• Eve Arnold

Challenge Will Help You Figure Out Your Values

Photo by Daniel Gaffey — Unsplash


If we continue to be unchallenged we’ll never know who we really are.

University, in many respects, is a passive affair. You don’t have to participant in lectures. You don’t have to ask questions of your fellow students. You don’t have to contribute. Passive. When it comes round to a deadline you can do your time, sit in the library for hours on end and write for the last ten minutes and submit your paper and off you go.

9am rocks around, you can silence your alarm and go back to sleep. No-one’s going to tell you off for not turning up to lectures. That’s on you. Don’t get me wrong, your work might be lacking sufficient depth if you don’t go to lecturers but you could probably get away with not going to the whole of first year and make up the time.

I didn’t ask a single question in any lecture. Not once.

In a lot of ways, University doesn’t really challenge us. Let’s be totally honest, you could fit all your lectures into one day, two days max, and you could get a ‘real’ job in the time in between. But no-one wants to do that. Because that is uncomfortable and hard.

And that’s fine. I didn’t do that either. But what it means is that for three years, we find ourselves unchallenged. Okay, sometimes it’s peppered with a bit of challenge. The one presentation I did was a challenge.

I found myself not trying more and more. I could do things but I also could not. So I chose the easy route and didn’t. That sense of not trying then began to create a little void in my life and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.

That void would carry on into work until I finally figured out the missing piece. Challenge. Challenge is important because it leads us to understand who we really are. Unchallenged we can sit in the comfort of who we think we are and never find out if that is true. The problem with that, though, comfortable, it means we go through life with a misunderstanding of who we are. Which is detrimental in figuring out our values.

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” Seneca

The reason us humans steer clear of challenge is probably something to do with evolution. Fight or flight. But the thing that has changed since our cave man days is what’s on the table to lose. I probably wouldn’t fancy my chances fighting a lion, I’d probably lose my life. But not doing things now because we are scared, not doing the presentation, not challenging the question, not writing an article. What in means is we stay exactly where we are, and we are missing out on figuring out who we are.

I think, knowing your values is perhaps the most profound thing in the world. Bold statement. But if I really think about it, is there anything more powerful than knowing what you stand for and who you are?

Our values, once understood, guide us through life. They make decision making easier, they help our lives make a little more sense. And knowing our true values can be found, most easily, in times of challenge.

“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” T.S. Elliot

There is something in feeling overwhelmed to understand what your capacity is. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a balance. I’m not saying go out and get as stressed as physically possible to understand who you are. That will lead to the opposite. But what I am saying is unchallenged we remain static and fooled by our perceived values.

Figuring out your values will allow you to be confident in your decisions, true to yourself and feel grounded in what is right and wrong — to you. That, in work, is exactly what you need to be. Work isn’t like University in many respects, we all don’t get graded by the same person, there isn’t a mark sheet. A lot of it is perspective, confidence and talent.

Understanding your values will help with the first two.

Originally published at https://www.careerhealth.info on April 24, 2020.

#Growth #Challenge #Work #Values #SelfImprovement

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