1. solid, firm, and resistant to pressure; not easily broken, bent, or pierced. “a hard mattress
2. requiring a great deal of endurance or effort.
I’ve been obsessing a little bit lately over one simple little word, and I’m not sure what to do about it. Maybe you can help.
It seems that just about everything is hard these days … whether it be difficult conversations, complicated work projects, manic shopping excursions or stimulating crossword puzzles. We say hard when facing new challenges, physical obstacles and overbooked schedules, which immediately plants in our brains the idea that this task or activity will be a negative one:
“This workout is really hard!”
“I have to finish this financial report, and it’s going to be so hard!”
“This meeting with my colleague is going to be a hard one!”
Depending on your resource, the definitions of hard include the words troublesome, difficult, severe or harsh. And yes, in many cases, it’s fitting to use those exact words. Losing a loved one to cancer is hard. Dealing with a breakup or a significant financial loss is hard. Raising children or owning your own business is hard.
One of my favorite quotes on this subject is from American journalist and author Sydney J. Harris, who said, “When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’” (click to Tweet)
When we go around automatically labeling normal, everyday tasks, chores or activities as hard, not only is it inaccurate, it takes away the focus on the “why.” We forget that these tasks at hand are really important and necessary steps or components leading to a bigger goal, common objective or an end result. Have I lost you yet?
Take my friend Susan, for example. She is the director of a large nonprofit organization, and a great exercise partner. On one of our most recent early morning runs, Susan confided in me that she was going to have to let a staff member go.
“She’s clueless about her fate, even though she has a thick file in HR full of warnings and write-ups,” Susan said. “I hate firing people … this is going to be so hard.”
This had me stopping in my tracks. It was time for a little “reframing of the situation.” So right there on the road, I asked Susan a series of questions:
- Are you the person responsible for making this decision?
- Is letting this person go the right move for the sake of the organization?
- Is this the best option to take, given the circumstances?
Of course, the answers to all those questions were yes, yes and YES! Susan was so worried about the conversation itself that she forgot about her long-term goal – the health and well-being of her organization. The “why” to firing this employee was that she was unproductive, ineffective and was a negative influence on other team members. The end result would be a healthier workplace, a united staff and a great sense of relief for everyone involved.
Quite simply, the conversation was necessary, and it wasn’t so much hard as it was uncomfortable. But the end result would be well worth it.
I totally get where Susan was coming from. When I’m faced with doing something I don’t want to do, I label it as hard, and so then I ignore it, procrastinate, or avoid the task altogether. Why? Because I haven’t taken the time to understand its value … the why. Once I acknowledge and understand the purpose, then I can understand how doing whatever I need to do to get it done is so worth it. Once I reframe the situation, I feel compelled to either make it happen or take it off the list!
So why do we use that word? Why do we say hard, when what we really mean is, “This is a bit uncomfortably challenging but it’s stretching and growing me into an awesome person and therefore so worth it?!” (Click to Tweet)
I’m still trying to figure that out. I think we need a better word for that kind of hard … any suggestions?
What is something you have to do this week that’s “hard?” What is the why behind the task, and what is a different word that describes it more accurately? I’d love to hear your stories, and any ideas you have for a better word! Leave your comments below:
How about “challenging”…if the task at hand must be done and it is not in your “comfort zone” or it’s “hard, make each “hard” thing a “challenging” thing. People tend to take on challenges more willingly than taking on “hard” things. Acting in Indiana is not a”hard” thing but it can be “challenging”! 😉
Great perspective, Tom. Thanks!