Practice of the Month


Don’t Steal the Struggle

I recently had the opportunity to spend a week at Pawley’s Island, one of my favorite beaches, with some very good friends. It was restorative in so many ways, watching the sun rise with my morning coffee, long walks on the beach and a wonderful Low Country Boil with freshly caught blue shelled crabs!

One of the highlights of this trip happened unexpectedly while sipping my coffee on the dock, I noticed a group of people huddled together on the beach near the dunes. It looked like a class of some sort and as I watched, I realized that the group were actually part of the volunteers who carefully guard the sea turtle nests and their migration to the ocean. They were watching a nest of sea turtles hatch and emerge from deep in the sand to begin their trek to the ocean! This usually happens only at night!!

I quickly joined the group as these tiny creatures pulled themselves out of the deep sand and started the long hike to the ocean. The tide was low and the ocean a very long way from the dunes, especially for these little guys. I latched on a few of them and accompanied them on their journey. As I watched them, I found myself feeling anxious as they encountered one hurtle after another on their way.  There were footprints from morning walkers filled with water that one of the turtles fell in and flipped over desperately flailing his legs to recover and crawl out of the hole. Another little guy fell into a crab hole and disappeared for a few minutes. When he began to surface it seemed like a never-ending task to get out and resume the journey. He even started walking the wrong way!!

Each time I watched the turtles face these obstacles, my anxiety increased and I felt the urge to intervene and help them on their way! I mean couldn’t I just pick them up and take them to the ocean and set them on their way? Then as they finally reached the ocean, the waves kept batting them around - out under and back to the beach, flipping them over and over again several time before they finally disappeared into the ocean.

I turned to one of the volunteers and said – “Whew life starts out so hard!” I asked her if they ever helped these turtles during this first part of their life.  She look at me and said “oh no. This part of the journey seems hard but is necessary as they face the bigger challenges ahead.”

Oh – so very true. As I reflected, I was reminded of one of the Resilient Leadership principles: the importance or developing our internal muscle – the one that allows us to be able to stand with people as they face life’s struggles and not rob them of the opportunity to learn and grow through tough circumstances. I thought of the many times that my anxiety got in the way as I watched a person struggle in life. I was also reminded that it has been during my most painful struggles that I learned  and grew the most.

Let’s us remember - as a very wise colleague of mine said – “Don’t steal the struggle” of others due to our own anxiety.
Tip: When presented with a situation where a person is struggling with a personal or professional situation:
Hit the pause button – Take a breath, step back/get on the balcony and get curious.

  • What is really going on here?
  • What is my part in this situation?
  • What is the right thing to do at this moment?

A calm thoughtful mind will allow you to know what the situation calls for.

Resilient Leadership Trainer, Marjorie Shonnard, contributed to this article.
Marge Shonnard

For 25 years, Marge has served several organizations in a variety of executive leadership roles. Her work experience, combines her background in teaching, coaching and training to offer leaders at all levels of the organization the opportunity to deepen their understanding of themselves by discovering their strengths and experiential wisdom, and thus to bring their “best self” to every situation.

Contact Marge at:

Learn more about how to See, Think, and Lead, especially in anxious times: