The FIFA World Cup in Russia is over and sadly the Socceroos’ journey in the tournament had come to an early end. While valiant and stoic, the team left finishing last in their group. This after an arduous qualifying campaign which began in 2015, playing 22 qualifying matches in 3 continents and travelling some 250,000kms along the way.
It was a long journey to get to the World Cup joining some of the best national teams at football’s grand table. As a football nation, the struggle continues to reach the sport’s Holy Grail.
This has me thinking about our journeys and the challenges we face and the ‘struggle’ to achieve success.
I am reminded of my struggle when I arrived in Australia as a then 13 year old. I was totally out of my comfort zone in a foreign country and could hardly speak the language. I felt different, I was low in self-confidence; it was a very difficult time and I struggled. Emotionally, I felt inadequate and ashamed for trying to fit in and failing.
How are you navigating your struggle?
It can be easy to see our struggle as a sign of weakness, feeling like we are a failure for trying to create change and not succeeding immediately. As a result, we tend to relate to the ‘struggle’ with unease and discomfort accompanied with unpleasant emotions like fear, anger and feeling disconnected.
For me, the emotional discomfort I experienced meant that I became anxious about having a go. I operated from a state of anxiety, frustration and alienation. At best, this was playing not to lose. A shift from seeing the struggle in a negative light needs to take place if we are to move from playing not to lose.
Shifting your mindset
I haven’t met anyone yet who has experienced success and has looked back on their struggle and not recognised that through the struggle, amongst other things they developed resilience, grit, self-belief and the confidence to carry on. Hollywood taps into this ‘hero’ narrative where the main character struggles through their circumstances, seeking the life of their choosing and along the way find in themselves the courage to face and overcome their fears, to then be their best selves.
Think the archetypal movies like The Wizard of Oz, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘The Lion King’, ‘The Matrix’, ‘Star Wars’. These stories stay with us precisely because they resonate with the human condition to struggle through the journey.
We need to recognise that overcoming challenges and getting used to anything new has to involve falling down along the way and that becoming skilled, resilient and wise is developed in the getting up, with the new insights and learnings so we can move on.
Embrace the struggle
Develop the habit of gratitude
When we struggle, it is not uncommon to feel negative emotions. Often, things don’t go our way, so we can easily feel frustration or anger as the brain is wired that way.
When I first arrived in Australia, even though I was looking forward to my new home, I also felt a sense of loss having left everything behind.
Neuroscience suggests that when we are experiencing unpleasant feelings like frustration, anger or loss we can target antidotes that can shift our approach to more positive and helpful focus.
One powerful practice that has been shown to have a positive impact on the brain even at a biological level is gratitude. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life (even more critical in times of struggle). This increases the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin which is sometimes called the ‘happy chemical’, because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness.
Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence and keeps you in good stead through your struggle.
If we think about what it was like when we first began to walk, we had our support team. Our parents, extended family members were our mentors and cheerleaders! They picked us up when we fell and shared their belief in us that we could learn to walk. They concentrated on the steps we did take and actually cheered us as they picked us up! Then one day, it happened.
Just as falling down is an unavoidable part of being human, so is the need to be connected to others, to have our team around us and amongst other things create a sense of belonging.
On the journey, in our struggle, the brain is wired to focus on what isn’t working well and what’s incomplete. It is important that we surround ourselves with people that can draw our attention back to the steps we are making towards our goal.
We want the focus of attention to be on our efforts with an acceptance that just like learning to walk involves falling, the struggle is the process which involves having a go and trying again until we reach success.
If you are in a struggle, rest in the knowledge that you are on your hero’s journey learning to face and overcome your fears. Recognise that what falling is to learning to walk, the struggle is part of the journey. Appreciate the steps you have taken along the way and be sure to surround yourself with a strong network for support in times of difficulty and to celebrate in times of success.
If you are curious to know more about what’s possible and bring out the best in you and/or your team, email firstname.lastname@example.org