“Who you are is defined by the values you’re willing to struggle for and in life, we all struggle for something. In fact, if you choose to avoid struggling for anything – that is, itself, a form of struggle. This will also define who you are” – Mark Manson
In The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, Mark Manson points out that no matter what path we chose to take, even if we claim ambivalence over defining ourselves, we will ultimately be defined by our actions. Not just the choices we make, but the day-to-day struggles that we pour our energy into.
Whether we feel like a failure in our respective area of focus usually gets determined by the ratio of effort put in versus what we get out of it. While this may be a good measuring stick for tracking data in specific areas, it doesn’t make a good lens through which to view ourselves. We end up with a lot of irritated and judgmental thoughts about ourselves for coming up short, and we block future wins by shutting ourselves off from the flow of creativity and play that inspires us.
Now hear this: while you’re agonizing over that last training round or last fight, someone out there is in total awe of your practice. They’re inspired simply by your existence.
This can be hard to wrap our heads around, we’re too close to ourselves to get that perspective. But what Mark Manson says holds true – in many ways, we define those around us by what they’re willing to struggle for. We may not know their favorite color or what their other dreams are, but we know them for the ways they’ve put themselves out there and battled defeat.
Framing our own definitions
Similar to the core values that define the spine of a company or organization, and the things you may choose to frame your own daily routines, how we ultimately get defined comes down to what we are willing to live by.
Not everybody would intermittently fast and train three hours a day to cut weight and gain muscle, speed and agility, but maybe you do. Not everyone can handle the unpredictable financial condition of stringing together gigs like a freelance artist, but others thrive on it. It doesn’t feel like torture the way it would for some of us.
When something really, truly matters to us, we don’t see any other way. We do the hard training, spend hours learning a new language, and pack up all of our possessions and move across the country because we can’t imagine not.
These priorities become what separates us from one another and can ultimately separate a practitioner from a champion. Maybe we’re willing to wake up at 5am to meditate and train five days a week, but our desires do not include competition.
This doesn’t mean one is better or worse than the other, it just communicates a range of approaches and a range of values. The practitioner is also a champion in his own sense – showing up every day no matter the weather or how tired he is, even if his practice doesn’t involve pulling trophies.
Showing up intentionally
This concept clarifies a lot of the gray area in our quest for identity confirmation. We don’t need to spend time worrying about what we’re doing or not doing. We needn’t concern ourselves with how we’re perceived.
The important thing is showing up every day for what you want to grow. Only you can grow the life you see for yourself, and nobody knows better than you how to make that happen.
Even if you have no idea, (quite frankly – none of us really do) if you put in the work and push through the hard times, the rumbling belly, the night after night of crappy hotel sleep as you drive all of your canvases and art supplies across the country in a U-Haul, you will always find something on the other side. And truly, this something would never exist if you had not brought it to life.
Moral of the story for anybody down on themselves and on the brink of apathy, don’t give up. Keep putting in the work and just like the athlete that puts herself through rigorous training at the gym to maintain a body capable of anything, we can rest assured that we don’t struggle in vain.
Even if we don’t see it now, the energy we put into the very things we criticize ourselves for falling short over are the very things that inspire others daily to even try.