Just One Thing: Accept Difficulty

Rick Hanson
Just One Thing: Accept Difficulty
Is it hard?
The Practice:
Accept difficulty.

Why?
Sometimes things are difficult. Your legs are tired and you still have to stay on your feet another hour at work. You love a child who’s finding her independence through emotional distance from you. A long-term relationship could be losing its spark. It’s finals week in college. You’re trying to start a business and it’s struggling. You’ve got a chronic health problem or a disability. Sometimes people don’t appreciate your work. You’re being discriminated against or otherwise treated unjustly. The body ages, sags, and grows weary.

Plus, there are all the little hassles of everyday life. You’re in an airport and can’t get wifi (the injustice!). You’re at home looking for the ice cream and someone ate the last of it. You’re talking to your partner and realize he or she isn’t really paying attention.

Obviously, not all difficulties are equally . . . difficult. And to observe that life contains unavoidable difficulty is not to minimize its impacts or to suggest that we should give up trying to make life better. But people – me included – add a lot of unnecessary frustration, anxiety, and self-criticism by resisting difficulty – often with an underlying attitude of “it shouldn’t be this way.”

Try the attitude of accepting difficulty instead of getting aggravated by it. It’s a lot more peaceful.

How?

In the moment, start by acknowledging any stress, weariness, frustration, anxiety, or pain. Open to the impact on your body and mind of whatever is difficult. Let the experience be whatever it is. Try to step back from it and observe it. Let it flow . . . flowing through you . . . and flowing on out the door.

For sure have self-compassion, the simple wish that a being not suffer applied to yourself. Say to yourself things like: ouch, this hurts, I wish it didn’t . . . may I not suffer.
Then step back. See if there is any resistance to things being difficult, and see if you can let it go. Perhaps there’s a belief deep down that life
should be fulfilling, peaceful, buffered from pain. Keep softening around the inherent difficulties in living, dealing with them as best you can but not struggling with them. Notice that when you stop resisting a difficulty, it starts feeling less difficult.
Rick Hanson Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and New York Times best–selling author. He's been an invited speaker at NASA and Google, and at Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, and other major universities, and he's taught in meditation centers worldwide. His books are available in 28 languages and include Resilient, Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha's Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture. His work has been featured on the BBC, CBS, NPR, and Radio New Zealand, and he offers the free Just One Thing newsletter with 135,000 subscribers, plus the online Foundations of Well–Being program in positive neuroplasticity that anyone with financial need can do for free.

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