The Day Arrives When the Going Gets Tough

When the going gets tough, usual advice may not work.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Whichever decision, goal, purpose, promise, plan you set in your life, the day will come when the going gets tough.

When I was young, a song from Billy Ocean was popular.

“When the going gets tough / The tough get going”

“I’m gonna put this dream in motion / Never let anything stand in my way”

The song is about love, but we can hear the life coach in our head hammering those words about anything we want, but that’s beginning to be a mountain.

Those words may motivate you for the next hour (thirty seconds, in my case) but won’t be of great help when you start suffering, and feeling lost, and overwhelmed, and weak, and impotent, and desperate.

The moment the real struggle begins, those words don’t help.

You need more. Someone can help, but it’s on your shoulders. No way around.

The practical you

The two most useful pieces of advice you’ll get first to stay on track are to go small and to put habits in place.

Break your goal in parts. See the core goal and the core parts. Stay minimal. One step at a time. Plan long-range, but take care of the next step. Smaller challenges, concrete efforts, less emotional overload, real progression.

Then set a routine, for what is possible. Remove the need of deciding too much. Box your effort. Let yourself improve your skills in daily challenges.

And that works. That is a fundamental part of the recipe.

They told me so.

But you need more.

Anywhere, anytime, you have to remember three simple things. Not just daily, but in every single moment you feel the resistance curbing you.

The why

The first one is the most difficult. Why did you start that?

That day, you decided that you needed to start your challenge. Why did you decide that?

Be honest. There’s nobody in your head. You can tell the truth to yourself.

If your why is no more valid or hurts people, go back to it. Go deep. Hit hard. Don’t protect yourself. But don’t accept your suffering or your struggle or your fear as an excuse to withdraw, nor to change.

But if your why is still valid, you have to embed it in your brain. That why is your engine.

Don’t consider just the reasons. Leave those for a weekly/monthly/whenever review. Consider your emotions, your deepest feelings, your intuition. Your place was not your place. You wanted a different you, a different work, a different life, a different something. You didn’t want to go on like before. You decided to take a different road.

Now you’re on that road. It’s damn hard, but better here than in the wrong road.

What meaning has this challenge in your life? If it’s worth something, you have to fight.

Like Jane Fonda said, no pain no gain. But I’m sure others said that.

Be honest with your why. Then stuck it in your mind.

The limited time

You won’t have unlimited time. This same day will be gone by 12pm. It will never come back.

You have two options. To stay or to go on.

Stay, and nothing will change. Or worse. You will lose something every day.

Going on, doing something, is the only option.

And you have only a limited number of slots, in your life, to make steps in your direction. To live the life you wanted to live. Or at least to try to live the life is worth living for you.

Your route will cost a life. It may not be worth your life, but you’ll pay your life in any case. Differently said, you will be dead anyway.

So, the second thing you’ll have to stuck in your mind is that you have limited time. Very limited. Unpredictably limited.

Use it, or waste it.

The music

“When the going gets tough / The tough get ready”

The song contains those words too. Key words.

You have to put yourself in the right attitude.

The right attitude doesn’t mean that you need to be strong, or stubborn, or energetic, or else.

You have to know your why, deeply, and to consider that your time is flowing (fast).

Then, energy and courage will magically accompany your effort. Not soon and not easy, but they will.


Also, an asshole can magically appear in you.

Being a war machine won’t make you a better human. Nor almighty. Nor immortal. Nor loved.

Things change. Things happen that are bigger than you. You have to adapt. To change. To dance with change. To be human.

If you are too attached to your things, your labels, your identities, reality will just break you. Having values or principles doesn’t mean that you cannot adapt and go through a change in sight of better conditions or because of other values and principles. Maybe because someone needs you.

Also, your ability to pass through walls makes sense if you have a life. If you forget to live, if you forget those around you, your fight may just resolve in losing your life and all of your dears.

One day you may realize that your big goals were hot air. Yes, it may happen, because you’re a very little being, ignorant and fragile.

Being here, and not just in your struggle, may cost little, and give you a life.

Enjoy the process, they say. While struggling, remember to breathe, to look around, maybe to smile.

This day will go anyway. You’ll get what you want, or not. But time passes. If you were not here, you’ll regret it. One day you’ll look back. You’ll be proud or regretful.

Seeing the magic of being here, being grateful for this unique opportunity, letting music accompany your trip, seeing the poetry around, loving, will let you be hard and light, at the same time. Hard because you know where you’re going and that you need to go there. Light because you’re living your life anyway and you’re able to put things in perspective.

If your going gets tough, remembering that you are alive — aware of the opportunity — , may even let you think that hard is less hard, that life still has tiny bits of light to offer, and that often hard is the only dress that opportunities, improvement, and even survival can have.


If your path means something to you, no trick will reduce the height of your mountain and the sweat and pain to ascend.

At your core, you have to know your why, be aware that tomorrow could mean never, and that the path is your life.

Watching life pass — or withdraw prematurely — is a huge wasted opportunity.

While we swim in a sea of wasted opportunities, keeping the route we can still make something happen.