Why Every Struggle You Overcome Is A Gift

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My family’s fate weighed heavily on my shoulders. Everything I knew - my identity, my values, my ideals for the future - crashed down around me.

I was working three jobs and charging my credit cards just to keep food on the table for my daughter and I.

I wanted a way out, I wanted something - anything - to hold onto. I wanted to catch my breath because I was suffocating from the disaster that was my life.

Then, I got an acceptance letter to the Master's degree of my choice. 

But there was a big part of me that was afraid of my good fortune.

Now, I was in a position to study with some of the best and brightest professors in the country. The other students in my cohort had already done work with some amazing companies. Many of them were coming straight from college and were 5 years younger than me.

I couldn't escape the feeling that I wouldn't fit in.

I wouldn't be smart enough.

At my age (which I thought was soooo old) I should have a great career already, right?

And I had a few more struggles than the average college student.


I had my daughter at 19. Here is what that means:

  • I don’t have many friends that are my age who have kids.

  • I’m usually the youngest parent in the room at school functions.

  • I often need help from family and friends

I grew up hearing that having a child when you are a teenager is a kiss of death. In my head, I was already a “statistic” and would very likely struggle to make something out of my life.

And I struggled without a doubt.

My daughter accompanied me through my early twenties and going forward. Together we went on a journey of self-discovery. From undergraduate school to graduate school and from unemployable babysitter to gainfully employed data analyst.


When I entered my graduate program, I learned that the degree I was seeking had way more math than I was anticipating. The professors would zoom through advanced statistics concepts and excel formulas so fast it that made my head spin.

I was lost. And it was obvious.

So I started to make friends with fellow students who breezed through class.


I met several students in grad school who were much younger than I was, and they would boast about working for Fortune 500 companies and their fancy job titles. I, on the other hand, was a babysitter, a waitress and a freelancer. #awkward

When people would ask me “what do you do?“ I would instantly shrink on the inside and immediately froze up while trying to squeak out a job title that didn’t make me sound like a #loser.

I went to grad school so paranoid that no employer would ever want me because my competition was so much smarter and so much more marketable than I was.

So….. I worked harder. I showed up early to career services and stayed late. I did extra mock interviews and got my presentation polished to perfection by working with several on-campus recruiters. I volunteered for consulting programs and I did additional research projects.

Related Content: How to Make sure Grad School is Worth your Time & Money

Looking back, I realize that everything I was able to accomplish was because of my weaknesses:

  1. As a young parent, my daughter helped keep me focused and grounded through school.

  2. Not understanding math (and being honest about it) helped me build connections with other people who had different strengths - and it helped me learn what my strengths were.

  3. The fact that I didn’t have a fancy job motivated me to work hard in grad school to ultimately land my dream job.

The things that I thought were my downfalls, were actually the things that lead me to success.

Every personal struggle that I had imagined would make me different in a negative way…..ended up doing the opposite.

My past made me a stronger advocate for myself, resilient in the face of tragedy, calm when everything came crashing down, and a very quick learner.

Without the struggles that I overcame, I would never have built the mental tools necessary to overcome extreme difficulty. I wouldn't be typing this from my desk at my dream company. I wouldn't have a message to share with the world. I wouldn’t have a road map to my personal success to inspire you. 

So, if you’re struggling today, or if you can remember a difficulty that you went through, take some time to appreciate that gift today.

Because the price that you paid to learn those lessons and build that resilience, will pay dividends for the rest of your life.


Ready To Accomplish Your Greatest Goals?

  1. Start planning out your largest goals with the FREE Goal Planning Worksheet.

  2. Take a FREE personal development class on CreativeLive.

  3. Do you struggle with finishing the goals you start? Get clarity on your goals and the strategies to reach them with the ebook Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams.


About Chantl

Chantl founded Thrive Lounge to give women the kick in the pants they need (lovingly, of course) to uncomplicate their goals, stop making excuses, get productive and start living the life they always wanted. Her book, Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams, gives women a step-by-step guide to create, plan and achieve their grandest goals.

5 Ways Ordinary People Can Start Achieving Extraordinary Results

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I’ve always had a problem with “SMART” goals. The concept just seemed too easy, too unfinished. Like… I set a goal, but what’s next? There are millions of people who set goals every year that do not finish them. I’m sure their goals are smart.

But why aren’t they finishing?

Goals are not really the end of the journey. They’re just the destination. Once you figure out your destination, you have to figure out:

  • What you budget is for the trip

  • When you’ll make time in your schedule to take this trip.

  • Whether you’re going to get there by bus, train or plane.

  • Who is going with you

  • How long it will take

  • And as you go, you’ll likely be checking your progress with Google Maps the entire trip (Am I right?)

To truly start accomplishing your goals, you must think about the end goal as a destination. And then begin the journey, step by step, to get from where you are now to where you want to be in your life.

My Destination

I started paying off my student loan debt three years ago. I had $42,000 of total debt from my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Finally, I got my first “real job” and couldn’t even enjoy my income because I felt crushed by my student loan debt.

Related Content: How to Guarantee Grad School is Worth your Time and Money

I felt #defeated, every time I made my minimum payment and it wasn’t even enough to cover the interest on my loan. (Facepalm).

That's when I decided that I had to start aggressively paying off my student loan debt. I set the SMART goal first, but then I also had to use every tool in the goal setting garage, not just toolbox, in order to make this big dream a #reality.

Here’s how you really build the habits to accomplish your largest goals:

Start with setting measurable goals.

This means setting your goal in way that you can measure whether or not you’ve achieved it. Make sure you have an exact number associated with your goal and a date you want to complete it by.

For example, here are two ways you can set a goal to tackle your debt:

Example #1: "I'll pay off $42K of student loan debt by December 31st of this year."

Example #2:  "Take control of my debt."

The first example outlines exactly how much you want to pay and when you want to complete it.

In the second example, you're setting a vague goal that's difficult to track. How do you know when you’ve taken control of your debt? Is it when you’ve started making the minimum payments? Is it when you’re doubling the minimum? Is it when you’ve deferred that payment again to tackle your other priorities?

If you haven’t set a CLEAR goal in the beginning, it’ll be impossible to measure your success.

Set Milestones for your goals.

Since I knew I wanted to pay off $37K in my first year, I set a monthly number that I would have to pay in order to reach that goal.

$37K/12 months = $3K per month

Once I knew how much I needed to reach my goal, it was really easy to look at my budget and plan how I could make it happen. Also, I could easily track whether I was on track to reach my goal on a monthly basis.

Use a goal tracker.

I am a VERY visual person so I like to see things on paper. When you're working towards a long term goal, (like paying off a ton of debt) it can get boring and you almost start to wonder if you're actually making any progress.

I created a chart where I could color in one square for every $1000 of debt I paid off. If you like to track electronically, there are lots of good apps where you can track your progress on your phone.

Slowly, but surely, I started to fill my chart with colorful boxes. I hung it on the wall so I could see how much progress I had made and how much I still had left.

Use an accountability partner.

I had a friend that I'd call monthly to make sure I was paying my debt off in a timely manner.

We'd have a 30 minute call once a month and talk about how much debt we'd paid off, how much we had left and what the next steps would be. This helped me build the habit and keep the habit of paying off my debt, right from the beginning.

A Note on Habits

All of these goal-crushing tools help you build the right habits so that you can take the right actions every day. Your goals are the result of taking the right actions over and over again until you reach your destination.

If you can master your habits, you can reach any goal you want.

It hasn't been a short journey, but I've made great progress toward this goal over the last two years. And by the end of this year, I’m proud to be able to say I’m student loan debt free!

What will your next SMART goal be?

Ready To Accomplish Your Greatest Goals? 

  1. Start planning out your largest goals with the FREE Goal Planning Worksheet.

  2. Take a FREE personal development class on CreativeLive

  3. Do you struggle with finishing the goals you start? Get clarity on your goals and the strategies to reach them with the ebook Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams.

Get Crystal Clear On Your Grandest Goals

Download the FREE Goal Setting Clarity checklist and set goals that will create MIRACULOUS change in your life.

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About Chantl

Chantl founded Thrive Lounge to give women the kick in the pants they need (lovingly, of course) to uncomplicate their goals, stop making excuses, get productive and start living the life they always wanted. Her book, Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams, gives women a step-by-step guide to create, plan and achieve their grandest goals.

The Simple Guide To Using Gratitude To Supercharge Your Goal Setting

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Did you know that gratitude and goal-setting go hand in hand?

Being appreciative of what you've accomplished helps give you the strength to push forward and continue to accomplish more. 

A few years ago, despite my obvious lack of funds and clear desire to be frugal AF, I decide it was about darn time I took a vacation. It'd been almost two years since I'd done anything other than struggle and wonder why I was still freaking struggling. (That was my vicious cycle. It looked something like this: struggle-pity-struggle-pity-struggle)

I planned to spend two days in Chicago (that was all I could afford). I had a deep dish pizza, tried my first chili dog, went on the beautiful architecture tour and meandered around the city. I spent the rest of the time in my room, enjoying silence with a bottle of wine, cheese and fruits I picked up from the grocery store. 

I was so relaxed, I missed my plane to go back home. 

Rather than feeling angry that I'd wasted the money I was fighting so hard to earn, I felt a calmness. I realized that, for the first time ever, I had enough money to buy another plane ticket. I would get to stay another day in this beautiful city.

That feeling was gratitude. 


What is gratitude? 

Gratitude is the conscious decision to appreciate someone (or something) in your life simply because it exists. Many people show gratitude for a person when they receive a gift, mentorship or support. It's also common to express gratitude for a course or program that made a significant life difference for you. 

If we take this idea of having gratitude and apply it to progress towards your goals, you'll see that we become more exited about the difficult journey. 


How Can You Use It For Your Goals?

Accomplishing large goals can honestly feel like a pain in the butt. They drag on forever, one tiny shift at a time and usually we'll make progress without even noticing it because the larger goal is still staring us in the face, mocking us with with it's incompleteness. 

If you're working on a long term goal like losing a significant amount of weight, writing your first book, getting out of debt, or finally socking some money away in your savings account, it can feel like FOREVER before you start to see progress. 

Spending a small amount of your day, even 5 minutes, having gratitude for your ability to inch towards your goal, will change your perspective, increase your happiness and supercharge your ability to crush your goals.


How Do I Get Started? 

Start with noticing that you're making progress. It happens very slowly so it's easy to overlook. To be grateful for your progress, don't overlook the small things. 

Imagine that you have a goal of saving $1000 in your emergency savings account. The first thing you probably did was decide that you were going to do this because you want more security in your life. Maybe you made a budget to start saving a bit of money. Maybe you cut back your expenses to be able to make this goal a reality. 

These small, intangible (damn near invisible) goals might not have made a difference in your bank account (just yet) but they are the stepping stones you'll need to sock away some serious cash.  You can be grateful for them by noticing how much money you'll now have available each month because you were courageous enough to set an important goal for stability, savvy enough to create a budget and strong enough to make sacrifices that would serve your goal. 


Create A Daily Gratitude Habit

The only thing you really need to start incorporating this into your life is a pen, paper and a willingness to give it a try. Start today by simply writing down the answers to any of these four questions on a daily basis to create a gratitude habit:


What are you grateful for today? 

You always have something to be grateful for while pursuing a goal. Maybe you can finally fit into that little black dress because you've been eating healthy regularly. You might have the first chapter of your epic novel finally complete - you can be grateful that you only have 36 chapters to go. 

In my story, I was grateful that I was able to pay for another plane ticket. After years of struggling and watching my bank account go negative several times, I started to see myself as a poor person. I started to believe that at my core, I was a person who would struggle to succeed. Being able to afford my plane ticket was a moment of gratitude because I realized in that moment that I was making progress. 


What did you learn today? 

Big goals have a way of teaching us some serious lessons. Sometimes we learn new skills (like that one time when I started paying my student loan debt I learned more than I ever wanted to know about interest rates). Other times we learn new things about ourselves (like how courageous, scrappy and unstoppable you totally are under pressure). 

Whipping out my credit card and dropping and unnecessary $200 on another plane ticket wasn't the greatest feeling in the world, but I did learn that I was on the right path. If I continued to sock away money,  it would add up. It would protect me in difficult times. I would be there when I needed it. 


What did you accomplish today? 

The big win (your end goal) is not the only accomplishment. Each day you take action toward your goal will bring you a new success. If you're trying to lose weight, every time you eat a healthy meal is a win (especially since buffalo chicken wings are so darn tasty). Every time you put on your running shoes and hit the gym is a win. It's your job to recognize it. 

To be perfectly honest, I hadn't even realized that I was accomplishing anything. $5 saved here and $10 saved there felt like a massive failure to the 3-months of living expenses I was striving to save. I didn't even realize that the ability to cover my ass is an accomplishment - and that I'd earned that. 


What brought you happiness today? 

There is at least one reason to be happy in every day and it may have absolutely nothing to do with your goals. You can be happy that you've spent time with family or that you took a peaceful walk around the block. Happiness is everywhere around you, take time to appreciate the little things and you'll find more energy to tackle the big things as they come. 


What Tools Can I Use?


Start a gratitude journal

You can use any blank journal to write down the answers to any one of the questions above on a daily basis. Your entry should describe what you're grateful for each day. Here's an example: 

Today I am grateful for waking up this morning energized to go to the gym. I remembered to put my shoes right next to the bed last night so I didn't feel the urge to lay back down. 

It can be as long or short as you like. Over time as you continue to write about your success, you'll notice it comes easier to you and you start to feel gratitude even when you're not writing it down.

Recommended: The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day, is a proven system based on psychology research to improve happiness by establishing a gratitude habit  just 5 minutes every day.


Create a gratitude log

A gratitude log is a simple list of the things you're grateful for and looks something like this: 

I Am Grateful For: 

  1. Completing the outline for my first book.
  2. Waking up this morning energized to write.
  3. Finding a great podcast on writing and publishing a book. 

You can continue the list for as long as you like. The benefit of this is it's easier to start because you only have to write a few words.


Being grateful places you in a position to enjoy your journey on the way to accomplishing your goals. With this very simple habit, you'll acknowledge the improvements you're making in your life on a daily basis and you'll feel happier and more excited to keep pursuing your goals. 

What are you doing to have gratitude for your journey? 

Get Crystal Clear On Your Grandest Goals

Download the FREE Goal Setting Clarity checklist and set goals that will create MIRACULOUS change in your life.

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