“I never thought being a grown up would be this hard.”
This was a comment in a recent meeting with a number of very successful executives. By all appearances, they are highly effective grown ups. They have well-paying positions of authority in a medium-sized, highly successful company in the northwest. They all have families and most have children. They wear nice clothes and drive nice cars. Yet, they are struggling. How can that be?
It’s hard being a grown up, harder than we ever expected when we were kids.
Of course, there are people who have it easier. It is easier if you have a home, financial resources, and opportunities. It is. And, it is still terrifying when you are diagnosed with cancer, watch someone you love with Alzheimer’s disappear, work through the death of your child, or live through abuse at the hands of your spouse.
So, why talk about this in a post? There are two reasons:
- As a culture, we have a kind of myth that “some people”—celebrities, business leaders, rock stars—have something inside them that we don’t have. They are special in ways we are not. We can believe we are somehow flawed and that flaw is what makes life such a challenge. The belief that we’re flawed only adds to the difficulties we already face. You are not to blame for your humanity.
- As a leader, it’s important that you can at least guess at what is going on inside others. This is impossible when you believe that there are people in the world who have no fear, challenge, or sorrow. We often hear people say: “He’s not afraid of anything,” “What could she have to worry about?” or “What an easy life he has.” Yet, behind the appearance of ease, most of us have had incredible loss and sorrow. It’s the nature of being human.
This week, we’d encourage you to be gentle with yourself as you bump into the difficulties and challenges of being a grown up. And, we encourage you to try to remember that everyone around you is struggling as well. It can help you soften toward others in ways that are good for your heart.