Don’t be afraid of hard work & 10 steps you can take when you find obstacles

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People tend to see working hard as a negative thing these days.

Especially in Japan, increasing number of people who killed themselves or died as the cause of working too much became a huge social issue, so it seems natural that people have negative feelings when it comes to hard work.

I’m definitely not going to say that we can ignore these issues, and I truly believe that forcing someone to work too much that could harm their mental and physical health can never be allowed. Before we begin, hard work here in this post doesn’t mean working over time for a company or for someone, without necessary break and day offs or care, but means working hard towards your own goals with your own will and love.

It’s true that working too hard could harm our health, happiness and even lives. However, what we should not misunderstand is, working hard tirelessly and continuously, or being so into what you’re doing that you even forget about time or any other distractions – that kind or hard work is not necessarily a bad thing.

Not only it’s not bad, it’s more like a very important key to be a success in this age.

But no matter how hard you work, it’s just inevitable that obstacles appear in front of you sometimes and make it so hard for you to continue working. What can we do to break through the difficulties in such situations?

At the end of this post, I will show you the 10 steps I always take whenever I face problems get in my way – I hope it can be helpful for you too.

When I’m working on something so hard, – so hard that I even forget how tired I was before I start and even get energized while I’m doing it – another me starts to talk to me in my head like this.

Why are you working so hard?
Taking a break is also important, right?
Don’t you think you’re working too much?
You are gonna burn out soon if you’re working that hard…. 

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if these voices are reasonable warnings from my body, or just temptations another me (weak and lazy one) is trying to lead me (hard working one) into. But in most cases, the latter is true.

I’m just doing what I’m doing because I love it, so I want to do it. However, some part of me is somehow feeling guilty for working hard, even when I’m truly enjoying it. These contradictory feelings often confuse me.

I’ve been wondering why and how this is happening for quite a long time, and I wanted to know which side of me I should follow – the part of me enjoying the hard work, or another part of me feeling guilty about hard work. I never figured out the answer by myself, but one day, this quote and stories behind it gave me the whole new perspective about hard work.

“Don’t be afraid of hard work.”

– T.K. Coleman

I heard this when I was listening to my favorite Podcast, “Optimal Living Daily”, where the host narrates the best blog posts from the best authors in the world that could optimize the listeners’ lives. 

This quote is from T.K. Coleman’s blog post “Don’t be afraid of hard work.”

People always talk about work-life balance these days.

It’s not rare anymore to hear stories about someone who used to be a workaholic and he regrets that he didn’t spend enough time with his family, or spend some relaxing time in the nature, after he gets too old.

“Balanced lifestyle” is not a whole new value or way of living any more. The idea and concept seem wide spread.

He pointed out that most people are misinterpreting “Hard work isn’t everything.” into “Hard work isn’t anything.” in this work-life balance trends. He also says that we tend to feel guilty about working too hard, but that doesn’t mean that we can forget we can also be working too little.

At the beginning of this article, I wrote that hard work could be a very important key to be successful in this age.

This is based on the following story he wrote in the blog post.

He is a great blogger and also a great speaker. When he gave his talks at a seminar for young artists and creatives such as business and film students, at a panel discussion, one of the audience asked the CEO of a production company this question:

“How can I be successful in a highly competitive field?”

The CEO’s answer blew my mind.

“Be more of a worker than a dreamer. Everybody claims to be creative and passionate nowadays, but nobody knows how to work hard anymore.”

“If you can consistently work eight-hour days, you’ll be way ahead of most people. It sounds sad, I know, but the bar is that low. Nothing is harder to find than a young person who can be consistently reliable with executing ideas and following through on the things they start.”

“Follow your passion.”

We often hear this. Everybody talks about it these days.

I assume there are more and more people who is living their dream life by following their passion.

However on the other hand, there are countless of people who give up what they once decided to do and started.

That’s why hard work – your tireless, passionate, and continuous work – matters so much.

If you don’t give up and continue working even when hardness and obstacles get in your way, that will make a huge difference.

The CEO’s comments sound painfully true, but the fact that a lot of people give up in the middle of their journeys of following their passions tells us how difficult to follow through what people once start. It is hard. Obstacles often get in our ways. Here is a great quote from Mr. Coleman himself I would like to remember when difficulties arise.

“If you give up on your passions when obstacles, inconveniences, and hardships get in your way, then you’re not actually following your passion. You’re following your obstacles, inconveniences, and hardships.”

This hit my heart because – maybe same as many of you – I can even remember how many times I gave up what I tried to do in the past.

I love hearing people saying “Follow your passion.” “You should do more of what you love.” because it sounds exciting, fun, and very motivating.

But the moment I give up whatever I started following my passion, I am no longer following my passion, but actually following the obstacles. How sad and disappointing is that? I never thought about giving up that way before, but I think he is right.

Then what should we do to break through those obstacles and keep on following our passion?

Here are 10 steps I always take when difficulties get in my way and almost feel like giving up, so that I can keep moving towards my goals. I’m still on my way following my passion, but these steps are really helpful so far.

1. Write down all the problems keeping you from your goal.

Using whatever works for you, paper, phone or PC, just start writing about problems you are facing. Writing helps you to understand what is really going on both inside and outside of you. So, write – not only when you already know what the problems are, but even when you just know something’s wrong but have no idea what’s wrong. You don’t need to show this to anyone, so just be honest and write everything occupying your mind.

2. See each problem even closer and break them down into little, specific problems, and create a “Problem List”.

Think about the causes of each problems, and write down everything you think that could be the reason of your struggle.
If there is some problems you can’t figure out the causes no matter how much you think, mark them so that you can come back later, and leave them just for now.

3. Convert “Problem List” into a “Project List”, by thinking what need to be changed to solve each problem.

You already now what is wrong, so now, think about what need to be changed. In other words, you already know “(blank) is wrong.” so think about “if (blank) is changed like (blank), it can be solved.”
Again, if there is something you can’t figure out, mark and leave them for now.

4. Make a “Task List” for each project on the “Project List”, by writing down everything you need to do in order to complete each project.

You already know things need to be changed from step 3, so now think about what you need to do to make the changes. Try as much as possible to list all the actions you need to take in order to make it happen, and I would like to call the actions as “tasks”.

And again, among all the changes, if there is something you can’t think of what actions you can take to make it happen, mark it and leave it for now.

5. Put all the tasks into two groups: 1. tasks you already know how to do and 2. tasks you don’t know how to do.

This is really important because when there are so many tasks on your plate, you will probably feel overwhelmed, but once you plan how and when you will complete each tasks, you will feel that you have more control on the situation.

Tasks in group 1 are fine, but it’s the ones in group 2, what will require more of your focus and effort. When you are not sure how you can do these tasks, it might feel scary to do, but I believe you can always figure out how and what you should do in most cases. So let’s start researching.

Of course there might be some tasks which will take years of your effort, but some might take only a few days. Some of them may take only 5 to 10 minutes. Once you know how and what to do, and how long it will take, that will take a load off your mind.

I wrote a whole series of blog posts called “Starting a New Thing is Easier than You Think” about how difficult we tend to think when we have something we want to start without any experience or knowledge, but we can make it a lot easier by taking baby steps one by one.

In part 1. “Starting A New Thing is Easier than You Think. [Part 1. How to Learn by Yourself]“, I wrote about some ways you can learn new things from scratch. You can do most of them for free. I hope that anything I wrote could help you.

6. Plan when you are going to tackle each task, and put them into your to do list or calendar.

When I was in high school, I remember teachers told us so many times “Set the date for your dream.” I heard it so often that I remember it even now. I was almost like “That again?” when I hear teachers telling us that quote back then, but now I can understand how important it is and why they wanted us to know this quote.

Once you plan, – not just thinking or dreaming about it, but actually set the date and write it down to your planner – it will increase the possibility that you can realize that dream.

If there are too many things you have to do, don’t try to do everything at once, but decide just one or maximum a few things to focus on at the same time, and after you complete one, you move on to the next thing – For example you will focus on this in this month, and you will focus on that in the next month.

7. Go back to the ones you marked and left aside, and think as much as you can and try to break them down into tasks.

Sometimes just giving you some time and coming back to the problems later works really well (as long as you come back) because you will have more room in your mind to think or experience other things, and something you learned from unrelated things can give you some hints to solve the problem.

For things you couldn’t figure out what to do even if you do this, try step 8.

8. Ask someone for advice about problems you don’t know what to do even after you did step 7.

You already tried so much, now it’s time to give yourself a permission to ask for help, or just talk to someone.

If you can’t think of anyone who seems right for asking for advice about your question, that’s okay. You can go and find the right person. It may sound a little overwhelming and intimidating, but don’t worry – there are actually so many ways you can use to find the right people you need. I wrote about it in Part 2, “Starting a New Thing is Easier than You Think. [Part 2. How To Find People You Need]” I hope it could be helpful for you.

As you may already know, talking to someone you can trust about your problems can bring you a whole new perspective. Maybe that person will give you constructive advice. Maybe you will come up with some new idea which you never thought about before, while you’re talking with that person. Maybe just saying it out loud could help you to clear your mind.

9. With all the new advice and idea, go back to the problems you couldn’t figure out how to solve earlier, and think again, to break them into tasks.

When you see problems, if you don’t know what to do, the problems take control of you. But you can always figure out what to do, even when you think you can’t. Especially with some help from other people, it will be a lot easier for you to find the way to make a breakthrough.

After going through all the steps from 1 to 9, now you know what to do, how to do, and already planned when to do – so now you have the control.

10. Keep calm and complete the tasks on your to do list, one by one.

You are a human, so it’s okay if you occasionally get behind your schedule, or fail to stick to your plan.

We all equally have 24 hours a day. Besides follow-your-passion tasks, you probably have a lot of things you have to do. Also, you will get tired or catch a cold sometimes. You might start comparing yourself with other people who have similar goals to yours and running far ahead of you, and feel frustrated sometimes.

But whatever happens, come back. Don’t quit. You can fail sometimes but always come back afterwards. And complete your tasks one by one, then you are obviously getting closer to your goal, every time you tick off your task on your list. I’m always telling this to myself so that I can keep me motivated.

Planning, imagining, dreaming, and brainstorming – doing these can be very exciting, but no matter how much you do these, that cannot make your dream come true.

That’s each one of action you take every day what can really get you closer to your goal, little by little.

Let’s not follow our obstacles. Let’s follow our goals, passions, and dreams.

Now I have a question for you – what do you do when obstacles get in your way?

Please leave your comment and let me know!


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