This excellent list from Veronica Dearly is full of words of wisdom about how we really can all do hard things, whether they’re big or small. Life is full of ups and downs, highs and lows, and if we’re honest, there will always be hard things we come up against. But here, Veronica gives us some helpful advice, even when life’s problems seem insurmountable.


  • I don’t know when the penny dropped, but at some point I’ve come to realise that you never really reach a point where all your problems are solved. Or if you do, you find problems where there weren’t any before. I guess that’s just part of the human condition.

  • It’s tiring, but I haven’t yet found an alternative to being a human.

  • To start with, I always feel like I can’t do anything. There’s always that moment of paralysis. Whether it’s because it’s a big problem I have no idea how to solve, or just because I’m too bloody lazy. That’s not always the hardest part but it always happens, and it’s quite helpful to notice that.

  • Whatever hard thing I’m facing, I follow pretty much that same rough process.

  • First, I bury my head in the sand. I can’t deal with this, it’s absolutely too much.

  • Sometimes things just are too much, and that doesn’t mean that you are not enough.

  • Most of the time though, you just need time to feel that feeling.

  • Maybe that feeling passes quite quickly or maybe it doesn’t. Sometimes, I can use pure willpower to pull myself together, and other times I just have to wait until something in my brain, or the wider world, falls into place.

  • Willpower is a funny thing. I have a lot, or I have none. I have yet to find any happy medium there.

  • The only thing I’ve found that really helps me, when a problem feels completely insurmountable, is looking back on evidence that I can actually do hard things.

  • It’s never really the same ‘hard thing’ that you’re looking back on, because once you’ve tackled a hard thing, it usually just becomes a ‘thing’ the next time you do it. There is a limit to how many regular things I can do in a day, but I don’t really have to think twice about them.

  • But nonetheless, I remember a time I’ve faced a challenge that I never in a million years imagined I’d be able to overcome. Getting my first job. Standing up in front of a room full of people and delivering a talk. Standing up to my Mum. That sort of thing.

  • I remember I’m capable of moving past these things even when it doesn’t feel possible.

  • There’s probably something you’ve overcome that you never really believed you would, something you’ve gone after without any hope of real success. Keep that in mind. Congratulate yourself as often as you need to.

  • Celebrate the tiny and seemingly insignificant positives. Even feeling ready to face up to something, without taking any action whatsoever, is an achievement in itself.

  • When I’m ready, I take the next step in my process.

  • Feeling ready doesn’t always come. Some of the most important things I’ve overcome came out of necessity rather than readiness. The idea that I might never have done them if I needed to be ready is jarring. Only you know when it’s time.

  • Sometimes it’s like ripping a plaster off – intuitive, and quickly over, but not easy. Some days, the hard thing I need to do is just getting out of bed, battling the urge to give up on everything and turn over.

  • Other times I’m still right at the beginning and need to learn an entire new set of skills to tackle the issue at hand. If I were to do a pHd for example, that would require a lot more steps than getting out of bed on a low day. Least of all because I don’t even have a regular degree.

  • When it’s a really hard thing, every single step on that journey might involve its own little process.

  • Put it off.

  • Realise I have to do it.

  • Freak out.

  • Work out how to actually do it.

  • And then eventually do it.

  • Enough small steps can take you anywhere, even if you do drag them out and make a big fuss sometimes.

  • I’m not averse to a tantrum. They’re not quite the same as the toddler tantrums I struggled to tolerate, they’re a lot more private and the only person this type of tantrum reaches is me, and occasionally my husband.

  • I can feel everything building up inside me and the resentment that I’m faced with whatever I’m faced with.

  • I can also watch it happening from my rational perspective, but sometimes being rational doesn’t come easily.

  • They aren’t cathartic in the way I imagine toddler tantrums to be, but they come up sometimes. Staying calm helps but they bubble away in the background until the emotions have passed and I feel a bit more capable of being calm and practical.

  • The wider world is full of desperate situations, and we’ve never been more in touch with them than we are now. It can make you feel stupid or ungrateful for struggling with your own problems. That’s not helpful. It’s not a competition.

  • Comparison is fine for car insurance, or – if you really insist on making yourself miserable or risking karmic retribution for being a bit of a shit, the people you went to college with and their subsequent careers – but it is not for problems.

  • Everyone has problems after all. I grew up listening to ‘Lucky’ by Britney Spears and thinking that if even Britney Spears was singing about the misery of stardom then life might not be such a picnic. Turns out she had good reason for that, even if it what was really happening seemed unimaginable at the time.

  • We’ve all got a little bit of drama behind the scenes, sapping away our energy. Hopefully not as sinister as Britney’s, but it’s worth remembering.

  • Remember it from the perspective that you can live your dream life and still find it difficult or even unbearable sometimes.

  • Also, give everyone else that same benefit. So they’ve got the air fryer you always wanted or the house in the nice bit of town – they’ve got something below the surface you probably can’t imagine.

  • Hard things come in all sizes. Some are big, some are small. Some bits you will find easy in the end, and other bits you will studiously ignore and pretend they don’t even exist because you just can’t face up to dealing with them yet.

  • You might find it really hard to do something that you see other people do effortlessly every day, but you know what, someone else is probably looking at you and feels exactly the same.

  • You can have almost all your shit together, but if there are one or two areas of your life that you can’t quite get the hang of, it can easily feel like absolutely nothing is working.

  • Unfortunately, learning to say “Excuse me, I’m finding this really hard,” can be unfathomably difficult.

  • Life hasn’t been objectively hard up until this point. I have learnt how to feel extremely grateful for my life whilst struggling with the finer details of it.

  • It’s a balancing act. You won’t always reach the middle ground. That’s fine.

  • Actually, maybe it’s more of a rollercoaster. Life has ups, downs, and absolutely wtfs. Learning to enjoy the ride despite it’s many scary bits is often the hardest thing of all.

  • And so, I would like to politely, but firmly remind you, that you can do hard things.

** Veronica’s book How to Do Hard Things is available now in all good bookshops and online at



–  READ How I Finally Learned To Be Kind To Myself by Zoe Blaskey, which highlights how we can never really know the internal battles other people are facing, and how they journey through them.

–  READ Alexandra Rickerby’s list I Quit My Job At Google and her transition from juggling a career to deciding to be with her son full-time.

–  READ Jodi Garrod’s list Self-Compassion, Anyone? who explores what it was like to have a strong inner critic before letting up a bit and learning not being so hard on herself.

–  LISTEN to professional explorer Belinda Kirk on But Why? podcast as she talks all things adventure, including why it’s essential for our wellbeing, the joy it brings and the long term impact of ‘choosing challenge’.

–  LISTEN to Camilla Thurlow discuss the topic of courage on Honestly podcast, and how her experience of it took her to places way out of her comfort zone.

–  LISTEN to Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill on But Why? podcast as she discusses balancing a demanding career, personal ambition and motherhood




Find submission guidelines here. All writers and topics are welcome.



** ‘But why don’t I feel happy all the time?’ ‘But why do people die and are they just sleeping?’ and “But why do adults drink beer and what does it do?’ are some of the tricky questions I tackle in my debut book BUT WHY? which is available to order now and also on audiobook.**

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