The Point Is Productive Struggle
We crave clear cut answers. We love How-To’s. We keep looking for the ultimate 10 Step Process.
Why? Because we’re always on the hunt for clarity, predictability and, more to the point, security. It’s a natural human desire.
The problem, though, is that when we’re creating (a team, a piece of output, a business), that’s not often possible or realistic. Unless what we’re doing has been done hundreds of times before, there is no well-trodden path to driving change. And often, even where there is such a path, the human factor ensures that things don’t always transpire as we’d like.
We tend to worry about this reality and as a result, we shy away from the challenge in front of us.
But that reality is actually the point.
The very fact that we don’t have a guidebook is what allows us to learn, expand ourselves and become.
The point isn’t the simple execution to get us where we want to go. The point is the productive struggle that it takes to get there.
I was reminded of this at Parent Night recently at my daughter’s school. Her math teacher was taking us through his philosophy on learning, on what his students should get done during their time with him. Yes, they need to graduate, and in order to do that, they need to take quizzes, tests and write papers. But, as important, the point wasn’t to simply give them the way to get to the answers in order to do those things.
Rather, the point was to give them fundamental tools and then let them find their way. It was to give them a forum to attempt, debate and grapple with how to get to the solution. To give them the freedom and license to engage in productive struggle.
Because when they do that, they think. They evaluate. They try. They fail. And then they try again. Of course, they can - and should - seek help. That’s critical. But it’s important to not hand those answers to them without having them give their fullest. To push themselves to their limits.
This productive struggle - and the willingness to engage in it - is one of the most essential elements that drive our ability to succeed in life. It’s what gives us the confidence to take the initiative. To own what we do. And to commit to getting there.
The willingness to engage in productive struggle is what gives us the confidence to take risks, to build, to create. To not accept simply being another cog in the wheel.
So instead of avoiding it, by looking for the elusive guidebook, let’s accept it, let’s embrace it.
Because embracing productive struggle is exactly the point.