“Strength doesn’t come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austrian-born American actor, writer, producer, philanthropist, politician, served two terms as 38th California governor (born 1947)
One thing that most of us know is that when it comes to talking about our strengths, we don’t believe we have many or even any. We’ve become so used to making excuses for why we aren’t able to achieve our goals, blaming fate or circumstance or anything and anyone except ourselves that we tend to think we might deserve not to succeed. Therein lays a great problem. Not only do we shortchange ourselves by giving ourselves what we believe to be logical reasons for giving up, but we never learn that we can overcome seeming or real difficulties with persistence, determination, practice, and courage.
The truth is that winning isn’t strength, nor does strength come out of winning. The act of being successful in any endeavor is the result of hard work and a refusal to give up. It’s learning the smallest lessons, for even in disappointment and setbacks there are valuable takeaways that can help us grow. Indeed, it’s often when we suffer the most painful and difficult setbacks that we find that we’re a lot stronger than we thought we were. We gain strength as a result of going through this process. In this respect, experiencing hardships and making the decision that we won’t give up, makes us stronger.
Still, it’s tough to feel like we’ve fallen short. No one likes this feeling and we’ll do almost anything not to go through it. Why? First of all, it hurts. Second, we may start to feel sorry for ourselves and give ourselves yet another reason (a rationalization) for not continuing. We may decide to settle for less than we want, which is always selling ourselves short and cutting us off from making progress. We may, for example, be so bitterly disappointed at seeming failure that we revert to previous bad behavior, such as drinking to numb the pain or engaging in other risky and/or addictive behavior. But that never solves anything and creates its own set of problems, not to mention potentially perpetuating an addictive cycle.
Think about some action or project we’ve undertaken that, despite delays, unexpected hurdles, and what appeared to be everything stacked against us, we persevered until we achieved the outcome we were after – or learned lessons so valuable that we revised our goals and approach to take them into account before either tackling the project or activity or issue again or created new goals to purse that are more aligned to our pursuit of a purposeful life.
What we likely learned from the process – no matter how long or painful it may have been – is that we’re stronger now than we were before. We also probably discovered that we have new strengths, ones that we never thought ourselves capable of. What a revelation and a powerful motivation this can be.
Keep in mind that as long as we have life, we have opportunity to live – in accordance with what we truly desire and are willing to work to achieve. Never give up and never give in. This makes us strong and paves the way for a life lived well.