“Without a struggle there can be no progress.” Those are wise words from Frederick Douglass. They hurt but are so true.
Progress is painful
While I’m assuming he was referring to societal progress and struggle, especially in terms of abolitionism, this sentiment holds true to personal progress as well. We can certainly draw parallels between larger struggles and those struggles we hold within ourselves.
Mr. Douglass believed in the equality of all people, and worked hard to change minds and policies to that effect. After successfully escaping from slavery in 1838, he used his intellect and talents to change the public’s minds about the treatment of all humans. We are still struggling today with this concept as a nation and as a world.
Between the years of 1838 and 2017, we can look back and see how many times we’ve struggled in the name of progress. Sometimes history has repeated itself, and sometimes the struggles are new.
We’re far from being done on this front. We’re still in the struggle, thickly. We’re still in pain. But progress has been made. Even when progress backslides, the overall direction is still forward.
Personal Struggle and Progress
This same back and forth process between struggle and progress also happens within you when you’re trying to make some sort of change in your life.
- You go on a diet to lose weight, start hitting the gym more. Then backslide during a vacation or time of stress, only to pick back up the next week where you left off.
- You start meditating every day, then one day you’re so tired that a nap is all you can handle or your day falls off the rails. And before you know it your meditation practice is more of an occasional hobby than a full-on ritual.
- You set up a budget and a savings plan only to have something break. And you know things break in three’s, so soon there’s more to replace. There goes all of your savings and your motivation to be conscious of where you’re spending your money.
Things like this happen every day to every one of us. It’s life. But somewhere along the way you forget this fact. You want progress to be linear, like one of those beautiful charts where the line goes up steadily and faithfully. But what it really looks like is a handful of noodles thrown at the wall. That’s the real line chart of progress.
So as hard as it can be sometimes, embrace the struggle. That’s the only way through to progress. Coincidentally, the words of wisdom today at the bottom of my day planner read, “Happiness returns more quickly when you give yourself permission to be blue.” Go be blue, the dark and stormy shade. After that the sunshiny sky blue will be visible.