I love challenges; I don’t do hardships

I love a challenge, but I won’t do anything that is hard. Yes it sounds like a contradiction but let me explain.

A challenge pushes me and I get excited. There is a probability of failure and the higher the probability the more enthused I become. The outcome may be unknown, the way forward fuzzy and as I progress the outline clears up and shapes begin to form. Sometimes the challenge kicks my butt and I have to smile and acknowledge that my best wasn’t good enough, just before I take another stab at it.

Challenges keep me on edge with healthy anxiety. I know that the decision made today may be the wrong one tomorrow, and I have to constantly be on the lookout for the small opportunities that will take me closer to my goal. What’s not to love about the uncertainty, the high stakes, and the probability of failure? I love the excitement, the adrenaline rush and the feeling I get when I smash the challenge.

At the same time I maintain – I do not do hard things.

What’s the difference between a challenge and a hardship? 

Think of a relationship. A relationship with any one and especially a significant other is quite a challenge. Each day brings new discoveries about the other person and ourselves, creating uncertainty and shifting variables. There are lots of decisions to be made, often with insufficient information and effort is needed on a daily basis to make it work.

Now think of an abusive relationship. The excitement is panic, the adrenalin is caused by fear and regardless of what you do the results are not going to be pretty. 

I accept the challenge of a relationship with a significant other; I will not engage in the hardship of an abusive relationship.

Similarly, your dream job is a challenge. Even though you love what you do, not every situation will be a walk in the park and there is always the risk of getting it wrong. Yet you love it, you love the feeling you get when you achieve your goals, or when solving the improbable and the healthy competition amongst your peers.   

Compare that to the job where you did not have organisational fit. Remember how awful it felt to walk through those doors with the rising tension in your head / neck? While you succeeded at the work, the atmosphere was tense, the bosses blamed and shamed and there was a low level of trust. You got ill, you were unhappy and full of fear when things went wrong and when you finally left the job you felt like you were freed.

I will work at a job that is challenging; I will not work (for long) at one that is hard.

For those of us who are consultants each client is a challenge. They have needs and are paying us to deliver what they want. They have a right to demand a return on their investment and ensure that they receive the best bang for their buck. Some clients challenge every workshop agenda, they want every decision explained and I have to work twice as hard to ensure that I deliver on my promise.

I compare these to the hard clients, the ones that do not know what they want, even after I have delivered as per the signed contract, the ones who do not respect timetables or schedules, the ones who treat me badly, the ones that are dishonest about conversations and of course those who do not pay on time or not at all.

I will work with a challenging client, I will not work with a hard client

How to distinguish a challenge from a hard situation

  1. A challenge makes you feel good. It is tough, you may be making no progress yet still you feel good. In a hardship you don’t feel honoured, the voice in your head gets smaller and louder at the same time, saying that this is not right
  2. Challenges bring joy, a sense of accomplishment even when you are not achieving. Hardships bring no joy; there is no glee in pushing forward even as you are achieving objectives
  3. In challenges you are optimistic about the end, even when you are wrong you believe that the next step will take you closer to the goal. When you fail you try again. In a hard situation you can’t perceive a good ending to the situation. All decisions that you make gives you the same answer that leaves you with a sunken feeling
  4. Challenges build you, you learn, you grow and you get clearer. You know that you have made progress and are getting better. Hardships are less generous They make you feel incompetent, undesirable and unfit for almost anything

What to do when a situation is hard?

When I realise that I am in a hard situation I get out. I accept that the outcome is not for me to achieve in my present state at the present time and I get out. Sometimes I am able to immediately walk away, other times I will have to plan an exit strategy. I make peace with the fact that I have not achieved the objective and let it go – while looking for a new challenge.

What do you think about challenges and hardships?

What hardships are you disguising as challenges?

What makes you stay in a hard situation?