Updated: Oct 31, 2019
A few blogs ago, I mentioned that I had begun reading Benjamin Hardy’s book, Willpower Doesn’t Work. Since then, I’ve finished the book and am still impressed with what the author has to say.
Hardy explains that we need to create for ourselves an environment that helps us achieve what matters. “You are responsible,” he says, “for shaping and choosing the environments that will ultimately shape the person you become and the destiny you have” (p. 13).
I will likely have more to say about that central premise in a later post, but at the moment, I want to focus on another truth he mentions that virtually every one of us must face in order to succeed in doing life differently than the norm. On page 48, Hardy points out that:
A life of ease is not the pathway to growth and happiness.
On the contrary, a life of ease is how you get stuck and confused in life.
America at Ease
It may come as a surprise that we should let go of pursuing an “easier” life, but Hardy is right. I suspect more than any other one thing, our American love affair with ease is the greatest obstacle to having a purposeful, Different life.
With its manageable yards, handy appliances and tools, pre-packaged entertainment, and ready-made system to supply water, food, electricity, and gas, the American neighborhood is structured to provide its inhabitants a life of ease. Even money to run the system is supplied through the routine of getting a job to earn a living.
This is not to say that any living is easy. Stress and responsibilities assure that it is not. The pursuit of ease, though, insulates us from going after more meaningful pursuits.
Lifelong Southerners, my wife and I relocated to California during the first few years of our marriage and knew we would probably move “back East” someday. As a result, we went sightseeing as much as we could.
We spent weekends in the mountains, deserts, canyonlands, the beach, or offshore islands—any distinctive countryside we could find. And we almost always camped.
Not only does it better fit a slim budget, camping gets a person closer to the natural world. The downside is that assembling and packing gear, cramming the necessities in a car, and pitching tent and tarp are a lot of trouble. Friends who preferred a more stay-at-home lifestyle marveled that we were willing to go to so much bother simply to wander for a day or two.
It was inconvenient, of course, but to us, it was well worth the reward to experience wondrous places such as the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Lake Tahoe, or the Sierra-Nevada Mountains.
Hard Is Good
Since then, we’ve complicated our lives much further. We home-schooled our kids, had “too many” of them, moved out of town too far for an easy commute, and purchased land and animals to care for.
Some consider our strangeness to be simply stupid. But pursuing hard things is strange (or stupid) only if you assume the best life is an easy one.
If you give up ease and choose instead to aim for fulfillment, satisfaction, and truth no matter what it takes, then living a less easy life is not strange at all. In fact, if ease is not the goal, then striving to work out a satisfying, meaningful life—and struggling in the process—should seem quite normal.
In addition, when things are less-than-easy, it’s more difficult to be self-assured and more natural to look to God for help (this is a good thing). So, if you or significant others in your life think you might be a bit odd to work hard at being Different, you need to reassure yourself that ease isn’t the best benchmark for a satisfying life.
A rewarding life that is hard rather than an easy life that is unfulfilling will always pay the greater dividends.
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