Who doesn’t like a good success story? You know, one about overcoming insurmountable obstacles, setbacks, resistance, or losses. Where the ‘good guy’ finally wins in the end. Where right beats might. Where good beats bad. Where life beats death. And where the right people get their right rewards. But as we engage with these stories, it’s easy to fast-forward to the happy ending. To subconsciously or consciously tune out the critical interlude between where they’ve come from and where they’ve now happily arrived. And, in so doing, we miss the value of the all-important struggle along the way. We miss, perhaps, the most important element of all.
If we’re honest, most of us don’t like struggle. Not even a little bit. For struggle is hard. It’s messy and murky. Disorienting. Sometimes painful. And often quite uncertain. It’s a phenomena of being ‘on the way’, but not yet there. So we work enormously hard to reach the desired goal. The place we want to be. The thing we want to get. The person we want to be with. And there’s no end to helpful advice on this score. The Law of Attraction is notable in this regard. It holds that we tend to get, achieve, or become what we focus on most. That the universe ‘lines up’ with our thoughts. It nudges things along in our favor. In other words, if we dream, focus, plan, and work hard and long enough on an endpoint, Transcendence will get on-board. And we’re bound to arrive. And get the prize.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with arriving, winning, and achieving. It can be a good thing sometimes and in some ways. However, our ongoing laser-focus on attracting the end-destination to our waiting grasp ignores this important fact: struggle is inevitable. It’s a cosmic, evolutionary, historical, existential, spiritual, and individual fact. Struggle has always been a part of life on earth– from its very inception, however you define it. And struggle isn’t going away either. It will always be an inherent part of being human. Further, our obsessive preoccupation with ‘arriving’ misses this even more important point: struggle defines, tests, nurtures, and saves us. Yes, even saves us. From ourselves.
It’s critical to note here that human struggle isn’t the same as suffering, pain, loss, violence against others, domination over others, power or victimization, withdrawal, resistance, or feeling like a total failure. To be sure, these things can become part of struggle if we’re not careful. In fact, they can subsume struggle and become the main ‘thing’ when struggle goes bad. But human struggle, as a concept, is about something different. It’s about making concerted, directed, and strenuous efforts toward a desired state of being. An arduous, but potentially rewarding, journey toward human ‘being’ amidst challenges and difficulties. A journey of many things. But, most importantly, a journey of learning.
Struggle can teach us many things, in fact. In the face of struggle, we can learn about our capacities and our limitations. We can learn humility, patience, and the ability to slow down at times. We can learn courage, strength, persistence, and creativity. We can learn forgiveness, reconciliation, better interpersonal skills, and healthier boundaries. We can learn that we’re actually more empowered than we thought– then use our empowered ‘beings’ on a situational basis to influence outcomes along the way where possible. Conversely, we can learn to hold less tightly onto what we think we want or need. To let go more often and simply be with what ‘is’. By the way, stories abound regarding this kind of learning amidst human struggle. In history and in the news today. For those spiritually or religiously inclined, the Bible is also full of applicable examples. Open the pages and they’ll jump right out at you.
So we can learn from our struggles to be sure. But it’s not just the testing and learning that matter. Human struggle can actually save us. Struggle is hardwired into our universe, our psyches, and our physical beings. Therefore, we actually need struggle in order to continue living in the fullest sense of the word. For when we ultimately attain our desires, our goals, our stuff, our turf, and our ‘security’, we often find that it’s anticlimactic. We can quickly become bored, cynical, disappointed, saddened, unsettled, unnaturally possessive, and perplexed. We should be happier, but we aren’t. The ‘high’ should have lasted longer, but it didn’t. We should feel satisfied, but we’re left wondering why we aren’t any longer. Worse yet, we begin to atrophy. Waste away. Figuratively die. Maybe literally over time for that matter.
For to be attuned to the universe and to Transcendence is to strive, struggle, wrestle, explore, and journey. For those of faith, that which we spiritually seek is never fully realized. Perfect understanding is never achieved on this side of Eternity. Real certainty isn’t possible. That’s why we call it ‘faith’. The Great Mystery unfolds like pages in a book. If we skip to the end, we’ve ruined the story. We may think that we know how it turned out. But we really don’t. Because we’ve missed the richness of all that came before the ending in the book. In truth, we’ve missed the whole point of reading the story in the first place. Because it was the story and the struggles within that made it all worthwhile. The ending simply left us wanting for more.
So the next time you’re tempted to ask the universe to nicely align around what you most desire or want… or to bring it to you more quickly and effortlessly… think twice. Then think again. Be careful about what you wish for. For the Law of Attraction may be your adversary, not your friend. There’s a better way. Ask the universe to attract the things that you need to keep going. To attract the capabilities necessary to continue your striving and struggling: for the things always just out of your reach for a change!