We’ve lost the Challenge Mindset and have adopted the Complaint or Comfort Mindset. In our schools, corporations, and homes, we have evolved to the point where our basic necessities for survival have already been met and there is no concern of not meeting them tomorrow. In this society of excess in everything and to everything, we have become comfortable because we don’t really have to concern ourselves with not getting the basic resources to live and as a result, we have settled into a comfortable way of living.
This is all fine and great, however what is also happening is that, as a society, when we are met with a real challenge head on, we don’t know what to do. When the entire self-esteem movement started to become mainstream hype over a decade ago, we saw a shift in children and adults. As teachers in schools, parents in homes, and executives in corporations started to learn that they should praise and recognize intelligence, talent and abilities, and believed that this would foster self-confidence, self-esteem, and everything great would follow, now, a decade later, it is showing to not have worked. Since we are so used to being praised for talent and intelligence, we now become overly concerned about how we are going to look when we are tackling a harder challenge or project. Instead of getting creative about solving a problem and being okay with looking stupid or wrong, we are worried about not looking talented and hurting that oh so important reputation we have of brilliance and perfection. As a result, we stick to our comfort zone and get really defensive when we hit setbacks because we don’t know how to handle adversity. We become afraid of making mistakes and we resort to doing the comfortable thing that they already know how to do, instead of facing our fears of the unknown and looking forward to solving a challenge. Due to the fact that we are fearful of venturing out of our comfort zones, we don’t take the risks or develop the abilities we are truly capable of. We would rather take the easy route and adopt the comfort instead of challenge mindset.
It’s like the story of my friend Brittney. Throughout her childhood growing up, she was a straight A student, popular and well liked, with a stable and well-meaning family that offered a ton of support. Her parents constantly praised her for how talented she was, and they took a genuine interest in whatever she was into. Once, when Brittney decided she wanted to learn how to play soccer, her parents were all in, giving her private lessons, setting up a mock soccer field in her backyard, and doing whatever they could to help her be the best soccer player she could be. Things just seemed to come easily for Brittney, she was beautiful and smart, charming and well dressed, and people were naturally drawn to her and wanted to be near her. As a result, she was seen as a natural born leader, and eventually became her school’s class president and went on to be voted “most likely to succeed” with a ton of different opportunities and doors to go into any college of her choice. Her early years of education and college, came as a breeze to Brittney, she didn’t have any real struggles or strife, and she felt very confident in herself and her abilities. Then, when it came time for her to start her career, she once again had no major struggle. Her resume looked great – solid grades, involved in extracurricular activities, and internship experience too! So she was given several different job offers, and was looking forward to starting her career.
This was when things started to take a turn for Brittney. While she was seen as a success in her small town and small college, when it came time to understanding the working world, things were not as easy as she assumed. You see, Brittney had never had to face a challenge head on. On the surface, life for Brittney and for her family over the years had always looked so amazing. No real struggles, strife, conflicts, everything was always just fine and happy. But that’s the problem! While Brittney was conditioned to just say “everything’s fine” and told to put a smile on her face throughout life, there were actually real issues, concerns, and problems boiling under the surface that were getting left unsaid! In the environment she was raised in, her well meaning parents would brush off any signs of conflict or negativity, because they wanted to show themselves and the world that things were perfect in their home. Brittney had never once seen her parents fight, and had never had to deal with conflict with anyone her entire life. Since things came so easily for Brittney and she was constantly praised for every little thing she did, she never dealt with any challenge or struggle, so when it came time for her to solve a problem at work, she suddenly didn’t know what to do. When her boss asked her to take the lead on creating a new campaign for a product they were launching, it was the first time in her life where she didn’t know something and didn’t understand how to find the answer. Terrified of looking dumb, she just pretended and acted like she knew what she was doing. She was afraid of showing any weakness, and so instead just tried to fake it. After a week or so, it became clear to her boss that she hired someone with no experience and little sense of knowing how to overcome obstacles, and Brittney immediately felt like she was a fraud and abruptly quit her job, complaining to her parents and her boyfriend that they were bullying her and she couldn’t put up with that sort of treatment.
This happens all the time in schools and businesses and quite frankly, it is costing us our country’s place in the world. When we are hit with a real challenge, instead of saying to ourselves, “wow, here’s a change to learn and grow,” we think “OMG. I can’t let them know that I don’t know what I am doing. What can I do to avoid this altogether?” We run from the challenge mindset and into the arms of the comfort mindset. We start making up excuses and complaints about why we couldn’t get something done, why we weren’t given a fair chance, we rattle off 1,000 and more excuses, complaints and reasons instead of just sucking it up, admitting our weaknesses, and tackling the project head on! We’ve grown weak with this comfort mindset and have become afraid of challenges. What we seem to have forgotten is that many successful people, from Einstein to Edison, have said they’ve learned more from their failures than from their successes. True innovation, huge breakthroughs, and game changing inventions often come after a number of huge failures that provided learning experiences rather than just trying to avoid the challenge.
So what should we do? We should start to praise the effort, the doggedness and persistence, the grit people show, the resilience that they show in the face of obstacles, the bouncing back when things go wrong and knowing what to try next. We should start rewarding people for failing and trying it again anyway, rather than complaining, waffling, and not doing anything or avoiding it altogether. It takes courage, maturity, and wisdom to admit you don’t know how to solve something and it takes true vulnerability to say that despite this, you are still going to try. Our schools, workplaces, and society will be better off for it.
So let’s start to adopt the Challenge Mindset Today!!!