The Struggle Is Real

July 6, 2016

Watching babies is more interesting than watching TV. That might seem like an obvious statement, but there are some really good shows out there these days. And while this mama loves nothing more than a good Star Trek marathon, I also love watching my infant son move around and try to figure out the world.

My son is 11 weeks old today. For the past few weeks we’ve been giving him the opportunity to spend some time on his belly in the hopes that he’ll start pushing his head up off of the ground using his arms. He can do this really well when he’s lying on my chest, but he still struggles with it when he’s on the ground.

He scoots forward really well and does a really great “parachute pose”, but lifting his head is still a big challenge. It’s so much of a challenge that his overeager big sister insists on trying to help him. She kneels down next to him and physically lifts his head up. She does this because she sees him struggling and not succeeding and being the big helper that she is, she wants to make it easier for him.

Everytime she does this we have to tell her to stop helping because it’s a little terrifying when she grabs his head and pulls it away from the floor.  Mostly we tell her to stop helping because struggling is the point. It’s actually important for Archer to struggle so he can succeed. Without the struggle, my son has neither the incentive nor the perspective to lift his head.

These 2 motivators are important.

We need incentive because without having the impetus to create change, we’re more inclined to stay just as we are. I believe that transformation is a part of our nature as human beings but transformation is not easy. It’s complicated and messy and although extremely worthwhile, inertia is a very powerful force. Inertia is very convincing.

We need perspective to see that there are more ways to exist. Head down vs head up. What more is possible if I lift my head? Can I do those same things with my head down? The more doors we open, the more paths we travel, the more choices we have and this gives us a greater perspective for what will serve and support us in any given moment.

The struggle is also important because before we have any success, we have to experience challenge or difficulty. Without knowing what it feels like to do battle with your demons, the success probably won’t stick or last.

I see my students experience this conflict all the time. Whether it’s my yogis struggling with an arm balance or the mamas I coach struggling with a difficult habit, they’re all basically like my son, trying to lift their heads and getting a little frustrated when it doesn’t happen on the first try.

I can relate.

Almost everything I’ve achieved in life, I’ve had to work pretty hard for. I have always had some help and support along the way, but ultimately, I had to lift my own head up.

This is not what most people want to hear, though.

No one really wants to hear that her yoga class might involve a little struggle. Most people just want to know when savasana is going to happen. This isn’t to say that yogis don’t appreciate the struggle when they’re faced with it – some very much do. I know that the challenges I’ve faced on my yoga mat have been a catalyst for achieving huge asana goals and great transformation.

But “you will struggle” isn’t one of the main talking points getting people to a yoga class.

The same is true of the mamas I work with who are looking to shift unhelpful habits into more beneficial habits so they can feel healthier and happier. I’ve had more than one mama ask me to help cure her of her late night snacking habit. I can offer tips, suggestions, and encouragement, but I’m not the one who can change the habit. Only she can. Usually this means it’s going to be really hard before it becomes an easy routine.

I don’t have a magic wand that can help yogis lift up into crow pose or help mamas take better care of themselves. I don’t even wish that I did. The benefits of the struggle far outweigh the hoped for result. I know we all want to achieve the big goals and when we do, it’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment.

The juice is in the struggle, though. Struggling teaches us that we not only can take on big challenges, but that we believe we can overcome them. Even just taking on a challenge like a difficult arm balance or a tricky habit gives us the idea that transformation is possible. If you can dig into the struggle instead of running from it, you demonstrate to yourself that YOU BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.

That’s no small thing.

So next time you are faced with a big challenge, think of my 11-week old son trying to lift his head off of the ground. He’s going to keep at it until he gets it because that’s what babies do. He might not realize it now because he’s operating on pure instinct, but he’s teaching himself that through a big struggle he can accomplish big things. He will not only learn how to lift his head up, but eventually he’ll learn to roll over. Eventually he’ll learn to sit up. Someday in the not so distant future he’ll learn how to scoot or crawl. Then he’ll start to pick himself up and stand. Walking will be just around the corner. And then, someday, he’ll run.

I know this because I’ve seen his sister do it. Although we helped a little and gave her tons of encouragement and lots of love when she fell, she did all of this on her own.

The struggle is real, my friends.

So are the lessons we learn from it.

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