Easy Doesn’t Make You Grow!

Date: April 24, 2014 » posted by Jodi » Comments: No Comments Tags: , , , , ,

I often think of a discussion I had with a participant in one of my first workshops. We were in the middle of an exercise in which people were trying to identify the benefits of something that was currently challenging them in their lives. This particular individual was lamenting the fact that her eldest child was, in her words, “a drama queen”, deliberately contrary, and defiant. In contrast, her other children were compliant, sweet, and “easy”. She was a bit taken aback when, instead of responding with sympathy, I immediately and rather forcefully replied “Easy doesn’t make you grow!”

I pointed out that she had just talked about how, in response to this eldest child’s behaviour, she had read countless parenting books, taken parenting classes, consulted with parenting professionals. She had, in fact, become something of a parenting expert – a skill that was extremely important to her and which she was grateful to be able to apply to all her children. She acknowledged that if she hadn’t had a challenging first child, she never would have made such an effort to improve her parenting skills.

Prior to understanding how her challenging child had actually been an invaluable gift, this parent spent a lot of time being frustrated by her eldest child’s behaviour and often, being somewhat resentful of this child’s unique personality. – an attitude that made both of them unhappy. After this parent realized all the benefits that her challenging child had brought her, her view of her child, and more importantly, of challenge, completely changed. She was grateful for the experience and was more receptive to re-examining and embracing other challenges in life.

I’ve had variations of this conversation over the years, and expect that I will continue to have more such conversations. It’s one of my favourite themes and, I’ve noticed, often has some of the most transformative effects. I love to shift people’s perceptions of challenge.

Think of a past challenge that you had in any area of life – at work, in a relationship, with money. Now think of all the lessons you learned from those challenges, the personal development you achieved, the strength you gained. Chances are that your greatest childhood challenges have led to your most inspiring pursuits.

Think of a current challenge. If you take the time to reflect, you’ll realize that you’re learning lessons, personally developing, and gaining strength now too. Most people, however, spend their time and effort feeling resentful and resistant to challenge rather than spending that same time and effort to appreciate the benefits. How much more powerful could your life be if you did the latter?

Easy doesn’t make you grow…imagine what would have happened if you had never been challenged. The challenge of falling down is a necessary step in learning to walk. The challenge of burnt or over-salted food is a necessary step in learning to cook. Did you learn to read without challenge? Talk? Play sports? Save money? Make new friends? Challenge surrounds you and if you look honestly at your life, you’ll see that you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Human beings crave challenge. While most people are aware that they tend to walk (or likely run) away from situations that they perceive are too challenging, have you ever noticed that too little challenge creates the same response? Striking the right balance of challenge and support creates fulfilling relationships. A key factor in employee retention is whether people are feeling the right level of challenge in their position. Are they learning enough, leading enough, accountable for enough? Or are they feeling overwhelmed by too much of those things?

Want a break and have decided you’ll forego growth for a while if it means you can avoid challenge? Sorry, that’s now how it works. The universe is designed to make you grow. There’s no evidence of any person, organization, or society, at any time, existing without challenge. Although you can’t escape challenge, you can, to a certain extent, take control of your challenges. Deliberately take on more challenge in one area of life – say, at work – and you’re less likely to experience it in another area – possibly at home. Go one step further and choose specifically to volunteer to manage that new project that actually interests you, and you’re less likely to be given the task of writing the monthly report that bores you.

What challenge in your life could you view differently? Like the parent I first talked about above, what relationship could you transform if you just took the time to appreciate its challenges? I invite you to observe your reaction to perceived challenges over the next few days or weeks. If you find yourself getting frustrated by something you consider challenging, confront your initial response and ask yourself whether it’s really a problem or just an opportunity for growth and learning? Explicitly identify the benefits you’re receiving from the situation. If you find yourself backing away from an uncomfortable situation, stay with it a little longer. Embrace challenge instead of resisting it and see what happens. A little growth is good for all of us.


About the Author

Jodi Marshall is the founder and president of Blazing Mountain Consulting Inc. She is a consultant, coach, educator, human behaviour specialist and speaker who promotes personal and professional achievement by empowering people in all areas of life.