle, observe kids learning to walk. They look totally involved in what they are doing. If you call out to them and smile, the smile you get back is one of the most genuine and beautiful things you can get in this world. And does their happiness and peace mean they are not serious about their efforts? Does it mean they are not trying hard enough? Are they not making progress? Absolutely not! ON the contrary, they make splendid progress. To think of accomplishing such a task as an adult seems almost impossible. A kid probably falls a thousand times before learning to walk properly. How many times are we, as adults, ready to fail? They are way more serious about what they are doing. In fact, to say someone ‘is serious’ about his/her job, is a construct used and understood by adults only. If you think about it, why do we need to be serious at work? Why not enjoy like kids too. It seems to be better in every way. You seem to accomplish seemingly impossible feats and you enjoy yourself too!
Make a habit of falling forward in golden moments. When you are tired, it’s the best time to continue.
And smile. Your ‘seriousness’ won’t get the job done, your continuous efforts will.
It’s when you are the hardest hit, that you must not quit…