What is a struggle? What does it mean to struggle? Well, on the one hand, it’s really easy to define:

“to experience difficulty and make a very great effort in order to do something.”

On the other hand, however, a struggle can be hard to identify, because we all define different events, well, differently. What seems like Mount Everest to one person’s daunted perspective might be a piece of cake to someone else. And if you are trying to convince yourself that you’re not struggling because other people have [had] it harder, then you’re going to be doing twice the work. That’s a lot more to carry unnecessarily, on a road that’s tough enough.

We all define our struggles as we see them. And that’s okay. It’s not a contest: “My struggles are harder/better/more meaningful than yours,” is not a fun game and it’s impossible to be declared the winner. Anyway, you can’t win this game without losing.

That’s the thing about struggle: We all view life through our own perspective. We see our trials and tribulations through our own individual lenses on life. We can try to be sympathetic and empathetic and understanding (these are great things to practice), but when it comes right down to it, we decide what is and isn’t a struggle. Ever seen someone struggling with something and wondered why they were having such a hard time of it? It seemed so simple to you. After all, you’ve been there before, or maybe you just think you’d have an easier go of it.

It really is a choice. Deciding what is and isn’t a struggle, I mean. I’m not saying difficulties won’t arise, because that’d be a lie, but we can choose how we hold our struggles. Is it a fight you see? Are you curling your hands into fists, readying for yet another round? Or is it a challenge? Are you thrilling with adrenaline at the idea of adventure?

There are a lot of places in between that you might find yourself when it comes to facing your struggles, but I encourage you to look at them and decide: Will you empower your choice, allowing your struggles to bring you both farther along and closer in on your journey? Will you define your struggles as a problem in your way, or as a challenge to bring out your best?

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.” ― Frederick Douglass

If you’re facing a struggle and you feel yourself readying for a fight, try asking yourself, “Will this matter in a month? A year? Five years? Fifty years?” If you’re anything like me, chances are you’re attaching a lot of significance to this struggle.

I’ve definitely had a tendency to turn my molehills into mountains. I’ve listened to my fears and I’ve taken some roads that seemed less risky and less of a challenge. Easier. Safer. More secure. Know what? It wasn’t really easier. Stuff happened anyway. It was just different stuff. What external difficulties I may have saved myself I’ve more than made up in terms of internal struggle. I’ve let fear be my guide at the expense of my spirit, but I’m changing that, and so can you.

It’s a bit of a struggle (ha!) to choose something else, but something—anything, really—else is just as available as choosing to react to a struggle as a bad thing.

Your move. What do you choose?

Do you view your struggles as a fight or as a challenge? Maybe it’s both: Can you think of times when you’ve approached struggles differently? What makes your reaction to struggle change?