Finding the Right Stance When Doing Hard Things

Feb 27, 2012

Have you ever had one of those weeks? You know the kind, when life is just plain hard. Nothing devastating, no funerals or catastrophes. Just difficult, draining. You wake up tired, go to bed tired, and wonder how you’re going to possibly wake up and do it all over again tomorrow.

The past few weeks have been hard like that for me. It has a little to do with our family transition and my struggle to rediscover a rhythm to life. But maybe your “hard” is meeting a book deadline, fighting a serious illness, raising a difficult teenager, grieving a dream or looking for a new job. It doesn’t matter what your hard thing is, it probably feels about as insurmountable as mine.

I’ve long believed the best lessons can be learned in challenges. But, boy, that sentence writes easier than it lives. This week, I’m changing my stance, facing my hard thing in a way that makes me more capable. How I approach the daily struggle can make all the difference in the day’s outcome.

Stance #1: Embrace, Rather Than Resist. I’m a fighter. When I don’t like something, I arm wrestle it into submission. I learned long ago (thanks, Dad) not to be a quitter. A good quality in many ways, but it can also make me fiercely resistant to difficulty. When facing something extraordinarily difficult, I get frustrated with its lack of submission. You might hear me say things like, “I wish it was like it was before” or “If only this and that would happen …” These are avoidant strategies, helpful for resisting reality, but prolonging the agony. However, some challenges are best mastered by leaning into them. Hard things often require accepting them for what they are. Only then do you have the upper hand to master them.

Stance #2: Set Your Pace to Walk — Not Run. When it comes to band-aid removal, I’m a quick ripper. I face pain with a let’s-get-it-over-with-as-quickly-as-possible mentality, teeth clenched, eyes closed and rrrrrrrrrrrip! I want to conquer. ASAP. And I’ll sprint to the end just to get to the finish. Most significant challenges, however, require a long, slow cooking. Like a roast in the crock pot, the heart and mind are tendered and flavored by the length of the process. If I try to speed up the process, I end up burned out and dried out.

Stance #3: Keep One Eye on the Potential, the Other on the Present. I used to think the key to success meant fully embracing a vision of the future — what could be. Then my pendulum swung the other direction, a commitment to be fully present in this moment, without regard for the next. There’s merit to both positions, and I don’t think either needs be exclusive. In fact, when facing an impossibility, the best stance is a combination of both. Right now, I wake up each morning with the goal of getting through today. Each day is nine-months-pregnant with responsibility. I can’t possibly thinking beyond today’s swollen calendar. At the same time, I have to keep reminding myself of the potential benefits 5 years, 10 years, 20 years from now. With one eye on the reward, I have enough hope to do what I need to do today.

What hard thing are you facing today? And which stance can you adopt to make a challenge more manageable?


  1. Jerolyn

    Wow, Michele, what a timely post. I am dipping in my toes in the water of the fight against Human Trafficking. It is so overwhelming and it feels like anything I might do would be so insignificant that it’s easy to just shift my passion to something else. But I don’t feel God has released me from this. Thanks so much for your words of wisdom.

    • Michele

      Wow, Jerolyn. A worthy battle to step into, but not one to take lightly either. I’m sure the weight of it feels heavy. Please keep me posted on how it’s going!

  2. Melissa Mashburn ~ Mel's World

    Love, love, love this Michele! It is so right where I am at right now and I too am not a quitter (my daddy would never let me think of quitting either) and a band-aid ripper…I’ve always been on the swing of thinking ahead and also being fully present. So, for me…I think it’s time for me to just EMBRACE it instead of resisting it…thanks for the great post!

    • Michele

      For those of who are are “get-it-done” people, the hardest thing is to release control and lean into the moment. Whew … Working on it. 🙂 Thanks for the comment and encouragement, Melissa!


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