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Why Hard is Not Bad

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.  

Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 239–251

I am new to the climbing scene. Funny, as I am now a climbing writer, but I have a few experiences up my sleeve, that I am finding very applicable to this whole mountaineering thing (my climbing being more alpine focused). There are moments when I am quite literally climbing a mountain and since I’m pushing myself to progress, it’s the hardest thing I have ever done in my life (until I get to the next harder mountain). A while ago I graded for my black belt and after wrote myself a note:

Hard is not bad. It’s just hard.

When I wrote that note I felt that simplistic statement. Felt it in my core and understood it in my being. When I was doing something hard, it felt hard. It felt arduous, it felt enduring. It felt like a great deal of effort. But to get though my grading, I had numbed my mind to the judging voice of “this sucks, I want to escape. Make it stop, this is bad”. I had to mute that internal narration because otherwise I would have quit, and consequently not got the black belt.

“I had to mute that internal narration.”

The realisation hit me when I wrote my afterthought, ‘hard is not bad’. It is the labelling of something as ‘this is hard’ that causes it to be bad. In itself it’s just a passing phase, a moment measured in time. It’s the thought of “this moment must be escaped and not felt” that can make it feel freaking awful, claustrophobic and painful.

There are rewards from enduring hardship. Resilience, grit, optimism in knowing: however hard it gets, you’ve got this. For me it’s knowing that whatever I set my mind to, I can do. I actually feel that idea in my body and believe it. Hardship has given me self belief, self-efficacy, confidence.

Hardship has given me self belief and confidence.

My maxim? Don’t mistake the forest for the path. Sometimes we look at all that dark dense uncharted forest; the trees are like our judgments screaming “make it stop!”.

“Don’t mistake the forest for the path.”

Yet we are walking on the hardship path, which is actually not so bad if we become the observer and keep walking. The next time something is hard, accept it. Yes it is hard. But that is not bad.


To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not—that one endures.
Friedrich Nietzsche

By Stephanie Quirk

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