For many, the idea of a challenge and the change which accompanies it is far from thrilling. Comfort, stability, predictability; situations which offer these are those we know are safe. Shielding your professional trajectory by refusing any challenge will certainly guard your career against the possibility of immediate, self-inflicted failure. It will keep you safe from failure’s direct harm, the same way a padded, locked room protects its inhabitants: by removing possibility altogether.
However, if, rather than stagnation by strategic avoidance, growth is your end goal, then accepting new challenges is not simply a good idea, but an integral ingredient in any formula for advancement. Ask anyone who works their way out of obscurity; they’ll confirm that success isn’t won by shying from harsh tasks.
Instead of growing complacent with my status quo, I fight to constantly redefine it. For growth’s sake, I force myself through a never-ending gauntlet, one which shapes and sharpens my professional, as well as personal skills in equally infinite ways. In the interest of brevity, I’ve trimmed that list down to the essential ways taking career challenges can improve you.
- Challenging yourself proves initiative – Compare a scenario involving how two workers approach the same job: one finds a tactical formula that works, then rinses and repeats for months or years on end. The other completes assigned tasks while critically considering the underlying personal processes used to do so, and updating those processes to produce a demonstrably better product. Both workers gain experience, but the second gains insight as well: clear, analytical information which draws a picture that can eventually be used to augment not only his/her own approach, but the entire organization’s. Which employee would you promote?
- Challenging yourself makes work more interesting – Have you ever been knee deep in a weekly slog, and felt your gaze continuously drifting toward the time, as if boredom itself exerted on your eyes some kind of magnetic force? If we’re honest, we might realize we didn’t enter this mindset because our job is inherently boring, but because our safe, cozy approach to it is nothing short of mind-numbing. Asking to undertake heftier tasks, or simply re-evaluating the way we do things could offer the shock treatment needed to revamp our career trajectory.
- Challenging yourself enables relationships – As job demands grow more complex, you’ll often find that individual expertise simply isn’t enough. In these cases, you’ll have to refer to the knowledge and skill of others to supplement your own, which provides a cooperative environment perfect for solidifying great professional relationships. Forming strong, sturdy bonds simply makes sense, particularly when the outcomes of so many difficult situations hinge on how well employees can work together.
Many are put off of the idea of excessive personal challenge, because facing those challenges increases one’s potential for excessive personal failure. Failure, however (especially on a personal level) only exists if you acknowledge a temporary setback as something absolute. You don’t have to be reckless, but don’t talk yourself out of conquering new challenges, even if you’ve “failed” before.