As my children will attest, some days it takes only a minor stimulus to illicit a rant from me. Today it was this booklet that made its way to the top of our piano – How to Get Good Grades, in Ten Easy Steps.

Easy? Really?

Now, let’s be honest, if you’re not academically inclined, there is nothing easy about getting good grades. And if you ARE academically inclined, well then you wouldn’t be picking up this little booklet, would you?

Do you think the publishers of this book are doing the students any good by putting the word “easy” in the title? I don’t think so. You’re not going to fool a kid who’s ready to give up on school by telling them there’s an easy fix. If they’ve failed a few courses and their self esteem is in the toilet because of it, setting them up for one more failure by calling it “easy” is just cruel rather than helpful.

And here comes the rant…

Most of the things in life that are worth their weight in gold are most definitely NOT going to be easy.

Let’s stop trying to pretend they are. Let’s stop trying to sell ourselves on the idea that there’s such a thing as “easy weight loss” or “easy relationship fixes” or “easy steps to physical fitness”. Let’s toss “ten easy steps” out the window for once and for all, shall we?

The marketers who are selling you those easy fixes? They’re lying to you.

Good things take work. And practice. And perseverance. And blood, sweat, and tears.

My oldest daughter was struggling through her first high school math class last term. After a disappointing start, she was determined to improve her grade. After weeks of studying, extra homework, meeting with the teacher, re-doing her homework, and studying some more, she did just that – improve her grade. Was it easy? Not a chance.

Several years ago, my husband decided that, after 22 years in the transportation industry, he wanted to become a teacher. He’d never even finished high school, and yet he had this dream. Five and a half years later, he had two university degrees and a teacher’s certificate. There was very little about that journey that was easy, not even for those of us who supported him through it. But was it worth it? Of course!

I’m in the midst of becoming a runner. This morning I was very proud of the fact that I ran six miles. That accomplishment couldn’t have happened, though, without nine months of practicing and sweating and hurting and practicing some more. Yes I may love it and want to keep doing it, but… easy? Not one minute of it.

I am also writing a book. Sure there may be some days when the writing flows and it feels like it requires no more effort than breathing, but there are other days I feel like l’m slitting open a vein and letting the blood pour. And even those pages that showed up without much effort will still require hours of editing and rewriting and agonizing before they’re ready for prime time. Nope, nothing easy about that either. I want it more than almost anything else in the world, though, so I’ll stick with it.

Anyone who’s developed a meditation practice or yoga practice or dance practice or any other kind of practice can tell you that it requires years of dragging yourself to the mat or cushion or floor, working through heaps of resistance and pain, and persevering through all of those times when it just feels like nothing is happening. Easy? No way. Worth it? Oh yes.

Anyone who’s worked through depression or eating disorders or anxiety disorders or mental illness of any kind will tell you there’s nothing easy about that either. Worth it when you’ve worked through to the other side? Yes. But easy? Don’t ever insult them by implying that it is.

Anyone who has committed themselves to social change – protestors in Tahrir Square, people committed to peace and justice working in Darfur, front-line workers in poverty-stricken neighbourhoods all over the world – will tell you that it’s terrifying and hard and discouraging and only occasionally exhilarating, but easy? Never.

You get my point. Growing, learning, changing, improving, transforming – all of those things take years of effort and pain and frustration and surrender and practice and agony.

Sure, there are things that fall within your gifts that might feel easy from time to time (eg. I once had an article published in the Globe and Mail that took no more than 15 minutes to write and not a single edit), but perfecting anything – even if it comes naturally – is hard work. Just ask any Olympic athlete or world class musician.

Let’s stop trying to fool ourselves. It’s not going to be easy.

Worth it? Most definitely. But easy? Not a chance.

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