We learn a lot about ourselves in the midst of difficulty. Obstacles present themselves every single day – sometimes we’re ready for them, we can see them coming, we meet them head on. These kinds of experiences are great for our self-confidence, for that internal assurance that we can face what life brings our way.
But sometimes, our journey presents us with the unexpected – those trials of patience and endurance that come with no warning, precipitate hurdles that test our nerve, our flexibility, and our mental stamina. These difficulties offer us the greatest opportunity to learn more about ourselves and to grow from the experience.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
I have a manager who tells me this all the time. One of the greatest opportunities to be found within the unexpected trials of life is the chance to discover new areas of knowledge that were hidden in prior experience.
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These difficulties present us with a problem, or several of them, to which we have no answer. But the deeper truth is that we learn about a problem we didn’t know we needed to solve in the past. Usually, the reason we are intellectually unprepared for these new challenges is because we didn’t know we would need to face them. As we go through the process of learning how to solve this new and foreign problem, we learn how the problem fits into our sphere of influence and authority, and we expand our ability to affect change around us in the future.
Buy a bigger toolbox.
New problems often require new solutions. If we face fresh challenges with a desire to learn and grow, and don’t cower from the opportunity to utilize new methods of influence, we expand our intellectual arsenal and allow ourselves to be diverse in our overall utility. It’s a common mistake to pigeon-hole ourselves – we find something we’re good at, and we stick to it. The benefit of this perspective is often excellence. Narrow focus on a given field provides a keen understanding of everything within our scope. Unfortunately, this is very limiting, especially for the person who desires to grow and expand, not only as an individual, but as an integral part of the bigger picture.
Open your mind.
New obstacles need new perspectives. Rose colored glasses are lovely until you need to look at a blue picture. Those who are able to adjust their focus, change their perspective, and be flexible on their opinions are often those best suited to the unexpected challenges of life. The greater benefit is that in adding another facet to your paradigm, you situate yourself to be better prepared for a given difficulty in the future.
Getting surprised by a challenge once is human. It happens to the best of us. But leadership demonstrates itself in the ability to learn from difficulty, and prevent not only the individual, but the team as a whole, from being caught unawares in the future.
What are your challenges today? Were you expecting them? How are you going to be better prepared for them in the future?