There are times we might be faced with tasks that at first seem daunting. We might think it’s too difficult and that we can’t do it because we believe either we’re not talented enough, it’s beyond our skill set, it isn’t our field or we don’t have time. We could give up before exerting a good amount of effort.
There are other occasions where faced with the same tasks we go to the opposite extreme and think not only can we do this, but we want to do more: We want it to be bigger and faster. Looking at a task as extreme means we go beyond reasonable expectations and even overdo or overthink what is necessary.
The middle ground is to face a task with the mindset of providing excellent quality and to be satisfied with the result.
When faced with certain jobs or projects, do we look at them as difficult, extreme or challenging?
If our viewpoint is the latter – challenging – our mindset is already headed in the right direction. When we interpret something as a challenge, we look at it from a personal viewpoint and desire to make whatever it is an excellent outcome. We give it our best, focus on quality, and feel we’ve succeeded when we’re satisfied with the result.
Some tasks and projects I do, admittedly, lean toward the extreme side. I view everything as a challenge and run a massive distance with it. When I began vocal training years ago, my instructor handed me the sheet music to “Over the Rainbow.” I handed her the sheet music to Puccini’s “Vissi d’arte,” a song designed for dramatic sopranos. I wasn’t going to settle for soprano. A dramatic soprano range is nearly every soprano’s dream, but only few attain it. I sung “Over the Rainbow,” but I eventually sang “Vissi d’arte.”
Today when faced with assignments for clients, I lean toward the viewpoint of accepting them as challenges, but with a bit more balance. I still gravitate toward desiring the best quality, going beyond what is expected of me, much to the delight of my clients. A bit of the unreachable perfectionism sets in, but ultimately, it’s what my clients want that is my top goal. If I choose to do extra research and footwork to attain it, I will.
Why we challenge ourselves
We challenge ourselves to satisfy a desire to explore and to learn.
When we begin a new job, for example, we’re usually eager to learn the ropes. Everything is new and exciting, and we enjoy mapping our way through the environment, the tasks and the people. We learn why we do what we do, how they relate to the overall big picture and what is expected of us.
Over time, that enthusiasm can become lost in the daily routines. Our tasks become mundane. We are no longer motivated to do our best.
Challenging ourselves creates or reinvigorates enthusiasm. When we take on a new challenge, we have something to look forward to: the end result. Stepping back and examining the outcome of our hard work can give us a sense of pride. Throughout the process, we seek input from others, learn new skills, gain more knowledge and eventually find satisfaction in what we’ve achieved. We become happier.
Ways to challenge yourself
If you find your excitement waning, here are a few things to try to challenge yourself.
Reevaluate your role
Think about why you do what you do. It could be personal (“because I need to take care of my family”) or professional (“in five years, I want to be XYZ”). Maybe you do it because your work helps other people. Or perhaps you simply enjoy what you do. But thinking about why you started your role might help you to regain your passion.
Talk with your supervisor
Be vocal about your goals. Don’t ever assume your supervisor knows what you want. If you see yourself in a different role down the road, it’s okay to share that. Your manager or team leader can help you reach those goals. If you want greater responsibility, express that, and in the meantime, do the best quality work you can with your current role to prove it.
View the bigger picture
To some people, a seemingly small task remains a small task. But others may see a small task or project as simply the start of something bigger. See what others don’t. Analyze the big picture and the end result of what you’re doing. Can it be done differently, more efficiently or more cost effectively? Many companies rave about innovation and, thankfully, are open to their employees contributing their ideas. Be one of those employees. Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your ideas. Even if it’s not immediately accepted, your next idea could be.
Create a solution
Think about what issues your team might be facing. Do the problems relate to safety, production or sales? Many positive ideas and products have been created based on a real need. If your department is faced with a particular problem, think about a possible solution. Outline the steps needed to reach a resolution. Include any pertinent information in your outline or strategy, such as cost, likely scenarios, and solutions to possible challenges.
Effects of challenge
There are a number of positive effects when we challenge ourselves.
First, we reinvigorate our passion. We find new ways and reasons to enjoy what we do because we took time to seek out those motivations. We often see the results of our hard work and innovative ideas, which compels us to repeat our actions. We look for more ways to challenge ourselves.
Second, we encourage others. Our enthusiasm and excitement spreads to others. It creates a positive atmosphere in the workplace. Our coworkers are happier and inspired to challenge themselves as well. Challenges often become a team effort, so when others contribute to the task, it’s a positive win for everyone.
Third, we push ourselves beyond what is expected in our roles. When we enthusiastically take on greater responsibility, support our innovative ideas and encourage our teammates, chances are our supervisors – and their supervisors – will take notice.
The keys here are to look at what you’re currently doing. Think about your goals. Look at the end result. Analyze your current skills and how they contribute to your ideas. Speak up and act on your concepts. And be a motivator for others to take on challenges they might not have had the courage to do without your positive example.
From the leadership perspective, check out the article: “Are you challenging your employees?“