Are you stuck or struck in the challenges of life?

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at

Struck or stuck? They are similar sounding words that come from different drummers. One is up beat and stimulates to action; the other does little more than sound the death knell of opportunity.

Happiness lies in the difference between being struck by the challenge or being stuck in the challenge.

Some people are struck by the challenge in their work. It shows on their faces. Ask them a question about what they do, and they are off and running. Excitement explodes in them, and their passion for their profession is revealed.

They almost have a motto that says, “Thank God it’s Monday and time to go to work again.” They are struck by the challenge in their work. Happiness and fulfillment are all around and inside of them.

But other people are stuck in the challenge of their work. Like the old cowboy who disliked poking cows, they look only for salt pork and sundown (food and quitting time.)

Our family knows well one man’s story in the 1940’s at a North Carolina lumber mill. Those workdays started and ended with a whistle. Many of the men working there lived only for the quitting whistle.

One afternoon a worker had a piece of lumber in his hand ready to put it on the truck. The whistle blew. He dropped the wood immediately and headed for the door. Soon he was no longer working at the mill. His breed never seems to get it. They are stuck in the challenge, limited by thought and deed to a fixed attitude of discontent.

Yet, many people are struck by the challenge of their work and constantly search for new ways to do old things. Ever thinking, they creatively find special meaning in common tasks.

They may become weary in well-doing but never weary of well-doing. Negative thinking is not part of their nature. Constantly seeking better ways of doing something, their outlook remains positive. They are the plus-people, the kind you like to be around.

Happiness in marriage and family is determined precisely at the point of being struck by the challenge or stuck in the challenge. If the challenge of being married to your mate moves you to higher levels of relationship, then you are struck by the challenge and, in this pursuit of knowing your mate, happiness becomes the by-product.

That’s true for our children as well. How easy it is to become stuck in the challenge of parenting! We often parent children unlike ourselves, in times certainly different from our childhoods. We can become stuck in the “what’s wrong with today’s kids and society” mentality or struck by the challenge to create a loving environment where our family can grow. Instead of being overwhelmed and immobilized, we can be stimulated by our children’s differences and motivated by their potential. We can creatively engage them in today’s opportunities.

The choice is ours—to be stuck or struck by our challenges. The difference may determine our happiness.