Why is Easy Hard? A Parable
Every day, I go on a long hike with the dogs I’m currently petsitting.
Every day, I reach the top of a certain hill, look down it, and think:
“Ughh, coming back up that is going to be a beast!”
Then, I zigzag my way down the steepness, march on, reach the end, and turn around to head back.
It is usually by the time I’ve already reached the top of the hill I so dreaded that I pause, look behind me, and think:
“Wait . . . is that the hill I was worried about?”
This has happened five times now, and indeed—it’s the same hill. Every time.
Just Metaphor. I’m just a metaphor. About your life . . . get it?
This is not just about my terrible memory; something else is going on.
The part of the hill that I think will be difficult—the awaiting ascent—never is. It’s the foreboding I feel imagining the ascent that shakes me most.
False Hills in Your Brain
What if what’s really going on is this—
The things we think will be hard are easy, and the things we think will be easy are hard.
I speak here of hard things we want to do versus hard things we don’t want to do. Example? In university, I thought economics would be hard. Turned out I was right—I hated it. There was not a day that I wanted to tackle it.
But, I also thought accounting would be hard. Turned out I was wrong—I loved it. Was it a lot of work? God, yes. Was it hard? No way. Those endless hours of study are some of the most fondly-remembered of my university experience.
When I aimlessly moved to Los Angeles, I thought the life of an actor would be fun, easy money. I suppose it was. During those two Hollywood years, the hours auditioning and working would not even come close to 40 a week.
That means it was easy, right?
Turns out I didn’t want to be an actor. I spent free time fretting or distracting myself from the lifestyle I didn’t want to be living. I didn’t read, write, or explore other passions.
Acting was an easy thing on the surface, but because I didn’t like it, it was hard. The cognitive dissonance of time spent on undesired pursuits took over my free and creative time with the mental chatter it produced.
Perceived ease or difficulty has very little to do with the task itself. It has everything to do with your desire to do the task.
If you pursue what you are truly interested in, it doesn’t feel hard.
It might take work. But “work” isn’t necessarily synonymous with “hard.” It’s good-hard. Like climbing a mountain or the first heat pangs of a jacuzzi.
There are many life pursuits I’ve wanted, but avoided due to thinking they’d be too much work. Have you done this?
Think of the items we chuck into the pile of “I want, but don’t have time because I’m over here spending time on things I don’t want”:
Learning an instrument, sport, language
Computer skills (web design, photoshop, graphic design)
Hobby advancement (carpentry, knitting, bowling, whatever)
Subjects of interest (Roman history, Civil Rights movement, Colonial England…whatever)
Instead we do “easy” things, and they take their toll.
When Fear Means Forward
Unless you’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to be a child, sometimes it’s just damn fun to do pointless things.
As a kid, I recorded mock talk shows with my sister. I arranged stuffed animals to be comfortable among each other. I became highly skilled at Mario Kart.
But as we get older, we absorb the broken message that it is not for enjoyment that we must live, but for income.
Nobody ever tells you the secret: You can make enjoyment your income. Not keen? Fine. Make something else your income. But find enjoyment on the side. Play. Figure things out.
How much will you regret not having done the things you wanted because you thought they’d be hard?
Knowing that I will have to walk up the hill is when I feel bad. Deciding to go down means that I will have to come back up. But I push forward, get lost in the walk, and when I recall the hill I so dreaded, it has already been overcome.
Being brave enough to accept future difficulty is the true challenge.
And if you’re on the right path, that future difficulty was just an illusion, anyway.
This is why I am so happy to begin my writing career. As I attempt to peer into the future of this creative path, I know the pangs of fear and anxiety are actually the hardest part.
Have you ever realized later that something you expected not to enjoy ended up being awesome? How do you deal with spending time on unfulfilling things?
Leave a comment and follow in your inbox!