You Can Do Hard Things: When the Global Pandemic Challenges Us


I am a huge Peloton fan. Instructors often say, “you can do hard things.” This mantra is commonly shared by instructors before leading the group up a steep hill on the bike or as an encouragement to lift a heavier weight or to hold a plank for 30 more seconds. I have always found this statement to be motivating. However, since mid-March 2020, “you can do hard things” has become my mantra—outside of the sweaty workout.

It’s not getting easier.

Life right now seems to revolve around doing hard things. Maybe the most challenging aspect of all is that the hard things keep changing. When everything first shut down I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly homeschool my kids for even two weeks. I could not begin to believe that two weeks would turn into three months. Then, before I knew it, school was over. Homeschooling no longer was the hardest thing. I became a whiz at logging my kids into their complicated zoom systems and we had a pretty good schedule for the day.

In fact, homeschooling now seems like a mild challenge compared to what came next: an entire summer with my kids at home. No camp, no pool, unreliable childcare. That seemed like the hardest thing. But here we are just about through the summer, and while maybe not ideal, we figured out a good schedule that works for everyone. We were very lucky to find reliable childcare, go to the pool (with lots of safety restrictions), and find safe activities that allow my children to still enjoy their summer vacation.

Now, the hard thing for me is making decisions. There are just so many decisions to make and risks to consider. As things open up more and more, I can’t figure out what the right choices are in terms of what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. Where is it safe to go and who should we be around—if anyone?

The hard things are going to keep coming. We can do them. We can do hard things. The question is how do we remind ourselves of that as we start to get overwhelmed. In some cases, the anxiety of knowing we have to do something difficult is worse than actually getting through it.

Facing new challenges builds strength and confidence.

It is helpful to imagine these hard things in bite-sized chunks. We talk about living in the moment when it comes to good things, but it can also be important when things are not so good. What is the decision we actually have to make now? What is the hard thing we have to do today or this week? If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that planning is useless. Our calendars are filled with canceled plans. Therefore, there is no reason to stress about a decision we have to make or something we have to do down the line. The likelihood is low that we know now exactly what decisions we will have to make or that we understand what a few months from now will look like.

It may also be encouraging to think about how many hard things we have done so far. Sometimes I like to think about a date pre-pandemic and remind myself that if you had asked me if I could homeschool while working while wiping down all of my groceries during a constant search for toilet paper and Lysol wipes, my answer would have been a hard “no.” But I did. I did all of those hard things and more.

We are living during scary times when more is being asked of us than ever before. And, we can do this. Recently, my Peloton instructor said that the hard things don’t get easier, we just get more confident. Life is not easier than it was in mid-March. Homeschooling did not actually get easier. The difference is that now we know we can do this. We will put on our masks and we will get through it. We can do hard things.