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Challenges help us learn and improve

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Challenges help us learn and improve

Scott Miker

Most people don’t like to be challenged.  We don’t like obstacles and adversity and tough times.

Yet these are what force us to keep growing, learning and improving.  These challenges force us to adapt to overcome.

But most of us don’t take this perspective when we are faced with a difficulty.  Instead we tend to wonder why we have to face it or we just dream about the days when we don’t have these difficulties any longer.

All of us do this.  I don’t know anyone that hits a rough patch in life and doesn’t get a little discouraged or unhappy.  It makes sense.  But if we can take a step back and look at the big picture, maybe we can make it a little better by realizing that this bad event can result in positive growth. 

In Brain Rules, author John Medina says, “In the 18th century, the Italian scientist Vincenzo Malacarne did a surprisingly modern series of biological experiments.  He trained a group of birds to do complex tricks, then killed them and dissected their brains.  He found that his trained birds had more extensive folding patterns in specific regions of their brains than his untrained birds.  Fifty years later, Charles Darwin noted similar differences between brains of wild animals and their domestic counterparts.  The brains of wild animals were 15 to 30 percent larger than those of their tame, domestic counterparts.  It appeared that the cold, hard world forced the wild animals into a constant learning mode.  Those experiences wired their brains much differently.”

So these challenges that we face can actually help us grow our brains and our ability to process information.  If we never face a challenge and simply go through life untested, we will not reach our highest potential.  Instead we will simply go through the motions, without learning or improving. 

It might seem that this means we should always be tested and stressed and overburdened.  I don’t think that this is accurate though. 

It has been proven over and over that long-term stress is terrible for our health.  It destroys our bodies and minds. 

So the key is to remain content with a relatively stress-free mindset and take challenges head on to learn and grow.  If we constantly strive for ways to improve, but always remain content while doing it, we can gain the advantages that challenges bring without the emotional toll that they can take. 

But what does it mean to be content?  To me, it means understanding that we don’t need anything more in order to be happy.  Everything we need to be happy is right here, right now.

You may be thinking that this would lead to being complacent and not striving to improve.  If everything we need to be happy is right here, right now, why do anything to improve?

Being content still means that we strive to improve and get better.  We aren’t doing it because we have a hole in us that we are trying to fill.  We are doing it because that is what drives us forward and keeps us always in a state of wonderment. 

So how do you go through life?  Do you only improve when you are forced to?  Do you remain content and happy but still strive to learn more?  Are you constantly learning and improving because that makes life interesting or are you searching for something that is missing in your life right now?