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Inspiration for the Day

Empower Yourself in 2018: Choose Your Struggle

By 01/22/2018February 9th, 201831 Comments

Since we travel so much, occasionally I’ll buy a book in an airport bookstore. I’ve seen a few people reading this one on the plane and was intrigued by the headline, so I bought it.

I haven’t finished it yet, but I wanted to share this excerpt with you because it was so powerful. It reminds me of the many years I spent participating in courses with Landmark Education.

Since it’s January and everyone is talking about resolutions and goals and succeeding or failing at them, here’s another way to look at why you don’t get what you say you want.

Maybe you’re just not committed to the struggle of what it’ll take to get there. And when you figure that out, you can stop making yourself wrong that you didn’t achieve that particular goal.



Here’s the excerpt from Chapter 2:

If I ask you, “What do you want out of Life?” and you say something like “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” your response is so common and expected that it doesn’t really mean anything.

Everybody wants that. It’s easy to want that.

A more interesting question, a question that most people don’t consider is, “What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?”

For example, most people want to get the corner office and make a boatload of money–but not many people want to suffer through sixty-hour workweeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, and arbitrary corporate hierarchies to escape the confines of an infinite cubicle hell.

Because happiness requires struggle. It grows from problems.

Joy doesn’t just sprout out of the ground like daisies and rainbows.


Real, serious, lifelong fulfillment and meaning have to be earned through the choosing and managing of our struggles.

People want an amazing physique. But you don’t end up with one unless you legitimately appreciate the pain and physical stress that comes from living inside a gym for hour after hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions.

People want to start their own business. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to appreciate the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, the insane hours devoted to something that may earn absolutely nothing.

People want a partner, a spouse. But you don’t end up attracting someone amazing without appreciating the emotional turbulence that comes from weathering rejections or staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It’s part of the game of love, you can’t win if you don’t play.

What determines your success isn’t, “What do you want to enjoy?” The relevant question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?”

You have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t be roses and unicorns all the time. Pleasure is the easy question. And pretty much all of us have a similar answer.

The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain? That’s the hard question that matters, the question that will actually get you somewhere.

One Republic concert in Orlando put on by Thermador last week {image by Kandrac & Kole}

For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician–a rock star in particular. Any badass guitar song I heard, I would always close my eyes and envision myself up on the stage, playing it to the screams of the crowd! This fantasy could keep me occupied for hours on end. For me it was never a question if I’d ever be up playing in front of screaming crowds, but when I had it all planned out.

Despite my fantasizing about this for over half my life-time, the reality never came to fruition. And it took me a long time and a lot of struggle to finally figure out why: I didn’t actually want it. 

I was in love with the result–the image of me on stage, people cheering, me rocking out, pouring my heart into what I was playing–but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it. In fact, I didn’t even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly tried at all. The daily drudgery of practicing, the logistics of finding a group and rehearsing, the pain of finding gigs and actually getting people to show up and give a sh#t, the broken strings, the blown tube amp, hauling forty pounds of gear to and from rehearsals with no car. It’s a mountain of a dream and a mile-high climb to the top.

And what it took me a long time to discover is that I didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to imagine the summit.

And life doesn’t work that way.

Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.

People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who run triathlons and have chiseled abs and can bench-press a small house.

People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who fly to the top of it.

People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainties of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.

This is not about willpower or grit. This is not another admonishment of “no pain, no gain”. This is the most simple and basic component of life: our struggles determine our successes. Our problems birth our happiness along with slightly better, slightly upgraded problems.


See: It’s a never-ending upward spiral. And if you think at any point you’re allowed to stop climbing, I’m afraid your missing the point.

Because the joy is in the climb itself.     Written by Mark Manson


When I read the ‘gym analogy’ (which is often used when people talk about how much work anything awesome takes), I liked that it was a slightly different take on why I’ve never been super fit. I don’t enjoy the process. I have a personal trainer and that is what gets me to the gym regularly and on time.   Maybe there is another kind of work-out that I would enjoy, but I’m not willing to drive a minimum of 30 minutes to find out (which is how far away everything is from where I live in the country).

When it comes to writing content for this blog, (which sells all my products and colour workshops) I work all the time and spend most of my Sundays and many weekends writing or producing content for the following week.

Many of us have heard the expression ‘Happiness is in the journey’ but when I read this chapter about ‘Choosing your struggle’ I love how it puts it in a new perspective.

Which struggle can you give up now that you’ve just figured out you just don’t enjoy it enough to keep doing it.

Happy Monday!

Related posts:

Who Says You’re not Creative?

Get a New Problem and You’ll be Happier

Find the Inspiration to Keep Doing what you Love Here!

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  • Molly says:

    Here’s a suggestion, Maria, on finding workouts you may like (and may not need a gym!). One of my teachers in my health coach program was Dr. John Douillard, an ayurvedic and western doctor. I liked his work so much I went to meet with him in CO. His blog this week is on finding the workout that’s right for your body type so you’ll stick with it.

    Thank you for taking the time to share the book passage. It has me thinking.
    Molly (@duckhead_farm)

  • Norma says:

    Nice post Maria! Thanks. I have discovered the same thing about the gym! I’ve heard of this book but never read it. I’d be interested if you have anything further to share about your reading of it.

  • Joyce says:

    Very timely! Thank you for the reminder.

  • Barbara Meglis says:

    I LOVE THIS. Thank you! I am ordering the book. And thank you for your daily inspirations. They make our decorating challenges worth the struggle.

  • Julie says:

    I love this book! Amidst so many promises that you can be whatever you want, TAONGAF carries the truer message that you can be whatever you’re willing to work hard for and fail at and suffer for. (And then you still might need some luck or skill to really win, so you had better really love the process.)

    Years ago, an artist I deeply respect told an audience that he had stopped using a time and labor intensive process because he wasn’t willing to pay the price of admission. The results of that process are particular but neither better nor worse than other methods, just different. The phrase “not willing to pay the price of admission” stuck with me.

  • Christine says:

    I am so getting this book….it sounds like my current mood! Thank you!

  • Squeak says:

    I was incredibly lucky to have figured out in my early 20’s that who I am is defined by what I’m willing to struggle for. I was able to ignore the stuff that didn’t really mean much to me (getting the corner office, looking gorgeous, having kids) and concentrate on making an effort for the things that did. I’m 63 now and have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish.

  • GIna says:

    Hi! I was also intrigued by the title of this book. Sometimes/often I worry too much. This excerpt is great! Thanks for passing it on to us.

  • susan says:

    Aha!!! Hahahaha! So much to love here, thanks!


  • Deb says:

    WOW. I agree. 100%. Not even 99.9%. 100%. I never thought of achieving goals (and deciding the goals to go for) this way before, but this makes total deep sense! Because some of my proudest achievements involved process that felt like torture sometimes, but it was a kind of torture that I didn’t mind! I enjoyed the tough process and that’s how I got to the end. I thought I was crazy, that it didn’t make sense. WHO does that to themselves? Now I understand. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    I’ve given up the struggle to having a perfectly clean house at all times. Living with my husband has made that an uphill climb. Cleaning isn’t something I enjoy.
    But I did make the commitment to lose weight & get stronger. And it’s a daily struggle. But it’s so important to me that I’ve accepted the agony that comes with it. It’s paid off. I’ve achieved my goal. But maintenance is just as hard. The struggle is real but the rewards are worth it.

  • Mandy says:

    Lol! I subscribe to his blog. I am glad you enjoyed his book!

  • Cassie (Murphy Shockley) says:

    Loved that book! I am reading another now called “The Year of Less” by Cait Flanders. She had another observation on why we succeed or fail at something. Ask yourself if you are doing (fill in the blank) for you or for the you that you want to be. If you are not doing it for the authentic you, then the commitment may not be there.

  • Robin says:

    Maria! This is amazing. Spot on! Wow. Double wow lol. What insight he has. I read something long ago that went something like this: if you didn’t do it/go after it, you didn’t want it badly enough.” This goes way beyond that and is such a simple truth. It puts everything in a new light and solves all those unanswered questions we have about ourselves. Much thanks for sharing.

  • Emilie says:

    This rings so true for me. I am barely finishing my nutrition program, it is like pulling teeth to study it. While my classmates research it on their spear time, I just can’t! Nutrition is something that I wanted to do years ago, so I finally did it when I had the time. Except that my interest had already started growing in another direction. Design has absorbed all of my attention and then some, I can’t stop thinking about it everyday (minute) for the last three years. Needless to say, I’m striking while the iron is hot this time and getting myself to design school in September. Thankfully I will have finished my “boring to me” nutrition diploma in August!

  • Lucy says:

    This book sounds very intriguing! Such good advice that is sooo true. It sounds like a lot of people fit into this category but never really analyze why they didn’t achieve their goal. Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention. I guess the old adage is “if the shoe fits, wear it”. The book would even be good for a gift.

  • Joy says:

    Regarding your Moms foot issues- have a look at The gal delves into all assortment of foot problems and the appropriate footwear to go with it. I have no affiliation whatsoever, just thought your Mom might find it interesting. As usual certainly enjoy your opinions and current information.

  • Julia Artbauer says:

    Great post Maria! 1 year ago, I took your course in NJ. I remember, during a discussion on social media, another attended asking when you had time to post to Instagram, Facebook and write a blog. You suggested that she must have some time at the end of the evening…maybe even in front of the tv. It was at that moment that I realized I was going to have to dig in a little deeper to grow my business. This book asks an additional question which is “is this the kind of pain you will “enjoy” to get what you want?” Definitely going to pick this book up!

  • Ana says:

    Thought-provoking! Thanks for this post

  • marcy elman says:

    Love the excerpt from the book.

  • Valerie Miller says:

    I usually skim the text in design blogs; I read every word of this post. Thanks for sharing this, it was very timely for me. I plan on buying the book.

  • Haha, I purchased that book for my hubby for Christmas, he loved it! I think I might need to read it for myself!

  • kate says:

    Such an interesting post Maria. I want to keep mulling it over, but I think it’s going to help me finally make changes in my goal to be healthy or let it go.

  • Kathy says:

    I am struggling with learning to watercolor. It is something I want really badly to do well. I am willing to struggle to unlock the puzzle because I enjoy the end result, when it works (and it often doesn’t). I feel like it’s like learning to play golf…most of the time you can’t hit the ball right…but every now and then when you do the feeling is so sweet that the struggle is worth it.

  • An interesting blog post when the start of the year is typically all about sunshine, silver linings and rainbows. Well, I think what you are stating is spot-on correct… and I think a healthy dose of reality can bring sunshine, silver linings and rainbows. There are plenty of days, especially when I’m dealing with some issue, when I ask myself, “…and why am I doing all this again?!” There are plenty of mundane things to deal with on a daily basis when owning your own business. I think it’s interesting that many of us talk about perfection (the perfect project, perfect clients, perfect budget, perfect general contractors, etc.) when in reality to design is to solve a problem… we are all problem solvers. We are surrounded by problems all the time! I think I could have a whole new perspective on my creative and business life if I gave up the myth of perfection. The real journey is dirty and full of plenty of imperfect situations. Reminding myself of how much I love to solve problems for people puts what I do in a whole new (and more realistic) light. It makes the journey worth it. Another great blog post fellow Landmark-ian!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment Chris! I really appreciate it! What you are saying is so true, we are definitely solving problems in our business! x Maria

  • Hi Maria……I got it!!!! 🙂
    Thank you from my heart.

  • Lisa says:

    I read this book a month or so ago – it had a lot of good points. I really liked the point about limiting your fu***. As for struggles, I want to start my own business, but haven’t been putting in the struggle that I know is needed. It makes me wonder how much I actually want it.

  • Brenda Hurst says:


    I, too, picked up that same book in the Hartford airport after my husband and I visited our son at college. I truly loved the author’s message and straightforward advice. With a son about to graduate from college (but no job, yet), it has helped me realize that he may have to struggle a bit and fall down a few times in his next phase of life–and I have to let it happen and have faith he’ll figure things out in due time. I want both my kids to read the book next. In the beginning of his book, he uses the profane word in the title quite readily. If you can get past that, I promise it is full of honesty and amazing insight. In fact, I plan to reread it so I can put into practice what I learned from it. (I reread all your advice, too, Maria, and I plan to start making purchases of your ebooks and online lessons–can’t wait to get started!)

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