Life’s a struggle. Work hard. Fight to win. It isn’t easy. Making money is hard. Have you ever heard or thought any of these things? Do you believe they’re true? Where and when did you buy into this?
You may have learned in early childhood that:
- Life is a struggle
- You have to work hard to be rewarded
- You have to fight for what you want
- Money doesn’t grow on trees.
These concepts are often embedded in our subconscious mind as a belief or a truth. It is something you may not question, but I bet you complain about it.
When you have beliefs about anything, including how the world works, they run in the background influencing your behavior, your choices, your perspective, and the decisions you make. Think of it like the operating system of your computer, silently running in the background enabling and limiting the programs you can use.
Does life really have to be that hard?
Breaking through the need for it to be difficult
Last year I had a breakthrough around making money. It surprised me because I thought it was something entirely different. And I realized that there was a story I was telling myself about why it wasn’t easy (or even possible!) to generate the same level of income in my business that I made in my corporate marketing job.
When I launched my business in 2009, I had high hopes. I was prepared to work hard. Still, making money in my business became a struggle. I looked at the different business “gurus” and thought that in order to earn more money I’d have to do things differently than what my heart and spirit wanted. And that felt like selling out to me. I wasn’t willing to go there.
A few painful years of struggling with this led me to explore why I had this belief around making money doing work that I love. After digging deeper than usual, and going past the old stories, I uncovered the hidden belief that spawned this struggle.
My dad worked very hard. He worked nights and weekends and double shifts to provide a comfortable life for my mom and 5 kids. Since he didn’t want my mom to have to work outside the house, he took full responsibility for supporting us financially.
As the oldest, I started working part time jobs in my teens so I could buy things that I wanted that weren’t in the family budget. My part time jobs brought in more money than my work on stage or writing. And so a belief formed that I could make money working for someone else but not necessarily doing something that I loved.
The corporate world paid me a great salary. Yet the cost to me and my artistic expression was high. Each time I escaped from that world to follow my heart and freelance as a creative or have my own spiritually oriented business, wonderful opportunities always showed up for me… but not so much money.
After a few years of working at what I loved, I’d find myself creating financial pressure that necessitated a return to the corporate world where I could make more money. That was the story I told myself. What I didn’t see at the time was the connection between the corporate work being harder for me than the creative and spiritual work that came easy because it’s a natural part of me.
Light-bulb moment: I had created a belief that hard work and working hard were the same thing, hard work made making money easy. Then glued a related belief to that one: when things came easy and were fun and fulfilling, making money was hard.
Wow. Is this belief true?
No. It isn’t true. It was only something I believed that really got in my way and increased struggle and hard work in many aspects of my life, from work to relationships. And that is because that belief around work and money joined up with other ideas around having to work hard to get anything you wanted or to be happy. Lurking at the bottom were beliefs tied to self-worth and deserving.
As a child I equated my father working so hard to make money with him doing something he didn’t enjoy. On top of that I added working hard equals deprivation, because my dad wasn’t around much for us (working nights/sleeping days limits your family engagement time). And I combined the two into a belief that you had to work hard and deprive yourself to get ahead. Thus a workaholic was born before I left my teens.
Can you relate to this? Have you done something similar in your own life? Even if your struggle isn’t about working hard to make money, take a look at how you may have created a story around whatever it is in your life that is always so hard.
Poking into this belief around hard work and money brought me new understanding and a shift in perspective that helped me dissolve it.
You see, what I didn’t get as a kid was that my father loved his job and found it fulfilling. Yes it was hard on him not having the same level of family involvement that other dad’s had. He loved the work he did, and chose the night and weekend shifts because it paid more. And the tradeoff for him was less personal time with family. As a kid, I misunderstood this completely and internalized the message about making money is hard work. Yikes!
Although I wish I saw the connection sooner, I am over-the-moon delighted that I have finally uncovered and let-go of this limiting belief that added unnecessary struggle and pain to my life.
You may not have the same struggle barrier as me. Perhaps yours is more like one of my clients, Sharon. (Not her real name).
Sharon had a successful corporate career and when her job left her, she struggled with building her consulting business. When we explored this together, she claimed that it had to be hard. As we dug deeper more and more came to the surface. Here is a simplified series of connections related to it needing to be hard: If you don’t work hard you will fail. If you fail you are stupid. If you are stupid you are worthless and no one will like you. The list went on and on with many interesting branches connected to why it had to be hard.
But the bottom line is Sharon’s self-worth and self-esteem was tied to struggling and working hard in order to prove that she was worth being loved. OMG. Can you see how a belief like that might be a big handicap in doing what you love and enjoying your life without waiting to be punished for dropping the ball somewhere?
The belief that drives you to struggle or make everything harder than it needs to be may about something other than what you think it is. The surface belief is only the tip of the iceberg.
Are your ready to break through your struggle barrier?
Great! Here are some exercises to help you get to the bottom of why you think it has to be hard.
- Get quiet and take a few deep breaths to center yourself. I find this is more productive than trying to do this from a distracted or busy mind.
- Identify what you think your struggle is: (some examples: making money is hard, life’s a struggle, anything worth having is hard to get, relationships are difficult, I have to work long hours to get it all done, I can’t have what I want because___, if it comes easy to me it isn’t worth much, I have to be responsible for everything, etc.)
- Now let’s poke at it! You might want to ask yourself these questions and answer out loud so you can hear what words you use. Or get some paper and a pen and write your responses down so you can read them. Or if you have a friend you trust, try doing this as an interview (they ask the questions and you answer).
- What is your struggle? What do you think has to be hard?
- How long have you had this struggle?
- What do you think the belief might be that causes this struggle?
- Why do you think it has to be hard?
- Are there others in your family or friends who have the same struggle or belief?
- Where did this thought or belief come from about things being hard and having to struggle? Who did you learn this from? Who may have told you something like this?
- Who would you be without this struggle or belief about it having to be hard?
- What would happen if you stopped struggling?
- What would happen if you decided it was easy?
Are emotions coming up yet? If so great, you are getting closer to the real belief. If not, that’s OK, keep digging.
- What would others think of you if you weren’t struggling?
- What would people think of you if things were easy for you and you were enjoying your life?
- What would you think about yourself if you didn’t have to work hard and things came easier to you?
- Do you deserve to struggle? If yes, why?
- Why is it important for it to be hard?
- Is this true?
You are on your way to breaking through the struggle barrier. Remember, it doesn’t have to be hard, and just because you believe something doesn’t make it true.