Monday, March 10, 2008

Monday's Mantra: Struggling is Optional

In this blog, I've written about mantras before, but now I'm starting a new Monday-only feature that gives you a chance to start the week off right. Please let me know if this feature is helpful to you or for what issue youneed a mantra. Email me at Heather at post your thoughts below.

You've probably heard the old axiom, "Pain is mandatory; suffering is optional." It's usually uttered by those pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstrap drill sargeant types--the "quit yer whining" variety of motivational speaker.

Let's take this out of that context for a moment, though.

If you're a perfectionist, you probably have a tendency to put yourself down pretty harshly in an effort to meet your very high expectations. It can be effective: Maybe you wouldn't reach your unrealistic goals if you hadn't have pushed yourself out of your comfort zone. Maybe your business plan or income goals would have been an esoteric exercise if you weren't willing to push yourself hard to get there. There's something to be said for pushing.

But sometimes, if you use self-condemnation to motivate yourself, that pushing can turn into shoving and leave you feeling (pardon the extension of this analogy) beaten up.

In other words, your mantra, without realizing it, may be:

You're not doing enough. Nothing you do is enough.

How'd you like to meet that bully in a dark alley? I wouldn't.

How do you know if you're suffering for your work? The best barometer is self-pity: Why is this happening to me? Why is everything so hard? First of all, pushing yourself is hard, of course. It's a good sign that you're reaching and stretching yourself. But it may also be so hard because it has to be in that worldview. It can't be regularly fun and exciting. If it were, you might not feel like you're working hard enough.

So for this week, consider taking on the mantra that you can accomplish your goals without suffering for them. Work hard, feel that stretch and the fears associated with going after your dreams. But you don't need to pay a pound of flesh to have the life you want. What's more, if you do feel like you have to punish yourself to achieve your goals, you're unlikely to enjoy them anyway.

So take a moment when you're stressed this week, breath deeply into your stomach, imagine a golden light filling you. And then say to yourself:

I love my job and I don't have to suffer to achieve my dreams.


Michelle Rafter said...


What a nice way to start off the week. I too am guilty of putting pressure on myself to get things done, and just end up stressing myself out. So I'll adopt this mantra for the week and see how it works.

Ironically, I just posted something on my blog today about the connection between writing and yoga, and how freelancers can use yoga to stay focused. What's in the air that we're both telling ourselves to be nicer to ourselves?

Michelle Rafter

Anonymous said...

This is a good reminder for me. I tend to focus too much on the challenges rather than the joys of my work.
Thank you!

Unknown said...

Oh, how I needed this today! I think it's a great feature to start off the week. A future topic that worth covering might address developing patience (a tough one for me--and I'm sure for most freelancers who are waiting for busy editors and the like to respond to recently filed stories, pitches, etc.)!