Do Hard Things: Moving Past Complacency

When I was in middle school, my parents gave me a book with a simple, three-word title: Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. At the time, I thought my life was hard enough already (a laughable conclusion, I know) and decided not to read very far. However, as I grew older, and throughout my time in the Orr Fellowship, I began to realize that the idea behind the book had value. I often noticed the things I didn’t want to do right off the bat, or the things that stretched me out of my comfort zone, were the times in which I grew the most as a student, an employee, and a person.

Trials lead to growth

One reason to do hard things in life is the opportunity to develop as a person. During my time in Orr, I led a non-profit consulting team for the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site. To be honest, after initially applying for the team lead position, I began to wonder if this was something that I was prepared for. However, throughout the process, I learned not only about team management, but also a fair bit about myself as well. I often tend to look back on my leadership in a certain area and only see the mistakes I’ve made.

Yet through this experience, I learned to consider the whole picture, and see not only my failures, but my successes as well. Where previously, I would’ve only seen my missteps in communication or hastily rescheduled meetings, I also saw that I was able to adjust on the fly and be flexible with the team in a way that I haven’t seen in myself before. Thanks to this flexibility and to the incredible work of my amazing team, we were able to deliver a comprehensive plan to the site that would increase their reach in the Indianapolis area.

Find enjoyment in unexpected places

Another reason to take on something that might be difficult is the potential to find something you truly enjoy, whereas you may not have if you passed the opportunity by. In high school, I was required to take choir to fulfill a music education credit. As someone with a decent amount of stage fright, I was not at all looking forward to multiple performances in a semester. However, once I joined and began rehearsing, I discovered that I loved learning my part, practicing the songs, and hearing the final product come together.

When the performances came, I was still nervous, but the joy of singing the pieces we had practiced for so long far outweighed the fear, and I am still looking for ways to be involved musically even post graduation. So the next time you’re faced with an opportunity that sounds difficult, keep an open mind. You just might enjoy it. 

Set and respect your boundaries

To conclude, I would like to clarify one thing: this recommendation is not a charge to accept every single opportunity that comes your way without regard for your schedule or your personal life. Burnout is real, and falling into it is an alluring, but grave mistake for many young professionals. You can help yourself set these boundaries by asking a couple key questions:

–  Am I sacrificing key elements of my personal life (family, friendships, etc) to “hustle” for something?

–  Do I find myself energized by the events I’m attending and what I’m working on, or am I physically and mentally drained afterwards?

–  Am I eating and sleeping well and spending enough time in rest and prayer/mindfulness, or am I constantly on the move without a spare moment?

Pondering these and other similar questions can help you take stock of your commitments and determine if you are approaching the burnout zone. Within these parameters, however, I would encourage you to push yourself a bit past your point of complacency and try something new. You could find a skill, passion, or even a career path that you would never have imagined.