As a dance teacher, I inspire my students to struggle through the pain of sore muscles and fatigue by getting them to reframe things. I suggest they view it like this: pain is weakness leaving the body. I ask them to imagine that the body is riddled with weakness. Weakness’s objective is to conserve energy and maintain the status quo. The weak part of us doesn’t want to evolve – it wants to avoid the demands that will help our bodies grow. 

When we regularly put our bodies through new, more intense activities, we force them to adapt, which improves muscle strength and establishes new neural pathways. This process is painful, but paramount. Strength takes hold in the body by pushing weakness out resulting in a byproduct we know as pain. Using this framework helps my students welcome struggle and work through it, knowing they are growing and evolving. A helpful reminder I offer them is that “growing pains” are named so for a reason.

When we encounter struggle, it means we’re trying to attain something that’s beyond our current capacity. Change becomes our vehicle. We must evolve to a higher plane worthy of the higher reality we seek. Struggle is the only way to get there. 

Think of the butterfly. No one would guess the transformation that lies ahead for a caterpillar – it’s just a big fat worm that eats all the time! But caterpillars turn into something unrecognizable. The critical part is the struggle out of the prison of the cocoon. The intrepid caterpillar must squeeze itself through a tiny hole. The exit is so extreme it pushes fluid from the body into the wings, creating a new being capable of flight. If you’ve watched this, you can see the extent of the struggle. But if you’re tempted to cut the caterpillar a bigger hole, you wouldn’t be helping. Without the struggle pushing the fluid into the wings, what is left is a fat bodied bug that will never achieve take off. Removing the struggle would sentence the butterfly to a mundane life on the ground. Where would be the growth in that? 

The struggle is essential to the butterfly’s success. Without it, it can’t fulfill its potential. Without the struggle, there can be no butterfly. When my students apply these principals, it allows them to create a favorable working relationship with struggle. The understanding helps reconcile the pain and minimize the suffering. This is what we all want: the easiest route to an upgraded, more sophisticated version of ourselves. 

If you’re struggling, maybe it’s simply that you are struggling out of your cocoon? If you knew that you would soon be taking to the skies, would you curse the struggle or instead invite it in?