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Challenges in Life: How to Recognise The Ones You Can Learn From

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We will face many challenges in life and they’ll come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. They’ll greet us in countless situations and present us with plenty of opportunities to learn, grow and develop. If we're vigilant, reflective and prepared, we can uncover things about ourselves that we didn’t know existed. But how do we know which challenges hold the ticket to personal and professional growth?

Well, there are four types of challenges that we’re likely to face in life. We can:

  • Invite or be invited into a contest
  • Pose or face difficulties during that contest
  • Dispute or be disputed
  • Endure a demanding situation

Only one of these types of challenges holds the real key to unlock our potential and spur personal development. Which is it? Let’s run through the list and take a deeper look to find out:

To invite someone into a contest…

Here, we're confident that we'll come out on top. A boxer doesn't offer another boxer out unless he believes he can win.

The challenge isn't the fight, it's the proposal itself. And if we challenge someone or something with the self belief and knowledge that we can come out on top, then we already have enough within us to succeed. Here, there’s little room to grow, so we can't really learn much from this challenge on its own.

To face difficulties during that contest...

This would be to get knocked down in the first round. Yes, it's a set back and something we need to work on to overcome, but it’s only a minor setback that requires us to up our game in order to pull through.

We can learn short term skills and techniques and gain insights that'll help us overcome this type of challenge, like 'watch out for his left jab', but we’re not developing anything new here and we still have the self-belief required to succeed. We can learn about our strengths and weaknesses and we can produce our best, but we can't grow and develop long term.

To dispute…

If we dispute something, like if we lost the fight on points and disputed or appealed the judges decisions, then we're confident in this situation and have an unrestricted willingness to see it through.

The challenge again is in the nature of the dispute itself. We can't learn much from this either, other than how to construct and articulate an argument.

To endure a demanding situation...

This is a longer, more drawn out kind of challenge, like the boxer that's lost his last twelve fights and is on the verge of losing his boxing licence, but still needs to make enough money to pay the bills and feed his family.

We're now in a situation where there's doubt. You don't know for sure that you can win your next fight. In fact, you think you probably can't. You don't know where your next pay cheque's coming from. You don't know whether boxing is for you. You're not sure about your future or your ability and you're starting to question things.

Doubt creates the challenges in life that we really learn from

When we go into something; a project, a new job, an unfamiliar scenario, not knowing for sure whether we can actually pull it off; when there's even a little bit of doubt, we need to dig deep. That uncertainty is what makes it a challenge. And by coming out the other end, regardless of the outcome, we grow stronger.

When we face our fears, push through our doubts and crack on regardless, when we roll with the punches and stick it out, we develop long term skills such as determination, resilience, agility and gain confidence, as well as rack-up major life experience that’ll equip us uniquely for our future challenges. These traits aren’t given and they can’t be bought, but you bet your bottom dollar they’re important. They’ll set you head and shoulders above your competition throughout your career and contribute no-end to the pursuit of your life goals and dreams.

So whenever you're facing challenges in life, however big or small, it's the ones you face with doubt that contain the real opportunities to learn.


Image adapted from matteo.0512 under the Creative Commons Licence.

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