Experiences that challenge us change us

I always feel sorry for lottery winners or people who have inherited great wealth — I really do — because without the financial and professional challenges and yes, struggles of life, they are more prone to depression. They feel weak because their spiritual and intellectual muscles aren’t facing the resistance they need to get strong. They’re often scared and maybe defensive because their guts aren’t being tested, and they don’t have confidence in how they’d react if they were. They haven’t had the joy of seeing themselves rise to new challenges.

It’s just impossible to underestimate the incredible importance of meaningful work and life challenges and experiences.

We don’t want everything handed to us

Think of the stories of young performers or movie stars who’ve made tons of money before they’re even 25 years old and therefore “don’t have to work a day in their lives”: too many of them fall into deep depression and even self-destructive habits. There’s a reason for this, and I don’t think that we need to have a lot of psychological science or case studies to know what it is. As humans, we crave challenge. It makes us feel alive and strong and capable and confident. Without it, our souls and self-esteem truly suffer.

We actually, in truth, in our hearts don’t want to have everything handed to us. It doesn’t make us feel valuable or strong or capable or confident. It can even be crippling. We need to prove to ourselves how strong we are, what were made of. How powerful, able to run back into the metaphorical flames and phoenix out of them again and again.

This has to be one of the reasons that when we face tough times in our lives, so many of us say the same thing: “At least I got to go to work,” and “I feel so much better when I’m at work. It lets me focus on something other than what I’m going through,” and “I don’t know what I would do without my job/profession/kids/business to focus on.”

We need enterprise; we need work. It makes us strong. It gives us resilience.

Tough experience is a gift

This is why challenging experiences, growth and confidence all go hand-in-hand. It’s why I tell my kids that not every experience that’s good for us feels good when it’s happening. Not liking camp, being embarrassed when they lose a game, the first day of…anything, being corrected by a coach or teacher…all these and more are making them stronger, more resilient, and smarter, in ways that positive experiences just can’t. Tough experiences are a life-long gift because we remember them long afterward. Whether that helps us not repeat a mistake, stay away from certain types of people, turn down job offers that aren’t right for us, or anything else we learned about “the hard way.”

When we embrace this, we can say yes to tough experiences and bumpy roads and tough climbs that we know will activate our minds and muscles. These challenges make us excited to get up in the morning and face the day, with energy flowing through us, electrifying every corner of our bodies. We feel focused and alive, resourceful and creative.

Oh yes we do.

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