Doing The Hard Work Upfront

“Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard.
Obesity is hard. Being fit is hard. Choose your hard.
Being in debt is hard. Being financially disciplined is hard. Choose your hard.
Communication is hard. Not communicating is hard. Choose your hard.
Life will never be easy. It will always be hard. But we can choose our hard. Pick wisely.”


Early in the relationship with my boyfriend, there was some tension. I was clearly ill and deeply in denial, yet his recommendations that I seek help were met with hostility. His suggesting that I “need to” do anything pissed me off. After months of back-and-forth, we refined his phrasing, I felt less attacked, and I finally entertained the idea of seeing a doctor. The discussions were hard and painful. Occasionally, I considered throwing in the towel. It would have been the easier option. But I’m glad we didn’t. By working through the early challenges of our relationship, we discovered how to best communicate with and support one another. Now, our relationship feels effortless.

I have friends and family members who live off of pastries, burgers, and processed microwave meals. While grabbing a meal at the drive-thru is easier than preparing food at home, the extra weight and health conditions that come from unhealthy food choices create more hardship long-term. Although I’ve not been able to be particularly active due to chronic illness, I am mindful of my food choices. It was challenging to learn to cook within the confines of two different sets of dietary limitations, and it was tiring to prepare food every day. After figuring out the basics, meal preparation has become second nature and I can easily whip up a healthy meal.

I graduated college with minimal debt, but it felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders. Throughout college, I shared a tiny studio with a roommate and ate one meal a day to minimize debt. Upon graduation, my habits didn’t change and I paid off my student loans within three years. I’ve been saving money toward retirement since my first job, gradually ramping up from $25 per month to nearly 40% of my income. Rather than putting everything on credit, I have savings buckets for home repairs, vacations, and a new vehicle when my trusty old Civic eventually kicks the bucket. I’ve made lifestyle sacrifices today to alleviate future worry about credit card interest rates and financial security in retirement. The hardships today are setting me up for an easier tomorrow.

Errors and cognitive lapses often come with the territory of chronic illness. I’ve made many mistakes. Rather than trying to hide behind my screen and pretend that everything is fine, I’ve developed the habit of asking my boss more questions and admitting when I think I’ve made an error. Preparing to confront someone and admit your shortcomings is daunting. However, admitting fault yourself and committing to not making the same mistake again is better than having someone else bring attention to your error. The hard conversation up front leads to a better communication, increased trust, and an increased ease in breaching difficult topics in the future.

My personal journey has involved a set of chronic illnesses that threw an entire chest of wrenches into all areas of my life. The easy choice would have been to give up. I could have quit my job, applied for disability, stayed in bed, and moped over all that I had lost. Instead, I made a commitment to myself to do everything within my control to get well. I forced myself to keep working to pay for medical treatment; eat healthily and take supplements; keep pursuing new specialists and modalities, and; remain somewhat hopeful. It’s taken eight years of stubborn persistence and concerted efforts, but the hard work is now giving way to ease. The habits I’ve built to support my health today will stay with me for the rest of my life, bringing ease as my body ages and changes.

Making my day harder has made everything easier.

Experiencing the hard stuff in life is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. Often the hard thing that we don’t want to do is the only thing that stands between us and what we really want: more ease. And take heed, hard now and hard later are not created equal.

I’ve written more on the topic over at The Heart of the Matter. Go check out the companion piece, Maybe Easier Isn’t Better After All, and join in the conversation.

Have you ever done anything that was hard upfront, but made for easier time later? Alternatively, have you ever taken the easier path upfront, but later realized the path was actually the more challenging one?

22 thoughts on “Doing The Hard Work Upfront

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  1. I love how you look back in a way that gives you present-day propulsion, Erin: “It’s taken eight years of stubborn persistence and concerted efforts, but the hard work is now giving way to ease.” Cheers to you for all that you’ve accomplished. 🥰🥰🥰

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  2. I have lived, in some way, each of the scenarios you describe Erin. I really appreciate the one about being proactive at work. It wasn’t always easy to speak up and admit a mistake acknowledge the blame for an error was on me, but I think in many ways my employers came to respect me for those decisions to fess up, ask how to do better and then fully realize that my goal was not to subvert or ignore the negatives but face them and move on. Sort of the adult thing to do I think because avoidance usually never works.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I discovered the same thing about the avoidance and sweeping things under the rug… it always leads to be a bigger mess if something is left unresolved. I also agree about employers appreciating the truthfulness, even if it’s not necessarily good news.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My husband used the same phrase “You need to…” No, it didn’t sit well with me either. I’m glad you worked on better communication. We did too. I can’t remember the last time he said that to me. I love your concept of everything is hard and we decide which hard path to choose.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Same here! I would get so defensive (“don’t tell me what to do!). Changing the words just a bit to “have you considered…” or “I think it might be a good idea if…” made all the difference.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. “The hardships today are setting me up for an easier tomorrow.” There’s lots of wisdom in that statement. I’m a big believer in that idea. I’ve seen it come true often in my own life. Yes, it would be easier to grab the cookie now, but if I wait two hours, I’ll get two then. I find a lot of people can’t hold off, they want the instant gratification, but the joy later is worth it. Good for you Erin in realizing the joy in hard work and taking a different path!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You comment reminds me of a quote I recently saw: “The ability (or inability) to delay gratification is one of the greatest predictors of success. In everything.” Doing the hard work up front isn’t always fun, but it’s nearly always worth it. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Brian!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your line, “And take heed, hard now and hard later are not created equal.” There’s a lot of wisdom of this as it applies to parenting. Paying attention to kids when they are young, working with them to identify their emotions, creating boundaries – it’s all so much work and I don’t have to do it in the phase where I still have enough authority to command they do it differently. And yet they don’t develop intrinsic worth and motivation that way. I love that you are your boyfriend worked out those communication issues early on!

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    1. Thank you, Wynne! The example of kids makes so much sense. I recall as a kid how some friends’ parents weren’t very present, and I definitely noticed different outcomes for them than for those who had more love, support, and discipline at home. I can only imagine how much work it must be, but it’s important work, for sure.

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  6. What a fantastic quote you started with and such a great way to launch this very important topic! I think it’s so important because like the saying goes “Our lives are fashioned by our choices. First we make our choices. Then our choices make us.” The example you gave of food choices is a great one! May I ask what 2 dietary restrictions you try to accommodate?

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    1. Thanks, EW! “Then our choices make us”–that is so profound, and so very true! Our diet has varied as we try to figure out our health. My boyfriend has been a vegetarian for 20+ years, so no meat or seafood for him. After trying several diets, I found I feel best on paleo/autoimmune protocol, excluding my biggest allergens (eggs, dairy/casein, gluten/gliadin). Unfortunately, there’s not much overlap in our diets, other than lots and lots of produce. Haha! The two approaches we take that help are 1) make veggie sides with chicken or eggs/yogurt/tofu/lentils as the protein, or 2) meal prep and freeze separate meals and thaw the day of. It used to be a huge hassle, but I think we’ve found a good rhythm while nourishing our bodies with what feels good.


  7. You have a great attitude Erin. I love that you mentioned how foster a good working relationship with your boss, built on open and candid communication. That is so important. It’s easy to not discuss the hard stuff but these are the moments that build trust and productivity. So way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ab! I think a transparent relationship with one’s boss is so important. In my early-20s, I was bit of a know-it-all and tried to work through and figure things out on my own, and I did alright but it was stressful. To have the courage to ask for help was hard for me, but the first ask was well-received, I’ve been far less hesitant to keep asking. I think I realize now that our bosses picked us for the role and they want to see us succeed (at less generally speaking).

      Liked by 1 person

  8. There great life lessons in this post, and some I wish I was taught much earlier in life – especially dealing with debt. I’m so thankful that none my children ended up with school debt like mom and dad. The saying “more is caught that taught” was very true for them. They saw the financial nightmares we gained and wanted nothing to do with it. Thank you for this post and blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lex! I was fortunate that my parents taught me about personal finance and I have pretty smart about money, but I know that many lack that foundation. I’m so glad you were able to figure things out, and teach your kids by example. I am unfamiliar with the saying “more is caught that taught”, but I really like it–I think it true in many areas of life, not just finances. Blessings to you, as well, Lex!

      Liked by 1 person

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