How hard does work need to be?

Have you ever made something harder for yourself than it needed to be?

I caught myself doing it recently.

Last week, I set an explicit goal to arrange six separate conversations with people on a particular topic, and within an hour of doing that, an opportunity for the first of those conversations practically fell into my lap.

"What luck!" I might have said. "I'm off to a great start already, and I hardly had to do a thing!"

That would have been a great happiness-inducing response.

But instead, I found myself automatically thinking, "That didn't count."

It wasn't fair! It was too easy! Shouldn't I have to muster up courage and overcome obstacles to reach my goals? Shouldn't I have to work hard, and experience struggle and sacrifice?

It made me wonder what I was actually committed to. Was I just committed to achieving my goal, or was I also committed to doing it in a particular way (namely, the hard way)?

Apparently, I was committed to both. I did end up reaching my goal, but the process didn't feel good. All week, I was anxious about it, wondering what "counted" and what didn't, whether I was working hard enough. I created extra work and struggle for myself, despite the grace that was there right from the beginning.

The more I reflect on it, the more sad and ridiculous that mindset seems. Why would I want to make things harder than they need to be? How does that serve anyone? It just means spending more time stuck in my head, and less time out actually connecting to and caring for other people.

What if, instead, I were simply grateful for those things that come easily? Not only would I be happier, but I think I'd get a lot more meaningful and useful work done, too.

I wonder, of course: Can you relate to any of this in your own life? Do you ever feel guilty for receiving things that feel unearned? How do you respond to life's unfairness in general? How do your thoughts about all of this affect your happiness?