Take a second and think about something you’re naturally gifted at. It could be singing, basketball, or dance. How long have you been practicing this skill or talent that feels effortless? I’d be willing to bet that you’ve been doing it for a long time. Probably a large percentage of your life. Looking back on your time spent practicing, learning and honing this talent, do you feel that you have been mostly a success or a failure at it? I’m guessing you’ll choose success.
When’s the last time that this skill or activity felt difficult to you? I’m not referring to the difficulty that stretches your comfort zone. I’m talking about the type of difficulty that overwhelms you. The kind that makes you want to give up. I have a feeling that it’s been a very long time-if ever at all-that you’ve felt that kind of debilitating difficulty.
The distance from, or the absence of, the challenging growing pains most experience when developing a skill tragically skews ones perspective of learning.
If you are a “natural” at something, you instinctively correlate success with minimal effort. One day you sat down at a piano and the notes came easily to you. Or one day you picked up a football, threw a perfect spiral, and never looked back. There’s nothing wrong with picking up skills easily, it just may affect how you acquire other skills. Since there was little work that went into the development of your talent, you may subconsciously think that’s par for the course. If you aren’t understanding something, or you’re struggling to excel at something, you may throw in the towel prematurely.
“This isn’t for me. If it was, I would’ve figured it out by now.”
This is what Carol Dweck refers to as the fixed mindset in her paradigm altering book, Mindset. Essentially, those that have this frame of mind believe that all of their traits, skills and talents are fixed. They can’t be developed no matter the circumstance. They are what they are. If you’re smart, you’re smart. If you’re talented, you’re talented. There is no struggle to get there. Putting in work is not necessary. If you don’t have it, you don’t have it. People that are identified as naturals could very easily slip into this mindset. Finding early success could lead to impatience in the process of learning and growing.
The naturals aren’t the only ones in danger here, though. What if you did struggle to hone a talent, but the major struggles occurred years ago? The further you are from the feeling of distress and discomfort, the more likely you are to forget how that process felt. Out of sight, out of mind. If you’re a master of your craft now, with your struggling amateur days 20 years behind you, you could convince yourself that you won’t need to struggle to learn anything new. That experience is so far behind you that you can’t feel that pain anymore. The chinks in your armor have smoothed out.
I’m not implying that all people who have been considered naturals are trapped in this fixed mindset. I’m also not saying that those that have moved well past their early struggles are doomed. I think it just may a red flag that is ignored for some. Failure, resistance and struggle breeds resilience. Finding success early and often bypasses the struggles that foster resilience. A human without resilience is like a house without a foundation; when the storm hits, the damage is massive.
Struggle is necessary. Discomfort is needed. It helps us transform into gritty, resilient people. If you have walked through most tasks with ease up until this point, understand all is not lost for you. The reason that you find something particularly impossible or frustrating is that you aren’t used to getting it wrong. You just need to change your mindset to one that embraces that struggle and takes on that discomfort. You don’t have to be a natural. You don’t have to know what you’re doing all the time. You’re purpose isn’t perfection, it’s progression.
Until next time,