Self Care

The Difference Between Struggling And Suffering

I’ve written about working with an executive coach before. I think it’s a way to constantly grow and push yourself to get better. It’s also helped me figure things out I wouldn’t ordinarily have the time or ability to stop and work through. One of my 2019 objectives is to focus on having an abundant mindset. I want to let things flow to me easily and effortlessly. At the same, I know that the Law of Attraction doesn’t work unless, well, I do.

So the other day I was talking to my coach when I asked her:

How can something flow easily and effortlessly when I also know I can’t just sit on the couch doing nothing my whole life and things will happen? How can I make sense of this?

There is work need to make things happen, yes. But it doesn’t have to be hard? Where does that leave us?

What she told me was this:

There’s struggling. And then there’s suffering.

There’s a HUGE difference between them. And you need to audit what you are doing and feeling on a daily basis to know where they’re coming from.

Let me give you a quick example:

After 7 years, I decided to take a step back here at Jakt. I didn’t want (or needed) to be involved in the day-to-day operations. It’s not that I was an apathetic sloth — it goes much deeper than that.

The Difference Between Struggling And Suffering

Was I struggling? Or was I suffering? And what’s the difference?…

Struggling is good, but suffering is bad

Do you go to the gym?

If so, I’m sure you’ll understand what it’s like to have that constant battle with yourself. First, there’s the willpower to actually go.

Then there’s the work involved: figuring out your program and what you’re going to actually do while you’re there. How to move up in speed, distance, strength…

And then, there’s the payoff.

Bench pressing a new personal record. Running your first marathon.

These achievements are set up by the work you put in at the gym. The constant struggle against what your body might say it wants. To stay in bed. To quit just one set, or one mile, early.

When you go to the gym and struggle through a workout, you do it because you know you’re heading for achievement. The goal.

It’s something you want. And the progress, the work, it’s actually fun. Okay, maybe not super fun, but it’s satisfying. It’s time well spent.

That’s struggling.

But consider this: someone steps into your life and says “you know what, you’re going to run a marathon.”

If you don’t want to, if it’s an external force making you do it, then that time spent at the gym is something else. It becomes a prison. A kind of punishment.

That’s suffering.

The Difference Between Struggling And Suffering

Whether you’re struggling vs suffering is determined by if that goal or thing is something you want.

Struggling vs. Suffering In Business:

I can think of –and I’m sure you can too– so many late nights planning sales calls for the next day. So many spreadsheets. So many hours of infinite meetings. So many ounces of pressure on our backs.

And I loved every second of it. Sure, they were a struggle because we wanted the deal, or to hit our targets… or anything else that motivated us.

But what if we didn’t really want that deal? Or if every minute felt like Chinese water torture? Or if we didn’t find meaning on it? Then it might feel more like suffering.

And yes, there are challenging moments in life.

But do we really need to suffer instead of struggle?

Suffering can be avoided.

My coach and I defined “suffering” as judging the struggle. And judging it poorly. Resenting it, really.

The problem is that, since they are somewhat connected, it’s hard to distinguish what it is you’re feeling.

I believe listening to your body and emotions is the key.

When you’re suffering, it sucks. You don’t feel good. You ask yourself things like: “Why do I have to do this again?” or “Why is it this way?” You’re just going through the motions, and you feel like Sisyphus rolling his stone up the hill.

So, that’s part of it: learning to understand if you’re struggling… or resenting it and suffering.

And your feelings can change.

Just because you loved the struggle of something doesn’t mean you will ALWAYS enjoy it.

Hear me out:

For me, this meant stepping out of the day-to-day at Jakt–going from working in the business to working on the business.

Not because it was a bad work environment, or because the company was doing poorly, but because I no longer enjoyed it.

After that, wading through it just… wasn’t satisfying anymore. It was an intimidating change. But, in the end, it was the best for both the company and myself.

Jakt was getting to the size it badly needed more of that strategic level of thinking. And I had been growing to the point that I was ready to help in a different way.

I went from struggling to suffering, and back to struggling but with a new set of challenges.

And here’s why:

Seeking the Struggle

The one thing I do NOT want you to get out of this article is this:

“I should step away from anything that’s difficult.”

Seriously, if that’s how I came across — I’ll punch myself in the face. Because I honestly believe quite the opposite.

Yes, if you’re suffering, you have a responsibility to yourself –and to your business– to change that.


You also owe it to yourself to seek out the struggle.

And so that’s the last thing I’d leave you with here:

There’s growth in struggling.

Moving outside of your comfort zone is the best for both you and your company’s continued advancement.

When you’re too comfortable, you’ll get complacent. Some people like to live in that state — do what makes you happy. (Although I don’t think anyone in that state is truly happy — but it’s scary to move forward).

But for all of us that don’t want to settle, you’ll find happiness and growth when you seek the struggle.

Suffering vs Struggling:

  • Struggling and suffering are not equal. Stop, audit your feelings, and figure out which one you are operating in.
  • Suffering is about judging the struggle. When you resent what you do (which is not the same as it is difficult), you need to take a step back and find the issue behind it.
  • Struggling takes you outside of your comfort zone. Embrace it and use it to help you grow.