Transforming Struggle

CalmUp® photo of dead flowersHow often have you set a goal that you didn’t achieve? It could be a major desire like getting a promotion or a minor hope like clearing your inbox daily. Yet no matter how much time and effort you put in, the outcome remains the same… no promotion and an overflowing inbox.

As a psychologist for over 20 years, I’ve heard countless stories about people being unhappy with their current life situation. Many people—including those who aren’t in counseling—have at least one desire they’re struggling to attain. What’s yours? Seriously, stop a moment and think about it.

We believe that the inability to accomplish a goal is a failure. We blame ourselves, or sometimes others, for our lack of success. What if we didn’t define success by our accomplishments, such as getting into the college of your choice, being chosen for the starring role, or having the fancy car, house, etc.?

The problem is the way that we define success, not the struggle itself.
I’ve wrestled with the following three ideas:

1. The Image: Mentally picture the outcome that you desire. Now imagine letting go of that outcome as you have defined it.

2. The Definition: Most people use the dictionary definition of success: achievement of a favorable outcome. However, when I teach people how to use the CalmUp® Journey, success is not determined by a preconceived outcome. Instead, we purposefully transform the process of attaining our goal.

3. The Reframe: For my own serenity, I reframed the words of the prophet Micah who lived in the 8th-century: We are successful when we remain in integrity, take care of our responsibilities through the exchange of resources and sharing of energy, and humbly live our lives.

CalmUp® photo of flowers after struggleTo help you transform a struggle of your own, I’ll share an example of one of my desires. For several years I hoped to be a stay-at-home mom once more before my son leaves the nest. Yet no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t feel successful.

1. I let go of the struggle.
2. I redefined what was most important to me in terms of being a stay-at-home mom (i.e., quality time with my family) and transformed the process of getting there.
3. I remained in integrity by staying true to my own needs, I took care of my responsibilities as a contributing partner to the household, and I’m humbly living my life… well maybe I’m still working on the humble part!

Transforming struggle isn’t a simplistic 3-step process. Consider how much of the struggle is in our own rigid definitions.


  1. What specific aspect of your life causes you to feel like you may be struggling more than necessary?
  2. How would your experience or attitude about feeling successful or unsuccessful in your struggle shift if you transformed your thinking?
  3. What might you add or delete to the proposed reframe of success?