"Now, easier than ever before!"
How many times have you heard that phrase? What about, "Come on, it's easy," or "There's never been anything easier!"
And it's true, in today's society many things are easier than ever before. People are continually inventing new products and technologies to make our lives "easier," nifty inventions like pre-shredded cheese, retractable Sharpie markers, smart boards and the express lane on the freeway.
My parents had to check out books in the library to write research papers. I flip on the computer and plug in a search word. My parents had the agony of walking home if their car died. I get rescued after a quick text to mom.
And in some ways, things are easier because less is expected of us. Standards are lowered for us, instead of us raising ourselves to meet high expectations. I've heard that we are the first generation that will receive less higher education than our parents did.
Sometimes I feel a bit spoiled by the easiness of it all. Not that doing things the easy way is bad. I absolutely love it when my mother buys pre-shredded cheese; I'm very grateful for a dishwasher and a computer to write this article on. But there are certain benefits that come from doing something hard.
Why do people run marathons? Is it because of the novelty? The challenge? Do they want to prove to others that they can do it, or maybe just prove it to themselves? Do they crave the satisfaction they get at the end?
It could be the novelty. My little brother once got in an old truck and was amazed that you could turn a crank to roll the window down. To him, cranking the window was much cooler than pushing any old button!
Or is it the challenge, the desire to prove to others or self that we can do it? I had a friend who decided to take seven AP tests last year. When I asked him why he replied simply, "I wanted to see if I could do it."
Abraham Maslow came up with a psychological theory in 1943 to explain levels of motivation that's known as "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs," and it has sprouted many modern versions and interpretations of why people are motivated to do what they do.
The basic Hierarchy of Needs features five basic levels, stacked together in a pyramid. At the bottom are our "psychological needs," or basic needs for survival, such as food, water and shelter. Next up is "safety," which includes our needs for security in body, family, employment, etc. Safety is followed by our need for love and belonging, then our need for self-esteem, and finally, at the top, is the level labeled "self-actualization."
According to Maslow, it is when you reach "self-actualization" that you begin to understand your full potential and begin to desire to accomplish things greater than yourself.
But all along the way, there is a need to do hard things.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Everyone must do at least one thing they think they cannot do."
When we do something difficult, we gain more than just that accomplishment. We gain character: patience, determination, self-discipline. We gain a certain satisfaction that can only come from achieving something hard. That satisfaction of proving that we could do it, either to ourselves or to others.
I met a serious runner once who told me, "Don't you just love the pain? Don't you just love the satisfaction of pushing through it and knowing that your mind is stronger than your body? That you did it?"
I thought, "Um, no. I don't love the pain."
But maybe that's the key to doing hard things -- loving the pain. Loving it not because it hurts, but because we know it will make us stronger.
Because the hard thing about doing hard things is this: It's hard.
Alexandra Burton is a senior at Ogden High School. You will find her running, reading, writing or playing the violin. E-mail her at email@example.com.