I recently listened to an interview with a master violinist who described her unusual practice routine. She often practices playing the violin while lying down.
Naturally, it’s more difficult to do that and not a common practice among most musicians, but it helps her perform better when she’s sitting in her normal position.
The same week, I observed a friend working out wearing a 20-pound vest. He likes making the workout more challenging.
The practice of adding weight isn’t new to athletes, like baseball players who use weighted bats to improve their hitting.
These people share something in common: they deliberately challenge themselves to get better results. They make things more difficult (in some cases much more difficult) on purpose.
In my own work, I like to challenge myself in some ways…pushing myself out of my comfort zone to build strength, confidence and new skills. I know that I will risk looking silly whether I’m learning a new athletic skill, playing a new instrument or giving a new presentation.
I’m out of my comfort zone in many conferences and business networking events I attend. But I show up anyway. It’s like exercising a muscle. A little painful and uncomfortable at first, but gets better over time.
The problem I notice in my consulting work with many executives is that they often make things more difficult for themselves without even realizing it.
They are not doing it on purpose.
Some are doing it by default. They simply haven’t considered new ways of dealing with a problem. Or they buy into the idea that leadership has to be hard. “No pain, no gain.”
The key is to know when and why you’re creating a challenge on purpose and when you need to seek an easier path.
The easier path may not be immediately recognizable to you. Try finding it by stepping out of your routine.
It might involve simplifying a process or conducting fewer meetings. Or it might just be trusting your instincts and making a decision without over analyzing.
The most challenging situations in your life and work create the greatest opportunities for growth. They create teaching moments for sure.
But you can also gain significant momentum by following the easy path. Consider what feels like effortless action to you.
Your Leadership Challenge: This week I challenge you to answer these two important questions:
What is one way in which you need to challenge yourself more to grow?
What is something you could make easier for yourself?
Let me know what you identify.
Gayle Lantz is a leadership consultant, speaker, author and founder of WorkMatters, Inc. She works with organizations, executives and top performers who are serious about growing their business and themselves..