What Is Your Struggle?

By Steve Garvie from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland (Uphill struggle!) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsI’m a bit stuck at the moment. I feel rootless, professionally speaking.

I know that I am here to make some contribution to the world. And I can’t quite figure out what it is.

I know that when I finally find it, it will be something that feels great for me and makes an impact to others.

At the moment, I’m still searching.

I’ve been freelance for the past few years. Not unusual for a musician, but I do other things too.

I’m a trainer, a mentor, a coach. I’ve made some films, some podcasts, and built a few websites.

I know my strengths are in the areas of performance, creativity, communication, ideas, and people.

For me, work and passion go hand-in-hand.

But I’ve reached the point where I feel I’m at a crossroads. I lack focus.

Part of my blurring is that I have too many skills and interests. It makes it difficult to specialise. And people prefer to hire specialists.

But part of my blurring is that I don’t fully know what I’m for. I don’t know what my purpose, my mission is.

And if I don’t know that, I can’t figure out who most needs it either. That inevitably limits the power of my contribution to the world.

So for the past month I’ve been annoying myself with that very question. Why am I here? What is the contribution I can most powerfully make?

In the past week or so, you’ve taught me something valuable which I’m sure will help me finally reach some answers.

By your responses to some of my recent, personal blog posts, you have given me a very clear understanding of something.

“What is your purpose?” and “What is your struggle?” is the exact same question.

I’ve had this blog for a while. I post all kinds of things up. I’m gigging here. Here is a song I’ve written. Here’s what I think of some political thing.

And people read it and respond, either here or on Facebook.

But the blog has never felt purposeful. Even when I was sharing newly created songs.

Not until my last couple of posts.

The last couple of posts feel purposeful. I didn’t intend it that way – I just shared my struggle.

And because we are all human, and because none of us are so out of the ordinary, I found that my struggle was shared by many of you.

So that is my learning from you about mission and about purpose. That the biggest contribution we can make is in the area where we struggle.

Your struggle is my struggle is someone else’s struggle. With every struggle, there is a community of fellow strugglers, and our contribution is at its most powerful and impacting when making it possible to work through that struggle together.

#focus#mission#purpose#sharing#struggle#why am i here


  1. Mary Mckee - December 4, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

    Awareness, mindfulness of expectaions and recognition of transferable skills will get you through. Stopping and reflecting breaks the vicious circle of life to help you decide your path. All of which you already know. Go back to basics do a mind map or a tree of life and remember elephants dont forget you’ll soon go forward and pass the crossroads.

  2. morag - December 4, 2013 @ 9:53 pm

    Ha. Uncanny given my earlier comment tonight on previous post, about lack of focus & butterfly-mindedness. It applies to creative/work areas of life too. Much worse than you tho, you’re always gigging, recording etc & now looking into other things. It’s a strength, one many single-minded people admire. But hard when it feels like lack of purpose. I’ll leave you with the Dalai llama – ‘The purpose of our lives is to be happy’. Not much help on one level! But we can overthink, spend too much time analysing, not living in the moment, just being. Maybe that’s your struggle? It may well be mine, as your posts have helped to highlight. I’m going to stop thinking & have a candlelit bath & just be now, because I have the luck to have been born in a country where I take hot running waterb& peace for granted. I’m going to count my blessings in bubbles ;-)

  3. Mary Mckee - December 4, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

    I agree Morag. Although life should really be like a box of chocolates. Take the pleasure without contemplating, enjoy and when your not sure be grateful we can unwrap those that may leave a bitter taste. If this happens hopefully we should be fortunate enough to manage the consequences that often don’t actually do anything other than help us recognise we often choose not to make the same mistake of picking the wrong choice again and if we do it doesn’t actually affect anyone else. Leading us to another pathway.

  4. alunparry - December 5, 2013 @ 11:32 am

    Hi Mary

    Can you tell me more about the tree of life tool. I’ve not encountered it before and my googling was to no avail.


  5. alunparry - December 5, 2013 @ 11:41 am

    Hi Morag

    I like the phrase blessings in bubbles. Gratitude is important, so in that spirit I am thankful to you for pointing it out :)

    To be happy. It’s a funny one that, happiness. It almost has to be unpacked. I think a big part of happiness is simply expressing and being who you naturally are.

    A big part of me feels that I’m not fulfilling my own potential. I don’t even mean this in a parenty “should” sense. I just feel like I’m trundling along in first gear, and there’s big parts of me that feel like I’m going against the grain.

    I’m wanting to connect (or maybe even reconnect) with those parts of me where I lose myself in what I’m doing, where I feel passionate and excited about my work, and where I am rewarded spiritually and materially for a meaningful contribution to the world. I suspect that I’ll know I’m there when I’m there. It will feel like I’m “home” I think.

    It’s interesting that I use that analogy of home. I use it in relationships too. I know when I’m in the wrong one because it doesn’t feel “home”.

    I wonder why I use that analogy so often. In my home at the moment, I feel the same. It doesn’t feel like home. Home is a big deal for me in some way and for some reason. I mention it in passing, as it has occurred to me that I overuse that analogy and so I am guessing there is some meaning there.


  6. alunparry - December 5, 2013 @ 11:42 am

    Wise chocolatey words Mary.


  7. Morag - December 5, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

    We use an exercise called Tree of Life in work, not sure if it’s the same one. You have a tree with branches. You position yourself on the tree where you feel you are, and the position the people in your life where you think they are. We get very sad ones where mums place themselves at the bottom or right out on a limb & totally separate from their kids etc. The idea is that at the end of our programme they do it again, having forgotten where they first put everyone. It’s mad seeing the difference. People higher up, closer together etc. One way of measuring if your struggle is getting close to success.
    Mary might have meant a different one tho, in the context of mind maps etc.

  8. alunparry - December 5, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

    Thanks Morag. That’s interesting. I’ve been assessing different areas of life. Friendship, career, finances, family, education and so on. Trying to think back over my life at what was happening when for me. Asking where my struggles were/are and what were they.

    There are certainly some themes developing for me.

    When I had a proper job I loathed it to the point of fantasising about throwing myself under trucks. So that’s one of my struggles.

    How to make freelance life pay. That’s another.

    The whole connectedness thing that I mentioned in my other blog post turns out to be another. And one I hadn’t even fully realised.

    Relationships are another struggle, especially when I can see patterns of selection that doom me in the same repetitve ways, often by choosing the unavailable.

    Finances are another struggle too. I have a lefty’s guilt ridden relationship to money which, intellectually, I know is ridiculous and self denying.

    Beneath all that I have a “don’t be important” command going on for myself that has limited me in lots of different areas.

    I find myself feeling particularly passionate about 3 areas of these struggles:

    the psychological growth stuff (don’t be important etc),
    the stuff around friendship and a connected life,
    the quit your job and do stuff you really love.

  9. Morag - December 5, 2013 @ 9:12 pm

    OK just read the next bit. Yes know exactly where you’re at, though I think I’m experiencing it on a more debilitating level. I know that feeling of unfulfilled potential, of wasting something you feel you have. It’s now 14 (can’t believe that!) years since I started doing performance poetry. I won the Wirral title in my first year & Merseyside title the next and was thereafter told I couldn’t compete again but must be a judge. On every nice but ruthlessly honest judge told me outright that it was all very nice winning here, but why wasn’t I out on the national or at least regional scene. A very good question. I was told how previous winners had used it as a springboard to national recognition. I will always remember that phrase. After a brief period of regular performing I sprung myself into self-selected obscurity, stopped performing, except for the written-to-order last minute rhyming rants for demos that have become my forte. I love doing them in the moment, don’t get me wrong, but they have the nothing of the substance, depth, uniqueness of what I ‘really want to write’ (so why don’t I?). Sometimes i tell myself it’s not that important to me, that I’m bust with my work & that’s important and part of my identity. But that’s not really true. I know exactly what you mean by home – home is the stage, or was, unfamiliarity has bred fear & my performances were always about bravery. They don’t fit with shakey voice and lack of conviction.
    Of course, we’ve already covered the connection between communicating thru the stage to an audience and self-distancing/control/barriers. If I was performing every week, on fire again, would i be happy? Would I still hanker after that lasting closeness? If I was settled in consistent, close friendships every week, would I miss the stage me? I’m tempted to go with the latter, my instinct feels that most strongly. Or does so right now. Maybe there’s something of the mercurial in me. Like you I have a variety of jobs/roles. For the first time I have just one full time job & it seems to have coincided with the dearth of creativity, or at least public performance of it. I tell myself it’s cos I have a sensible commitment to my charity, but that’s not it. I tell myself performing is for others, but when I see others out there doing poetry regularly & getting ‘known’ I have a terrible twinge….
    OK I can talk forever. Action! The happiness quote is on my fridge, friend gave it to me. She was making a point I think. I think happiness is a fleeting state, I guess we have to enjoy it as we catch it. But that still leaves the feeling of fleetingness & inconstancy. Oh I don’t know & I won’t find the answers without effort.
    Pledges to myself, courtesy of the pondering prompted by your posts:
    1. I will find regular time & I will write some new stuff, stuff I want to perform. I will neither dismiss it as rubbish (perfectionist) or leave it half done & not as good as it could be (butterfly/perfectionist/coward). I will do something I’m in touch with as I used to be & get out and perform it within the next month, and not at the bloody TUC or a demo!
    2. I will see how that feels. I will either decide the muse/desire has gone & have to find something else, some other purpose. Or I’ll catch fire again & then i will do more gigs with a view to getting on at at least one festival this summer.
    3. I will believe I am good enough for that.
    4. I will try and engage with the interesting & talented people I meet along the way neither in a hostile/dismissive, nor an ‘I am not worthy’ way.
    5. You (the world) can hold me to this. Or I will forever stop describing myself as a poet. Or if I do, I will say it with belief that it is home :-)
    Thanks Alun. Action plan! Will see how I do & keep tabs on myself throuhgout….

  10. alunparry - December 5, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

    It sounds like you just made a contract with yourself. Check in with me if you like. I could be your cheerleader.

    I can’t help but feel really interested in the barriers to performance, and those discussions with yourself about why you even want to perform.

    I’ve had them too. I asked myself whether, if an evil wizard were to condemn me to mediocrity, would I still do this? Am I doing this for me, or for the pat on the head?

    And then the fear of judgement when getting up on the stage. “They’re going to think I’m shit” etc.

    I’m actually passionate about that too, so thanks for the reminder. That’s a fourth struggle I’ve had, and one I feel I’ve mainly overcome.

    When I encounter fellow performers struggling with the stage, I feel passionate about that too.

    Quick question before you get on with your action plan. How do you secretly plan to sabotage yourself? May as well face them demons so you have a strategy for overcoming them.


  11. Morag - December 5, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

    God sorry just read that one! ‘Don’t be important’ omg yes that rings a deafening bell! Would we dream of saying that to anyone else? Do we quote Margaret Mead ‘you’re being small won’t help anyone etc giving permission for others to shine…’? But do we believe it? Back to self-limiting beliefs – we are not worthy of feeling or being seen as important (not arrogantly, just ‘good enough’). WE have to work to constantly check that thought – coach ourselves as we would anyone else, give ourselves that faith in potential. Potential is one of my favourite words. This is going to form the poem, I can feel it. Immediately I feel a twinge when I say that – who am I to bore the world with my inner dilemnas? Well who am I not? Why don’t I just let the world decide? What’s the worst thing that can happen, as I am fond of saying to others about their dilemnas ;-)
    I’m a financial disaster, the roots of which actually go back to the time in my life when I was earning comfortably. Sabotage again!
    As for being drawn to unattainable people. I laughed out loud. I’d think you’ve been reading my diaries if I wrote one! But does it all link up again? My thing is emotionally unattainable, last & big one due to them being an emotionally messed up, utterly self-destructive alcoholic. I spent years feeling sorry for myself & ‘doing everything for them’. What I have to acknowledge now is that somehow that suited my needs, that was my comfort zone, my ‘home’ How much easier to put up with drama & let down & hurt & emotional distance & the illusion of intimacy (poem!) than to deal with the dull, constant reality. Alternatively, date someone you’re not that into and be emotionally distant yourself!
    I really need to get off this post, not use to this public self-analysis & probably sound bonkers, But then I reckon most of us would if we faced ourselves & broke it down.
    Very useful & enlightening. Thanks Alun x

  12. Morag - December 5, 2013 @ 9:31 pm

    Haha. I have a genuinely bananas family (demented mother, grandson ect) & hectic job which handily conspires to give me lots of good reasons to sabotage.
    Or I’ll say the poetry scene is rubbish & slope off with my white feather ;-)

  13. alunparry - December 5, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

    I think the awareness and recognition you’re showing is fab. We kind of sound like twinnies Morag. It only goes to show that we’re not unusual or bonkers, just human like everyone else. How many times did that kid in class ask the dumb question that I and everyone else was too fearful to ask? I guess this is like that. When we share our stuff, what happens is that a ton of people will widen their eyes and say “Oh my God!! Me too!!”

  14. alunparry - December 5, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

    So your sabotage is that you use your family as an excuse to justify not writing? Or you hold a view of the poetry scene to do the same?

    I wonder what the real barrier is that these other things become alibis for?


  15. Morag - December 5, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

    That requires pondering time!

  16. alunparry - December 5, 2013 @ 11:55 pm

    Reflection is good. It’s a tough question to be fair. But possibly an important one.


  17. Toni - December 6, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

    Morag and Alun – Blimey your doing what Im trying to train myself out off. I totally relate to the sabotage, understanding my purpose, making sure everyone else was ok and had what they need I could go on. During my therapy sessions it has become evident that I over think and dont just allow myself to ‘feel’ what do I want, what do I need.
    Morag I love your action plan make it your present to you.
    Im too busy analysing to enjoy the now so Im taking Morag’s advice and going for the bubble bath ;-)

  18. Mary Mckee - December 7, 2013 @ 12:59 am

    The tree is like Morag describes but start at tbe roots and add your branches put it away then reflect on it but rember trees can be cut back so they don’t become overgrown or destructive. Sounds to me like your action plans need to be smaller and a little me time to re explore the fulfilment of creativity you ceate and enjoy someone elses that maybe inspied you.

  19. alunparry - December 9, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

    Hi Toni

    I’m very cognitive too. I was once asked how I feel. I paused and said “I think that….”

    I really agree that the question of “what do I want and need right now in this situation” is really really important.


  20. alunparry - December 9, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

    Hi Mary

    Do you have a link to an example? With it being visual, it’s hard to get my head round simply from a description.

    Interesting what you say about trees being overgrown. One of the sabotages I recognised in me is that I overload myself with too much stuff to do.

    I’ve committed to only doing things which align to my goals or which are fun. Anything else will have to wait. It’s an important commitment for me really as I get too curious and overload myself, which is probably just a sabotage for not having time to ensure that I get what I really need.


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