We don’t grow by sitting at home by ourselves all day long.
Like many others, I am just now starting to reacclimate to the real world. I have taken trips by myself. I have returned to in-person meetings. And most recently, I have reintroduced things like events and gatherings to my life.
One of the things I had forgotten in the midst of the pandemic was the extent to which we’re affected by being around groups of people and situations where we interact with people we might not know well. We’re thrown together, sometimes given a task to complete or a goal to achieve, and in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways, everyone their own experience and reactions to the situation. Sometimes, we may come across people who rub us the wrong way. Other times, we randomly meet someone with whom we feel an immediate connection and he or she ends up changing our life for the better (however big or small).
But it’s these moments, out in the world, interacting with new and different people, experiencing new things, visiting new places and cultures and seeing things that are different from us, that we get to use our tools and really practice working on ourselves. It’s easy to say “I’m a centered human being” from the comfort of our home, doing the same things all day, day after day, staying in the same place, spending time around the same people (or alone).
It’s not until we are out of our comfort zone, nervous about trying something new or being in a foreign place or interacting with people who push and challenge us in unforeseen ways, that we really see ourselves clearly and how we’re progressing.
I believe that these “challenging” moments are the biggest opportunities for personal growth.
However, in order to make the most of them, we need to keep a few things in mind.
1. Commit. Make the effort. Places that are hardest to get to are often the ones most worth visiting.
This is true both literally and figuratively.
I recently went to a Summit retreat at Lake Powell in Utah at a campsite (really a glampsite) called Under The Canvas, and it was very hard to get to. I could either drive 8 and a half hours from Los Angeles, or I could fly to Vegas, rent a car, and drive four hours (which is basically the same thing as driving 8 and a half hours). It was an experience that was very hard to get to — and as a result, I realized I brought significantly more intention to it. Because if I was going to do it, I needed to commit.
And commitment is a powerful change agent.
Like me, all of the attendees made this commitment and put in the effort. And, as a result, we were all excited, present and open, which naturally led to a meaningful and fun experience.
Over the past two years of the pandemic, it’s obvious that many of us have lost our tolerance for doing things that are difficult or going places that are challenging to access. We’re all more likely now to choose not to go out to dinner, not to attend that event, not to make the effort to go somewhere that’s difficult to get to.
It turns out that by putting in the extra effort and energy, we’re creating something that can be even more satisfying and worthwhile.
2. The more adversity there is in any human experience, the deeper the connective tissue.
Another fundamental truth is that we remember the experiences that challenge us the most.
The harder it is, the more it matters.
For example, one of my coworkers used to really struggle with confronting new challenges. Anytime she was presented with something she didn’t know how to do, the whole experience was super uncomfortable for her. She would resist it with all her might and say things like, “I hate working on this thing. I can’t do this. I don’t know how to figure this out.” Right up until the moment she learned how to do it and felt accomplished, and then her whole demeanor changed. As she moved forward to the next challenge, she was more confident and capable, and this became a positive cycle of growth.
This is just the nature of life.
With everything, there is an uphill part of the journey, a plateau, and then an opportunity to make a decision: climb the next hill, or coast down the one you just climbed. And we all say we like to coast, but the truth is, what each of us values most are the moments where we climb up the next hill and prove to ourselves we can do it.
In life, in your career, in business, you are always going through these growth periods where things are uncomfortable, you don’t know what you’re doing (yet), you’re trying to figure things out, you feel like you’re failing, and then all of a sudden, you’ve succeeded. You’ve mastered it. You now have a completely new set of skills. And you barely even remember how uncomfortable of a journey it was to get there.
3. The issue always has less to do with the situation and more to do with your attitude.
Life is what you make of it.
If we see the world as things “happening” to us, we are most likely going to complain about it. We are going to feel like the victim. We are going to be miserable.
But if we see the world as a place where we can happen to it, where we can make a difference and an impact, then we probably aren’t going to spend time complaining. Because we’re moving forward. We’re making progress. We have purpose and intention.
Each of us is given the opportunity to make this choice hundreds of times each day.
For example, when I went to this retreat, I had to get COVID tested when I arrived. Well, I had been in the car for eight and a half hours, I was exhausted and hungry, and all I wanted to do was have a drink, stretch my legs, and hang out the rest of the night. Instead, I had to stand in line for 20 minutes to get my COVID test, and then wait another 20 minutes in my car again for the test results. Then they told me the test had failed and I needed to start all over, and the whole thing felt like it could put me over the edge.
But these are the moments, small as they might be, where you have the opportunity to grow.
I continued to remind myself that I’d made it, I was going to have a great weekend, and that right now my resiliency was being tested a little bit before all the good things that were planned. And sure enough, because I took a deep breath and committed to moving through this experience with grace, someone brought me a cocktail, I ended up chatting with the events crew who were wonderful, and signed up for my activities while I waited.
It all worked out for the best… because I allowed it to.
If we can reframe our thinking in challenging times to enjoy the ride and embrace the unexpected, it will always work out for the best. Because we’re seeing it through that lens.