If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll know that my husband and I are lucky parents to a toddler and a baby. And while parenting (or life!) is never easy, I’ve always found the first year with a newborn particularly draining, physically and emotionally.
With our 6-month old, we had been struggling with bad sleep and bleary-eyed days. For almost 3 months, she was waking up 4-6 times a night, and sometimes our toddler would wake up too just to be a part of the action. And all this night waking meant inevitably short-tempered days for all of us and my feeling at my less-than-best.
All of the parents around us had been suggesting we sleep train our baby, and after weeks of misery and illogical resistance, we finally gave in and started on a schedule and a let-her-cry-it-out-at-night plan.
And ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh my what a difference it has made. In less than a week, she started sleeping through the night, and we are ALL far more human and humane for it.
And I realized that this pattern is how so much growth and positive change in life happens: we make it hard for ourselves, despite knowing there are better alternatives, and then when we finally start on a path towards where we want to be, things are really difficult before they get easy.
For our newborn, the first few nights of her new routine she cried for almost an hour before falling asleep. And my husband and I would stare at the monitor, our hearts (and our ears!) cringing. But then she cried for shorter bursts, and then shorter, and shorter, until she started sleeping straight through the night.
But those first few nights were brutal. And I wanted to run in and comfort her. I wanted to do something, anything to make it stop. But I didn’t. And thank goodness for it. Because now we have a much better and a sustainable way of living and sleeping. It was – as my brother so wisely offered – short-term pain for long term-gain.
But too often, and for too many of us, we never start – or we quit to soon – precisely because it is so hard in the short-term.
I hear this so many times from the solopreneurs in my group mastermind who resist making a new hire or getting some admin support because “it is too hard to train someone new” or “by the time I teach someone else, I could have done it myself.” And then they struggle with burnout and wonder why staying “Chief Everything Officer” isn’t working.
I hear this so many times from the corporate leaders I coach, who resist putting themselves out there to shine because it feels “icky” and “self-promotey” even though they know being more authentically visible will help them achieve their career goals. And then they wonder why they never get noticed for the right reasons and why they feel stuck in professional limbo.
And I hear this so many times from the business school students I mentor who are trying to change careers or want to start their own businesses, but are too “scared” to do something new because there is “too much to learn.” And then they wonder why they aren’t happy when they go back to their previous careers and why they feel deflated and rudderless.
And what I share with all of them – and what I re-learned with my baby daughter just a few weeks ago – is that EVERYTHING is hard before it gets easy. That’s just how it is. Everything starts out awkward and icky and scary and overwhelming. Everything worth having requires us to get comfortable with discomfort.
Everything is hard, hard, so damned hard before it gets a little easier, and a little easier, and easier still until what we once thought impossible or not for us becomes something we simply do.
It’s like my brother said, it’s short-term pain for long-term gain. And we all owe it to ourselves, to our dreams, our ambitions, our businesses, our relationships to do the important hard things now before it’s too late. Before we get complacent or bored or deflated. And before the windows of opportunity close.
Think about what you are denying yourself because it’s too hard. Think about what are you delaying because it feels awkward to start. Think about what you are diminishing because you can’t be bothered to put in the effort.
And then decide to do it anyway.