One of my all-time favorite movie lines is from “A League of Their Own.” When Tom Hank’s best player quits the baseball team right before the playoffs because “it just got too hard,” Tom comes back with, “It’s the hard that makes it great.“
And it’s so true! Successful professionals often have a series of incredible hurdles they’ve overcome to get to the big payoff. But these challenges are exactly the reason why they attain their goals, because when you overcome a major obstacle:
- You prove to yourself (and others!) just how capable you are. We often underestimate our capabilities, but when push comes to shove, we learn a lot about our strength and stamina.
- It prepares you to successfully tackle the NEXT big obstacle. Crushing new challenges boosts confidence and provides solid evidence that we have the resources and resilience to get through the tough stuff.
- You learn about development gaps. Even the most self-aware individuals can have blind spots that are only revealed through pushing the limits. Once these limitations are uncovered, we can work on fixing them.
- It necessitates innovative problem solving. The Einstellung Effect is a tendency to approach new problems the same way you’ve solved similar problems, even when a better solution exists. Essentially, we become blinded by how we’ve “always done it” (habit) preventing us from engaging the most efficient solution. Stubborn challenges force us out of our comfort zones when tried and true solutions fail and the only way forward is to be creative.
- You’re forced to see options you’d otherwise miss. The Dalai Lama said, “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” In many cases, we get so myopically fixated on making something work, we can’t see something even better on the sidelines. A dead-end can be just the signal we need to divert our efforts in a more fruitful direction.