You made your choice and thought you chose your struggle. Perhaps more accurately, at some point you made a commitment for your future self. Now the time has come and present-self has to deliver on what past-you thought you should do.
Imagine you are ten miles into a twenty mile run. You had thought this would be a great idea, but now that you are out here and experience the reality of it, you begin understanding this a little more clearly.
It is late-morning and few other people are out. You feel the sun bearing down. It will be a warm day, perhaps one of the last ones, this early fall.
You are sweating and you feel the strain of the exercise and the repetitive motions from the last hour and a half. Your mouth is a little dry and you sip a little more water, as you keep running.
The challenge you encountered, might be bigger than you thought or it may not be the one you wanted. You are focusing on the run and maintaining proper form and a sustainable pace and rationing the little water and those energy chews that you brought along. Perhaps you feel strong, but it is taxing.
You have covered half the distance, but you know it has been less than half the duration of this morning’s run. Your pace feels good, your breathing steady and regular. You feel the unevenness of the ground under your feet, the air on your face, perhaps a slight ache in your arms or shoulder.
You continue on. In the distance a dog barks. You turn down one street for a block; it is less open and you feel a chill in the shade of the trees. Then, you are out in the sun again. You stretch your fingers. You wish you had gotten a little more sleep last night. It seemed like you started this run tired. You continue on, down the road.
In the midst of it all, you encounter your most important struggle of the day.
There is your work — and there is your emotional response to it. How you feel about it, the perspective you take and how you talk (to yourself) about it, will affect your experience of it greatly. It can help you or it can worsen your chances of finishing.
In this particular case, you are out here, because you chose to do this. You thought this would be a good idea. Of course, you also know that you could stop running at any time. You could just walk for a while. Or take a break, think more about this. Maybe call it early.
Do you actually need to cover the full distance today? It has already been ten miles after all. That’s not nothing. What is the point of this? When you made the plan for this run, you did not know you would get so little sleep beforehand.
Do you feel a little hungrier than you would expect at this point? Do your legs or your hips hurt a little more than you think they should? Maybe today is just not a great day for this.
Is it not good for you to learn from your experience and change plans, based on what you learn? Hm. That seems like a really good point. It is rational, isn’t it?
You feel more questions coming.
The German word for passion is Leidenschaft. This breaks down into leiden (to suffer) and schaffen (to create). I am obviously no etymologist, but this resonates with me. It is how I am drawing meaning from that term.
The things you do will change you. Creating something of value will usually also have you endure some amount of suffering.
There is clearly tremendous value in the quality and strengths of the habits that you have cultivated for yourself. They influence your behaviors and how you form perspective. The inner monologue of a person who is attempting their first run of fifteen miles will typically be different from that of a seasoned endurance runner who routinely covers sixty+ miles per week.
Your habits help define the conditions that you can fall back on.
When you train for a marathon, you will put yourself in situations where you are physically (and mentally) tired. You prepare for the physical demands of it, you learn about nutrition, clothing, running form, stretching, and much more. You learn about the discipline of it and how you manage the stress of the efforts.
You also get to encounter your inner monologue, the things you allow yourself to think or say to yourself, when the work gets difficult. You get to experience that and you can prepare for it. That is part of your training and you should take it seriously.
I enjoy a good run and appreciate it as a way to define and experience the struggle of practice and growth. But this is not just about that.
The struggles you pursue in life and work will often require a measure of endurance, for you to keep going when things are difficult or different and you start questioning whether you want to continue. Inevitably, you will get tired.
It is good to think about that before the time comes.