What does the word ‘struggle’ mean to you? Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word ‘struggle’ is “to try very hard to do, achieve, or deal with something that is difficult or that causes problems.” Based on this definition, we all have struggles, correct? We all struggle with our various issues, gremlins, doubts, and fears. The interesting thing is that sometimes we struggle to keep our struggles to ourselves.
I’ve been struggling recently myself and it can sometimes be difficult to share my struggles as I’m usually a very outgoing person and people are taken aback when I’m sad or feeling down. I’ve realized though that we all have bad days and it is okay to share your struggles. People relate to them and it even helps them feel that they aren’t alone in their own struggles. Not to mention that loved ones genuinely want to be there for me during difficult times.
At some point though, enough is enough. My inner faith takes over and thoughts pass through my brain saying, “Enough sharing. It’s time to do something about this situation.” The Firewalking workshop I took recently from professional speaker, Dennis McCurdy, addressed this very issue. Taking action and moving through those struggles. Dennis used an amazingly simple, yet extremely effective, example during his workshop of how people get through their fears, struggles, and challenges. He used nothing but a folding chair.
Dennis took one of the folding chairs and put it directly in his way so that he couldn’t move. He stated that his goal was to walk over to one of the workshop participants, Marcus, and shake his hand. Then, using the chair as a representation and metaphor for the challenges in life, he went on to explain the many ways people deal with challenges.
Dennis stayed in one spot, took the chair, held it up in front of us, and started to cry and whimper saying, “Oh no… this always happens to me! This chair is in my way! I’m so upset. This stinks and it’s really not fair!” He kept crying as he finished saying, “I’ll never be able to go anywhere because this stupid chair is in my way.” The point was that people cry, whine, and feel sorry for themselves about their challenges and struggles but never do anything about them. It is absolutely natural and perfectly okay to cry and to get your feelings out that you’re upset about your challenges. We all definitely need that period of time to do that as that is healthy. However, many people just continue to stay stuck in that phase and never take action to get out of their situation that is in their way.
Dennis took the chair, held it up, and started to walk around to show it to people. In a sarcastic and complaining voice he said to various people as he showed off the chair, “Can you believe this?! I have this goal of meeting Marcus and this chair is completely in my way. It’s just utterly ridiculous. I mean, what else can we add to my crappy week? It’s a completely ugly color too and I just can’t believe it’s in my way… again!” The point he reiterated for this example was that people tend to just complain to others over and over but they don’t take action or responsibility for their own struggles, pain, fears, and challenges.
Dennis sat down briefly and then stood up. But as he stood up, he was holding onto the chair and making sure it was still attached to his rear. So he couldn’t visually see the chair, it was actually attached to him. He then said, “What struggles? What fears? I don’t have any fears or anything in my way! I don’t have any challenges!” Yet, the chair was still clearly attached to him. His point was about denial. People will deny that they have fears and challenges. They don’t want to be seen with any doubt or vulnerability so they deny they have any issues.
The final example Dennis provided was of how people can actually move forward toward their goal even when there are fears. He took the chair and picked it up, staring at it curiously. He was coming from a genuine and curious place. He said, “Hmmmm… I have this chair in my way. Interesting. Now how does this work? Let’s see…“ Dennis then proceeded to start to fold up the chair saying, “Ah… I get how it works! I can fold it up and set it down. Cool!” After setting the chair down, he took a pause and a deep breath and stepped forward over it to move toward Marcus. He stepped right up to Marcus and stuck out his hand confidently, “Hi Marcus, I’m Dennis. Nice to meet you!”
Dennis' point was so well received with the audience. We need to acknowledge and pay attention to our fears and doubt. Approach them with an open and curious mind. Don’t be afraid to examine them for a moment and then you will be able to move through them. Remember though, examine them for a moment but you must not get stuck in this phase. You need to continue to move forward toward your goals. Learn to fold up your chair.