Learning: the right challenge at the right time

It’s that time in my life where school is suddenly in the picture, via a certain 4-year-old I know 🙂 One thing I’ve already noticed is how ready a child can be for a new challenge. A challenge that is big, worrying, exciting, almost too much to get your head around – yet, at the same time, exactly what you needed without realizing just how ready you were to take on something completely new.

Ready for a challenge

Cat taking on the challenge | Click to view image by Waponigirl on Flickr

In our adult lives, most of us are familiar with the idea of having to deal with new situations. Situations that pose challenges like tackling a new job, having your first child to care for, getting things organized for an oversized party, or moving house. In some cases, we’ve got a bit of experience to guide our actions. In others, we’re learning as we go – trying things out, asking questions, and having the odd “aarrrgh-how-am-I-going-to-do-this well there’s nobody else so get moving right now” moment too.

Job challenge?

In some ways it’s just as well that jobs are not steadier than they are. Job security seems nice – but too much of it and a major side-effect seems to be that the longer you stay in a job, the more familiar everything becomes – and the less prepared you’ll be to take on a new challenge with every month or year that passes.

A lack of surprises

Let me explain why familiar surroundings can hurt you by taking a closer look at our 4-year-old’s life before school. From age three, he spent four days per week at day care (he wasn’t new to the place, either). The location had less than 60 children even on a busy day. The consequence: at the age of three, our son knew the names of every employee, as well as every child’s name, their mums and dads, the cars and bikes that brought them, the cuddly toys they owned…

By the time he turned four, this environment had become very predictable. A major issue while getting used to school was: not knowing the adults, the children, the rules… and not being able to predict what was going to happen next, or why.

And yet, at the end of each day, if you ask our son how things were at school, he’ll say “fun”. Playing outside is definitely a big part of the fun. But younger kids just aren’t as interesting – possibly not challenging him enough anymore. Older children are giving him new opportunities for learning: a fresh surprise every day. This is a challenge he’s only too happy to take on. Which is a relief for his parents 🙂

Change at work

Any major upheaval at work will mean employees – you, possibly – need to handle a couple of tasks:

  1. Accept that a certain change is necessary
  2. Believe you can cope with the change
  3. Learn how to deal with your new responsibilities

Accept This is a lot easier if you don’t have a set of assumptions of how your job is going to remain largely unaltered for the next 5, 10, or even 15 years. I’m not saying that this is your opinion – it’s something that has carved itself into your life for years by endless repetition. You may not be aware of the way you’ve gotten used to life being predictable – until you’re faced with a surprise and find yourself panicking.

Believe you can cope This is much easier if you’ve had regular) changes to deal with either at work or in your private life – which you’ve dealt with. You know your capacity for change and you’re not afraid to have to rely on it. If you’re anxious, ask yourself why.

Learn – this is something you can do best if you ‘accept’ and ‘believe’. Acceptance is easy if you face the reality that’s happening to you. Even if it smells nasty, it’s still happening.

Believing you can cope – well, if it’s been so long since you’ve had to cope with a change that you’ve all but forgotten how you managed last time… I guess you’re best off convincing yourself to rise to the challenge, enjoy learning something new, and generally hope for the best. It worked for me. Just remember to take a breather now and then.

How do you tackle your challenges?

8 thoughts on “Learning: the right challenge at the right time

  1. Great post. I a very good with challenges typically. I just accept them as they are. I feel being Debbie Downer about them just makes me more unhappy. I slap a smile on my face and try to figure out how to make the task fun. (e.g. Everytime Sally glares my way, I do five kegels).

  2. Love the cat picture 🙂 Yes, so adaptable, animals are, so easily ready for whatever challenge happens. And they’re gorgeous at it, too.

    Good advice here, Claudia. As you know, I was retrenched last August but I was so so aching to leave the place – only too scared to jump from my comfort zone. Glad they pushed me from the nest! I could have done with some of this calming advice back then though, definitely.

    • Cats are just such wonderful animals 🙂

      You were pushed from the nest, it sounds ‘harsh but necessary’. Odd that sometimes we need unfriendly treatment before we can finally sigh in relief, isn’t it? To have others do for us what we dare not do ourselves.
      You’ve landed on your feet by the sound of it 😉

      • It is odd, yes, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. Yet, I realise it brought forth strengths I didn’t know I had.

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