The Unexpected but Powerful Role of Life Challenges

Challenges Stimulates Growth and Progress

As young humans, we are faced with daily challenges. From learning to roll, to crawl, and then to walk, none of which are easy feats. All have obvious (i.e. new physical capabilities), and not so obvious consequences (i.e. wiring of neuron pathways) that ultimately stimulate growth and progress. Have you seen the smile a child who is walking for the first time emits?!

As we exit our adolescence and enter our adult lives the nature of these challenges shift. No longer are we growing that last centimetre, and the last area of the brain that relates to responsible decision making is complete. From a developmental perspective we are complete. So how can we as adults continue to face challenges in a way that stimulates growth?

Firstly, the good news is seeing as we are ‘fully grown’ we are in control of our responses to situations. Although granted, it does not always feel like it. Secondly, life is never far from providing us the opportunity for us to grow, despite being developmentally complete. As adults it can be helpful for us to implement a number of things when faced with a situation that demands such growth to foster this growth:

Coping Strategies

Ocean swimmers in a race

Assess your coping strategies (e.g for stress, for dealing with anger). They were most likely based off those that were modelled to you. Ask, “what do I want to keep?” “What do I want to get rid of?” “Where are the gaps in my knowledge?”


The single most important question to come back to when facing a challenge whether we are feeling in control or not is “is what I am doing/thinking hurting or harming me?”

Positive Affirmations 

Another helpful strategy is to develop a personal affirmation, for example “I’ve got this.” “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” “I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got.”

Talk It Out

Talk it out…with friends/colleagues. Engage in rubber ducking. Rubber ducking is the shortened term for ‘rubber duck debugging’. It’s a method of debugging code that involves the classic bathroom toy: a rubber ducky. The practice comes from a story in the book The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas. In the story, a programmer would debug a code by explaining it, line by line, to a yellow plastic waterfowl. Have you ever had a eureka moment while explaining something to someone? That’s what rubber ducking seeks to replicate. Essentially, rubber ducking is about talking through your coding problems with a friendly duck that won’t judge you.

Multiple doors in a rowCheck your Mindset

Check your mindset, are you using a ‘fixed’ or growth mindset? e.g. having a growth mindset perceives failure as a learning situation


Take time for reflection. As part of your daily/weekly/monthly routine ask yourself: What have I learnt? How I have changed? as a result of what you have faced. Take time to reflect on both the small and the big, the expected and the unexpected. We are naturally primed as human beings to look for the negative, and training ourselves to focus on what we have overcome equips us with motivation, whilst feeding into our sense of self-worth and life satisfaction.

Facing challenges are part of life. They enable us to continue to grow in both ways we imagined, and in ways beyond what we thought was possible, and whilst we might sometimes wish for a simple way forward, being challenged is part of what makes us thrive.

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