strong (adjective): the ability to withstand force, pressure or wear.

Strong is good. It’s one-on-one with success. Today’s mantras tell us so. You never know how strong you are until strong is the only choice you have. Nothing worth having comes easy. Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.

And so it goes. Motivational speak worthy of the militarian. We’ve come to revere each other’s capacity for wear and tear, and to admire those beating all odds. Hard graft begets reward. And we love a tale of adversity overcome. Rags to riches stories give us hope that we too will have our time in the sun.

And yet, why should we have to suffer first?

All of life brings an element of suffering: our fear of impending death, of losing what we have, or of never having had it in the first place. This is all self-imposed.

So long as we’re striving for what we don’t have rather than taking a long hard look at what we do, we will suffer. So long as we look to the outside world to provide our benchmarks for success and happiness, we’ll be at a disadvantage.

The media mind tells us day in, day out, how to hack life, how to be perfect, how to beat the competition. We win or lose. Live or die. No pain, no gain.

You’re either in or out, black or white. Grey becomes the excluded middle. Indeed, we’re unable to think in threes, obsessing instead over opposites. If you’re not strong, you’re weak. If you’re not winning, you’re losing.

It’s as if there’s not enough to go around. Unless we fight for what we can get, we’ll be left with the scraps. This, my friends, is scarcity mentality. So what’s the opposite of scarcity? Abundance.

abundance (noun): overflowing fullness; ample sufficiency.

Ah, that’s better.

Abundance says we all get a go on the carousel. It says live and let live. We’re all worthy here. There is enough. Life is enough. You are enough; you have enough. Gain without pain. And so, with this, abundance becomes gratitude.

gratitude (noun): a readiness to show appreciation for what is; a readiness to return to kindness.

A return to kindness, how gorgeous is that? It gives us a new idea: that we can cut ourselves some slack. Bugger the grindstone. Sod the media mind. Let’s instead consider what we really want and what we’re really capable of. Let’s set our own benchmarks for success and happiness.

You see, both abundance and gratitude are not things we must earn or win or strive for; they are experiences we each cultivate in each moment. If we focus on how we feel about what we’re doing, then the reward comes in the act rather than the result. We begin to enjoy ourselves. No suffering required.

"I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness - it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude." - Brené Brown

Life is no longer about keeping your eyes on the prize while you slave away, because life becomes the prize. It allows you to be both strong and weak and everything in between – we live in those grey areas between black and white.

Which means we have the freedom to do what we want however we want. We can climb mountains, but we don’t have to carry them. We can take on huge tasks, but they need not be thankless. So, if you’re struggling, stop. If you believe that life is hard, then consider this: life can be easy.

easy (adjective): achieved without great effort, free from problems and worries.

But easy doesn’t mean slacking off. It actually means taking the middle path, or “the way to wisdom” as Rumi called it. This is the path of least resistance. It softens rather than hardens us to life. It flows in between the extremes.

In between not trying and trying too hard; in between action and faith; in between fate and destiny; in between what we want and what we are capable of.

We meet the universe halfway.

This isn’t about endurance and nor is it about apathy, it’s about balance. Michael Singer explains it well in The Untethered Soul. He writes: “The more you work with balance, the more you can just sail through life. All forces are in harmony.”

So, if you feel like you’re forcing the issue, take a timeout and take a look around. Ask yourself this: are you who you want to be? Are you where you want to be? Are you doing what you want to do?

Are you moving towards what you want with ease and kindness and gratitude, or are you slaving thanklessly towards some false ideal?  

If you have more reasons to be strong than grateful, we need to talk. Whatever you’re aiming for and whatever you want, don’t get mired in the motivational BS. Everything worth having can come easy. Beautiful roads can lead to beautiful destinations. No hardship required.

There is so much more available to each of us in each moment. “To be here is glorious,” says Rob Bell. Every shade of grey is glorious. And if you’re not enjoying what it feels like to be in-between the black and the white, please remember this… strong is never the only choice you have.  

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Jo Murphy is a coach, writer and storyteller, currently based in the UK. She lives to help people wake up to their own powers of creation, and then guide them in creating their own happiness. She’s also writing a new book, but you can find her on Instagram or Facebook.

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