“No pain, no gain.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. “

“Success is hard work.”

“You’re good enough just the way you are.”

I bet everyone has heard all of these phrases before. They’re on our Instagram feed and painted on the walls of tea houses and the lockers at the gym.

Sometimes it‘s confusing to decide whether to push forward and work even harder or if it‘s time to slow down.

Can we be soft and hard at the same time?

Photo: Unsplash

The answer is within

Let’s say you need to make a decision. Option A is gentle and soft, whereas option B is hard work. How to know which path to choose? The situation can be anything from choosing a movie instead of a gym or pondering between two different job options.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my mind telling me to be gentle just because I can’t be bothered today, or is it really time to rest?
  • Am I pushing myself towards my own goals? Or is my mind telling me to push harder to impress someone, or to meet the expectations of others?
  • Does pushing forward mean pain or discomfort? Find a difference between these two. Sometimes we need to handle discomfort to learn and improve. But physical pain is your body signaling you to stop, and you should listen to it (think of gym or yoga).
  • What’s the opportunity cost of my choice? Where is the time away from, and which one of the choices is aligned with my values and goals?

I am therefore I’m good enough

I bet nobody would tell a 2-year-old that “you’re not good enough.” A child and an animal are enough just for their existence. How come an adult needs to feel insufficient? Yes, sometimes our choices are not optimal, or we have bad days, but that’s just humane. It still doesn’t reduce the fundamental value of oneself as a human being — whether you have all the wealth and health that you’re dreaming of or not.

Feeling good enough and appreciating oneself doesn’t exclude working hard, pushing further, and reaching the goals. So yes, we can do both.

Be a friendly coach

An optimal amount of stress doesn’t harm you but keeps you going. As long as your stress is not chronic, and you know the tools to manage it, it’s fine. The key is listening to yourself. Finding motivation even when you lack it. Recognizing the first signals of stress, and slowing down when your body and mind need it.

If you know that pushing forward is the right choice, but you lack motivation, give yourself   a proper pep talk and show what you’ve got.

If you know that you need to rest, but your mind is punishing you in vain, give yourself a comforting friend talk.

Sometimes it’s good to do both during the same day. It’s all about balance.

Originally published at medium.com