A couple of weeks ago, I was in a panel discussion on moonlighting. In the run up to it, I had several conversations with people of different hues on the topic and in the process stumbled into another topic. “Are you growing? Really growing?” That was a question that came up in a conversation with one of my mentors.
I’ll give you some additional context.
The predominant narrative said people were moonlighting for extra money. That was all to it. That didn’t sit well with me. It seemed incomplete. So, I started talking to people and making sense of it with literature. That is when the criticality of challenge to everyday growth got reinforced. I thought I must share this with you!
The Many Virtues Of Challenge
Now, challenge has had many people singing its praise. Starting from Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. Mihalyi argues that a sense of flow abounds when “body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
He makes the case for two other elements along with something difficult and challenging. Which is autonomy and meaning. For now, I would like to focus on difficulty and challenge. Challenge gives us worth. Accomplishing such stuff that is just beyond our capability gives us a sense of progress and change.
Doing repetitive jobs that doesn’t challenge, whilst providing comforts of monetary compensation is a double whammy. It offers a notion of progress while depleting possibilities for the future. So much so, that I am sad when people make promotion conversations all about money, title and the perks that it brings! The question that is necessary to ask, with a long piercing look as my mentor did, is this: Are you growing? Really growing?
Are You Growing? Here Are Some Questions To Ask
I have a few simple questions for you to ask yourself. But please remember to answer with honesty. And as Richard Fenynman said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are teh easiest person to fool.”
1. On a scale of 1-10, with one being the least and ten the highest, what’s level of challenge that exists in your daily job?
2. How repetitive and predictable is the job? When was the last time, you improvised on parts of what you do?
3. How often do you feel challenged enough on the job? Challenged so much that, after you overcome the challenge you feel a sense of high that you have learnt something new.
4. When was the last time you felt challenged? How long has it been since?
These are triggers. I am sure these will enable you to think. It sure helps me with my thinking and comes in handy when I work with others. Again, answer with brutal honesty!
A Sense Of Growth & Satisfaction Is Key
The point is it is easy to get fooled by external rewards. Money and position are a function of market condition. “Are you really growing?” is a question that you can best answer for yourself! How satisfied are you with your job? How challenged are you and how satisfying is it?
In a study that was done in 1977, police officers were moonlighting because they didn’t get the job satisfaction they thought they deserved as law enforcement officers.
Constant growth has a bearing on identity and self-worth. And when you weave in challenge, it is a pathway to pivot to the future, even when the present is not clear. Growth is how we stay alive. It is a way of life that is not restricted to just jobs and careers. Which is why, we need to keep giving us a new challenge to learn and reach that which is just beyond us. As Robert Browning said with such eloquence,
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”Robert Browning
The OWL Despatch
Every fortnight I put out an edition of The OWL Despatch with a short essay like the one above and five reads that I found interesting. Here are this edition’s five pieces.
1. Research suggests that we need to overcome some emotional and cognitive barriers if we’re to learn from our defeats—but it can be done.
How to Learn From Your Failures
2. Here’s a way to have a Body Double. A productivity app! I have been itching to try this. If you do get to it, please let me know how this works for you.
3. So You Wanted to Get Work Done at the Office? Some are nostalgic for the silence they had at home, especially since in-office perks, aimed at luring people back, can make it harder to concentrate. 😀 Read more.
4. Dream job: the Japanese man who gets paid to do nothing. At the end of reading this, I was a tad sad!
5. I am fascinated with this language.” There is no standard way of negating a sentence. Indeed, the language has few words implying anything negative”
That’s that for this edition. This is a busy time and I am trying to stay sane. Even as I do this, the piercing eyes of my mentor as he asked me, “Are you growing? Really growing?” Stay safe and well.