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Welcoming Difficulty Into Our Lives

So much of the mythology of human improvement is built around the metaphor of upward progress. Do this and things get better. And they just keep getting better and better and better. Which is why movies close on happy endings. No one sees what happens the day after the hero wakes up and is in the thick of their lives again.

The myth of a life lived through constant upward movement without setbacks or issues is deeply inconsistent with the realities of the human experience. Any organic experience for that matter. Because to be living is to be changing and cycling through new experiences and states. Yes, things can improve. That doesn’t mean that other things won’t emerge as challenging, new experiences, or old patterns.

Most of our lives are spent waving between successes and challenges. It’s that friction that polishes us and makes us more resilient and better human beings. We are never perfect. There is no ideal at the end of the rainbow that will allow you to bask in the glory of the golden version of you. There is only this moment and this moment is changing.

When we buy into the false promise of constant upward growth, without accepting the ebb and flow of life, we fight against those difficult experiences that contradict the belief that we should always be better, better, better. We beat ourselves up for not feeling great or not being at our best because we hold on to the belief that we should always be on that upward line of growth. Your experiences are not linear, and neither is your development. It can inch “upward” but it will always be waving – growth is predicated on how well you learn to ride those waves.

Don’t let anyone sell you on a better future with the perfect you at the end of it. Your future self is entirely contingent on your ability to find peace and acceptance in this moment. A moment that is perfectly imperfect, ebbing and flowing, honing your ability to nurture self-compassion and find real meaning in your always changing human experience.

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Written by
Mark Stolow