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Man sitting in a field with hands over his face thinking about the value of struggle for his growth

The Value of Struggle for Your Growth


I receive many listener inquiries about pain, trauma, challenges, and struggles. Many of these questions revolve around the idea of being overwhelmed by pain or experiencing situations where pain and struggle are harmful rather than helpful. Others ask about the impact of trauma and how they can deal with it; truth be told, most of us have similar questions. So, in this week’s Passion Struck podcast episode, I will delve into how the value of struggle can ultimately lead to personal and professional development and show you practical ways to grow from your struggles.

Growth is a fundamental aspect of life. We begin to grow and develop physically, mentally, and emotionally from the moment we are born. As we progress through life, we seek new experiences and challenges that help us grow and develop as individuals. As caregivers and educators, we often go to great lengths to ensure that children don’t encounter difficulties. However, it appears that this approach is misguided. Studies indicate that experiencing challenges and struggles is crucial for achieving proficiency and mastery. In fact, those who have overcome the most obstacles tend to be the most accomplished individuals.

This is because growth usually involves stepping out of our comfort zones, facing challenges and obstacles, tackling difficult tasks or situations that push us to our limits, working hard to overcome our weaknesses, and learning from our mistakes.

Growth and struggle, though, are often seen as opposing forces, with one being desirable and the other being something to be avoided at all costs, as it can be uncomfortable, challenging, and even painful. However, in reality, growth and struggle are deeply intertwined, and, in most cases, the struggle is actually a necessary component of growth.

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” — Napoleon Hill

Take, for example, the process of learning to walk as a toddler. Neuroscience research has revealed that making mistakes benefits brain development and connectivity. In other words, without struggle, we cannot learn effectively. You probably experienced numerous falls and scrapes on your knees as you learned to walk. However, with each stumble, you gathered the strength to rise again, brush yourself off, and persist in your attempts. This process of experimentation and learning through failure helped you to develop resilience and persistence, ultimately resulting in your achievement of walking.

The same is true for other challenges we face in life. When individuals recognize the value of encountering difficulties during their learning process, it can help them achieve their learning potential.

Notable people who grew from their struggles

There are countless examples of individuals who have experienced struggles and used them as a catalyst for growth. Whether it is an entrepreneur who faced rejection and failure before finally achieving success or a person that had to pivot and adapt to their personal conditions, the common thread is a willingness to embrace the importance of struggle and use it as an opportunity for growth.

One well-known example of this is the story of Walt Disney. Disney faced several setbacks and failures before ultimately succeeding with his iconic animation studio. He was fired from a newspaper job for “lacking imagination,” and his first animation studio went bankrupt. But Disney persevered and used these struggles as motivation to continue pursuing his dreams. Today, the Walt Disney Company is a household name and a leader in the entertainment industry.

Picture of Walt Disney, a person who understood the value of struggle for growth

Another example is the story of J.K. Rowling. Rowling faced numerous challenges and setbacks before finding success as an author. She struggled with depression and was a single mother living on welfare while trying to get her first book published. Despite these challenges, she persisted, and her experiences and struggles have inspired many people globally to pursue their dreams and never give up, even in the face of adversity. Today, Rowling is one of the best-selling authors in history, and the Harry Potter franchise has become a cultural phenomenon.

These examples illustrate the importance of struggle in driving growth and success. They show that it is possible to overcome even the most difficult challenges and use them as an opportunity to learn and improve.

But it’s not just high-profile individuals and companies that experience growth through struggle. You can have a similar story too.

The value of struggle

The idea that the value of struggle is required for growth is not a new one. In fact, it is a concept recognized by individuals and societies for centuries. But why is this the case? And why is it that facing challenges and difficulties is so crucial for our personal and professional development?

There are several reasons why struggle plays a key role in growth:

Struggle helps us to build resilience.

Oprah Winfrey said, “Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.” When we face difficult situations, our natural instinct is to try to avoid or escape them, and it is easy to become discouraged and give up. But through the value of struggle, we are often forced to adapt and find ways to overcome them.

This process helps us to develop mental and emotional toughness, enabling us to bounce back from setbacks and continue to move forward despite challenges. As a result, we become more resilient individuals who are better equipped to handle challenges in the future.

For example, let’s say you are training for an Iron Man triathlon. The training process is likely arduous and may involve dealing with setbacks such as injuries, inclement weather, or a busy schedule. In order to successfully complete the triathlon, you will need to persevere through these challenges and stay focused on your goal. By doing so, you will not only achieve the satisfaction of completing the triathlon, but you will also develop a stronger sense of determination and perseverance that you can apply to other challenges in your life. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Struggle helps us to develop character.

Character is the combination of traits and qualities that define who we are as individuals. These qualities are not innate but are developed over time through our experiences and actions. Struggling through challenges forces us to confront and overcome our fears, doubts, and insecurities and allows us to develop our character in several ways. These ultimately result in qualities such as perseverance, integrity, honesty, and compassion — which are all essential character traits.

Struggle brings clarity of vision and purpose.

When faced with challenges, we may be forced to ask ourselves more profound questions about what we want out of life and what we are genuinely passionate about. This process of self-discovery can cause us to look inward, uncover our true passions and find the things that truly matter to us, ultimately helping us to find our place in the world.

In addition, struggles can also help us develop new perspectives, see things in a different light, and force us to consider alternative viewpoints and approaches. This introspection can help us to identify areas of our lives where we need to improve, and it can also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, leading to a more fulfilling life.

Struggle can make us more creative and resourceful.

Through struggle, we can develop problem-solving and creative thinking skills because we are forced to think outside the box and come up with new and innovative solutions when faced with a challenge. This process can help us become more resourceful and adaptable, which can be valuable skills in our personal and professional lives.

For example, let’s say you are struggling with a challenging project at work. To complete the project successfully, you may have to work longer hours, seek out additional resources or support, or come up with creative solutions to problems that arise. Through this process, you may discover that you are more resourceful and capable than you realized, or you may identify areas where you need to improve your skills or knowledge.

Another example: let’s say you are trying to start a small business but are faced with many challenges, such as limited funding, competition from larger companies, and regulatory obstacles. To attain success, you may need to devise imaginative ways to tackle the challenges that arise, such as sourcing funding from unorthodox avenues, distinguishing your offering from rivals, or maneuvering through convoluted regulations. By working through these challenges, you will likely develop strong problem-solving skills and become more adaptable and resourceful in facing future challenges.

Struggle helps us to achieve our goals.

Struggle is often a necessary part of achieving our goals. Whether we are trying to lose weight, improve our careers, or accomplish any other type of personal growth, we will inevitably face challenges and setbacks along the way.

But it is important to remember that these struggles are not necessarily a sign of failure. Instead, they are opportunities for growth and learning. When faced with a difficult situation, the value of struggle can force us to reflect on our strengths and weaknesses and consider what changes we need to make to succeed. This process of introspection can help us better understand ourselves and identify areas for growth and improvement, ultimately putting us closer to achieving our goals.

Struggle leads to satisfaction and a greater sense of accomplishment.

When we overcome a challenge, we often feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that can boost our confidence and self-esteem. This sense of achievement can be especially meaningful when we have worked hard and persevered through an arduous struggle.

For example, let’s say you are struggling to complete a degree program. Finishing the program may involve dealing with a heavy course load, financial challenges, and personal setbacks. However, by persevering and successfully completing the program, you will likely feel a strong sense of accomplishment and pride in your achievements. This sense of achievement can not only boost your confidence, but it can also open up new opportunities and possibilities in your career and personal life.

Struggle helps develop strong and meaningful relationships.

Struggle can help us to build stronger bonds and more meaningful relationships with the people around us. For example, if you struggle with a complex problem or decision, you may turn to a trusted friend or family member for support and advice. This process of seeking help and support from others can help you to develop stronger relationships and to build a sense of community and belonging.

In like manner, when we struggle and face challenges, we can see things from different perspectives and understand what others might be going through. This can help us develop compassion and understanding towards others, as we recognize that everyone experiences struggles and challenges in life.

By struggling and overcoming our challenges, we can develop a greater sense of empathy and understanding toward others, leading to more positive and meaningful relationships.

Is there a time to quit struggling?

As much as I have emphasized the value of struggle in helping us grow, I must mention that you don’t always have to keep struggling. I highlighted this in a previous episode where I talked about knowing when to quit and differentiating between giving up, which can have negative connotations and making strategic adjustments to one’s approach or goals. Quitting can be an essential step in the process of achieving success.

There may be times when it is appropriate to quit struggling and re-evaluate the situation. If you have been struggling with a task or goal for an extended period and are not making progress, it may be necessary to reassess the approach or even set a different plan. Additionally, if a struggle is taking a toll on your mental or physical well-being, it may be necessary to take a step back and seek help. In such cases, a change of approach or perspective or getting help from someone may lead to a better outcome.

It is important to note that, sometimes, it can be hard to know when to quit struggling. It may require a bit of self-awareness, introspection, and balance. It is possible to push yourself too hard and to become overwhelmed by struggle. Therefore, you need to recognize when you need to take a step back instead of wasting your efforts and energy struggling on a particular goal or path that doesn’t serve your purpose.

How to embrace and get the value of struggle

Given the crucial role that struggle plays in personal and professional growth, how can you best approach and utilize it to your advantage? Here are six practical strategies for successfully navigating and overcoming challenging situations:

Acknowledge and find meaning in the struggle

The first step in dealing with a difficult situation is acknowledging it even exists. Denying or avoiding the problem will not make it go away. Instead, it’s crucial to face the challenge head-on and accept that it is a part of the process. But it is not enough that you merely acknowledge the existence of a challenge. You must maintain the right perspective and see it for the opportunity it brings. This will allow you to recognize the silver lining under the dark clouds of struggle and turn your negative experience into a positive one.

Seek support

Struggling alone can be overwhelming and exhausting. It’s important to reach out for support when you need it. Whether talking to a friend, seeking guidance from a mentor, or pursuing professional help, having someone to turn to can make a big difference. So, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for assistance when you need it.

Focus on what you can control

In the face of adversity, it’s simple to become absorbed in matters that are beyond your influence. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to keep in mind that you possess the capability to manage your own behavior and mindset. Instead of fixating on what you cannot alter, concentrate on what you can control. Maintain your aspirations and take incremental actions to progress.

Practice gratitude

It can be tough to find the silver lining when we are struggling, but focusing on what we are grateful for can help us put things in perspective. When you are feeling suffering, it’s easy to become consumed by feelings of helplessness, despair, and hopelessness. However, practicing gratitude can help you shift your perspective and focus on the things in your life that you are grateful for. This can help promote feelings of positivity and optimism, which can help to improve overall well-being, including emotional, physical, and cognitive health. All in all, gratitude can be a way to build resilience and face suffering more positively.

Take care of yourself

Struggling can take a toll on both your mental and physical well-being. To combat this, self-care should be a priority. This can include obtaining sufficient sleep, participating in physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, and allocating time for relaxation and rejuvenation. Be sure to engage in practices that effectively restore and maintain the optimal condition of your mind and body.

Remember that struggles are temporary

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and feel like a struggle will never end. But it’s important to remember that all things are temporary, and this, too, shall pass. Keep a long-term perspective and focus on the bigger picture to find the strength to keep going when things are tough. By embracing struggle as an opportunity for growth and utilizing these practical strategies, you can improve your ability to navigate and overcome difficult situations and achieve your goals.

Remember to fight to the finish.

The process of growth through struggle is not always straightforward, and there may be moments when you feel stuck, or like you’re not making progress. In these situations, it’s easy to lose motivation and give up. However, it’s crucial to maintain focus and continue pushing forward.

Think of it like a race. If you don’t cross the finish line, all the hardships you’ve encountered will be for nothing. Therefore, mustering the courage and determination to persist and achieve your goals is essential to finishing what you’ve started.

So the next time you face a difficult challenge, try to see it as an opportunity to grow and learn rather than something to avoid. When we let go of the facade of pretending to have all the answers and instead acknowledge what we don’t know, we open ourselves up to new possibilities.

By embracing uncertainty and a willingness to explore the unknown, we may discover things we would never have found otherwise. And after you’ve pushed through, you will be able to proudly look back on your journey and see all the great things you have achieved.

Where to Go From Here

I hope you found this short guide on knowing when to quit useful. If you’re looking for more ideas on getting motivated and staying that way, check out the Passion Struck podcast.

This article is based on an episode of Passion Struck with John R. Miles, one of the 50 most inspirational podcasts of 2022.

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotify, Podcast AddictPocket CastsStitcherCastboxGoogle PodcastsAmazon Music, or your favorite podcast platform.



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