Why do people stop growing? One key reason, I believe, is that they stop taking on difficult challenges. They want to live a comfortable life without the hardships that come with difficult challenges. That, however, is a recipe for mediocrity. Doing that is a sure way to live an average life.
I have often talked about the importance of taking challenges to expand your capacity (here is an example). But I didn’t emphasize enough the fact that the challenges should be difficult.
I realized this when I wrote my first e-book (A Dent in the Universe) and prepared it for self publishing. It was a difficult challenge for me. Writing a book in a foreign language was difficult enough (I’m not a native English speaker), but the rewriting process was even more difficult. On top of that, I still needed to do everything related to publishing the book: finding a proofreader and a cover designer, formatting the book, checking for errors, converting the books to different formats, and so on.
After going through the whole process, though, I realized that I have expanded my capacity. The last time I took a challenge of a similar level was when I developed and published my first iOS app.
Through the whole process, I learned a lesson: if you want to grow significantly, make taking on a difficult challenge a habit.
That, however, is against our nature of doing comfortable things. We tend to avoid difficulties and choose comfort whenever possible.
So what can we do to overcome this tendency?
In his book, Mastery, Robert Greene has good advice: cultivate a kind of pleasure in pain. This is what successful athletes do: they have learnt to enjoy rigorous practice. It’s not easy to do all the hard work needed to become a good athlete, but they have learnt to enjoy the process.
Similarly, you should learn to enjoy working on a difficult challenge. Learn to take pleasure in pain. Having this attitude will give you a strong foundation to grow yourself upon.
Photo by Milan Klusacek