We hear it all the time. The fast paced world we live in brings more stress than ever. We find ourselves locked in a world of endless attention grabbing. Inundated with worries and fears about the problems that stalk us, we find ourselves needing to handle a massive amount of stress. The word strife is rarely mentioned but yet is as important to the challenges we face as stress.
Strife means bitter conflict of some form. It refers to a form of antagonism. Whenever I get stressed it is often because I feel frustrated with the gap between how I wish things would be and how they actually are. In many ways this is a form of bitter disagreement that leads to stress. Furthermore, such disagreement is not limited to the world. It also exists between our inner selves. How I wish I would be and how I actually behave are also sometimes in stark disagreement. This, again is a form of strife. We could call these two types of strife, internal and external.
If I was to sum up what I do, it would be to teach people to influence themselves and others better. In the context of strife this could mean mediating or negotiating with myself better.
So how does one do this? Well the key exists in understanding your own position and the other position and finding a win win solution. I always start with asking what does the other person want? In the case of the world, the world wants to just be what it is and continue to act as it does. What I want is to influence the world to be more as I want it to be. The answer to a successful negotiation is to accept what I cannot control and what I can control and what I can influence. It is to understand the priorities of what I most care about and commit some of my time to doing whatever I can about whatever I can.
With regard to my relationship with myself, the strife of not being how I want to be is best dealt with by understanding that we tend to like a sense of stability or balance. Our brains use as little energy as possible and our bodies like to do whatever they can do to survive which involves keeping things the same as much as it can. What I want is to grow and develop and take the necessary actions that will help me transform so that I can become more like the person I want to be.
So again the key involves influencing myself into accepting long-term changes which will keep me safe, keep life easy while also helping me to grow. This is not easy but the mere knowledge that it is not as simple as just deciding to make a change is critical. Often we vow to change something over lent or a New Year’s resolution but actual long-term behavioural change involves far more than simply a decision. We have to show ourselves that we are ready for every eventuality and we have to provide ourselves with sufficient motivation and tools to continue the new way of acting. Furthermore, our identity: the beliefs and stories we tell ourselves about who we are must remain consistent so the changes we wish to make must fit perfectly with these narratives.
What we also must realise is that it is these very struggles against the way the world is and the way we are that gives us something to react to.
The meaning of strife can be seen then as the anger we have toward how things are and is the very motivation that drives us to grow, change, evolve and make a difference to the world. When you find yourself stressing over how things work or how you are, remind yourself that this stress or strife is simply a source of energy that makes life worthwhile. For it is only in facing challenges and problems that we can find out our true selves and just what we are capable of being and doing.