by Kelly Diels
A conversation with my inner lazy ass.
(Ok, she’s my outer lazy ass.)
Writing. Rising Up. Raising Cash. Raising Kids. Working. Working out. Losing weight. Not losing my mind while keeping it all together.
These things are hard. Or, I tell myself they’re hard.
Let’s talk about hard.
Hard means attempting a task that might outstrip your abilities. Hard means straining ’til you shake. Hard means acute mental anguish.
Hard is hard. No wonder we’re having such a hard time.
Let’s reframe, shall we?
It’s too hard. Oh, you think you’re hard, do you? A hard man is good to find, says my good friend Mae West…so, in certain circumstances, hard is a damn fine find.
Given all the ways we can use hard (get yer dirty mind outta the gutter), it makes you – me – wonder, What is hard, anyway?
Depression. Childbirth. War. Waiting – and praying – for your warrior to come home. Poverty. Abuse.
Those things are hard and we as individuals and a culture ought to work very hard to avoid them.
(Excepting childbirth. The history of civilization our mutual existences attests to its ubiquity and necessity.)
When I’m self-talking and telling myself that something is hard, what I mean is not that the task is hard (as in birthing-small-creatures/going-to-war hard). It means it isn’t pleasurable. In my usual mental calculus, hard = absence of pleasure. I’m not using hard to describe things that are difficult/verging on impossible – in fact there aren’t a lot of things I encounter regularly that meet that criteria, but then again I’m not in a war zone or a maternity ward, same diff. (Forgive me, I just had a baby, I’m both traumatized and obsessed.) Most often, I’m using hard to describe things that aren’t getting me high.
This is a problem. This is a good problem to have. The first step to getting better is admitting you have a problem.
(Immabout to stage an intervention on my own damn self.)
Wherein Hard Becomes Easy. Or At Least Tolerable.
Most of the things in my life that I struggle with, that I tell myself are ‘hard’, aren’t hard at all. They’re just not immediately pleasurable. They’re not delivering hits of instant gratification.
But they’re not hard. This is good: because things that are hard are hard to do, or do well. And nothing I’m trying to do – write a book, raise civilized humans, make the dolladollabills – is actually all that hard. For me.
(The only thing in my daily that’s truly, almost insurmountably hard for me is P90X.)
I’m a good writer. I’m a good mother. I’m pretty good at making money and making my way in the world. To do any of those things well, all I have to do is sustain my effort.
And maybe those are the two keys to unlocking success: do what you’re good at, and keep at it.
That’s obvious, isn’t it? Not hard at all.
Except there’s more…
If you simply resolved to only do things that are easy and that you’re good at it, a whole lot of essential tasks just wouldn’t get done. Avoiding things that don’t give you pleasure means you’ll play flamingo with most of your life. (Head, meet hole in the sand.) To wit: parenting. I’m a good mother, but most of the mundane labour that goes into mothering might not be hard but it isn’t pleasurable, either. If I only did what gave me pleasure, I’d be cuddling a baby wearing a diaper that’s 63 days old. (The kid is 63 days old, d’ya see where I’m going with this?) If I’m leading with strengths I’ve got to admit that beatifically toughing out a toddler tantrum isn’t a particular talent of mine. I don’t enjoy it.
Ditto invoicing. Or chasing biz. Or staying persistently present on Twitter. Or writing guest posts for anyone I don’t adore. (Big ups to The World’s Strongest Librarian for making this easy by being on My Adorable List.)
(It really exists.)
But here’s the difference: when I tell myself that any of those essential tasks are ‘hard’ then I don’t do them. When I admit that they’re not hard, they’re just un-fun, then I can – and do! – do them.
Because you can do anything necessary but unrewarding or unpleasant for a minute or two (or sixty when necessary).
I learned that on PDX. Which is both unpleasant and hard but eminently survivable one exercise at a time.
But above all, this is what I’ve learned:
Hard is a Mental Game You Play With Yourself
“Hard” is how you defeat yourself before you begin to fight. Whatever it is you need/ought/must do, it probably isn’t too hard. It probably just doesn’t taste like a chocolate sundae.
So don’t play the ‘it’s too hard’ game with yourself.
Because if you’re going to play with yourself, there are other activities that are much more pleasurable.
(And with most of those it helps to be hard.)
About the author:
Kelly Diels likes to think she’s a modern incarnation of Mae West, if Mae West moved to the suburbs, gained baby weight that is now school-age, wrote a feisty blog (Cleavage, it’s a sexy word that means more than you might think), and taught online artists, entrepreneurs and provocateurs how to write. Well.