“When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard'....." - Sydney J. Harris
Today's Monday Mojo post is based on a quote I love from Sydney J. Harris, a prominent American journalist during the 1950's and 60's :)
“When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?”– Sydney J. Harris
It's a good question, and one (if you are ever game to ask someone who is bemoaning how hard life is!) that normally gets a bemused expression as a response. How hard your life is, is determined by your perspective. Here's an example to explain better.
"I'm flat out at work! My assistant has been away for three days which has meant I've had to work back late every night. Life is hard."
"My family and I are living in perpetual fear in a war-torn country. I have no job, but I look every day. We have no running water and barely enough food to survive. Life is hard."
Then there's another comparison that I know is very real as I see it often in my own city ...
"Since losing my job a few years ago I've lost my house, my family and my friends. I'm homeless... I sleep rough on the streets and rely on the generosity of strangers for food and hand-outs. Life is hard."
Everyone faces challenges and sometimes it can feel like no matter how hard you try, you can't seem to make progress or circumstances are continually working against you. I get it. And yes, I know, even little issues can make it feel tough.
When we experience those hard times though, it can be enormously helpful to stop and ask ourselves "How 'bad' or 'hard' is it really?"
I have a personal example that I have reflected on often. It occurred in a running event I completed to raise money for a charity back in 2015. The race is called Marathon Des Sables, which is a six day race across the Sahara Desert. It's considered a tough race and you need to be self-sufficient as you traverse the 250 or so kilometres across the desert.
On one of the days I got ill - stomach cramps and diarrhea which left me quite dehydrated, sore and tired. At the end of the race day, I was in the triage getting seen to by the doctor whilst getting my badly blistered feet bandaged up for the next day. I was feeling very ordinary, and thinking how tough I had it and hard things were for me.
Then a guy came in and sat down next to me to have an ECG. When I saw them wiring him up, I asked if he was ok or if there was a problem. To which he replied, "Oh no. I have a pace-maker and they make me get tested at the end of every day to make sure everything is ok." Suddenly, a bit of diarrhea and sore feet didn't seem so bad.
Chatting some more I asked him what brought him to this iconic event. He responded by explaining to me that he was running as a guide for another guy who was blind and running the race for charity. Wow!
Needless to say, I stopped sooking about my feet and diarrhea and got back to focusing on how lucky I was to be competing in the event and that a) I didn't need a pacemaker and b) I had my eyesight! Also, I only had to get myself through the race.
I think the point of Harris' quote is that how hard life feels to us, is determined by context and our personal situation. It doesn't mean we should play down the issues that are making life difficult, nor should we trivialise them if they are causing us serious grief. Believe me when I say I understand little things can feel like big problems! I complain bitterly and wonder what I have done wrong to deserve such grievous wrongs such as:f
my internet speed being slow or the wi-fi going down
being delayed in traffic because of an accident (would be worse if I was in the accident!)
my train being cancelled
meetings being cancelled at the last minute that I have had planned for weeks
the computer crashing and losing an hour o unsaved work
new business proposals being declined
people not getting back to me when they promised they would ..
Annoying. Painful. Frustrating. But in comparison to other woes in the world, maybe these things aren't the catastrophe they seem at the time...
When life is feeling hard, reflect on whether things could be worse. Are there others doing it way tougher than you?
Focus on what changes you can make to resolve the issue or improve the situation. Remember E +R = O? All you can do is deal with the challenge in front of you. And you can only respond with actions that you can impact or control.
Try to appreciate that although things aren't great, they will get better - and you're probably doing better than a lot of others in the world.
Smile and have a great week!
If you feel you need help:
If you still feel overwhelmed and are unable to see light at the end of the tunnel because life seems too hard - talk to someone. A friend, a family member, your mentor or even a professional or someone from one of the organisations listed below. You're not alone and there is always help nearby.
The Black Dog Institute: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Life Line: https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Photo stressed business man from Wix