Good difficulty

We put together a used wardrobe last week. It was not in mint condition, and the transportation didn’t help. I had forgotten a part and had to travel across the town to retrieve it. We did not have the right instructions. We had to build it halfway and start over again, because it promptly collapsed on propping it up. It was not a perfect fit when it was done. It was a struggle all along.

But completing it was oddly satisfying, and more so because we went through all of that. It appears as though difficulty puts our achievements in better perspective.

We have been conditioned to believe that difficulty is to be despised and avoided. But this is not always so. Kelly McGonigal has studied extensively on how our attitude towards stress can result in it having a positive impact on us. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about flow – a state of bliss, that results from confronting a challenge that is a little beyond the grasp of our capabilities. Nassim Taleb writes about anti-fragile people, who grow stronger with adversity. All of them hint at how our attitude towards difficulty changes the effect it has on us.

Perhaps, difficulty could use some rebranding.

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