Difficulty is good for us.
Yesterday I was reading an article in Intelligent Life, an Economist publication, entitled “The Uses of Difficulty” by Ian Leslie. He gives examples, mostly from the music industry, that depict challenges and difficulties as gifts that we should seek out, even create, for the benefit of our growth. At first glance this argument sounds like something akin to the benefits of brussels sprouts, but I was intrigued by the argument (and I happen to love brussels sprouts) so I kept reading.
In yoga, we search for that magical space between effort and ease. At first, I thought that’s where Ian was going but he took this idea to a whole new level. He presents scientific evidence that shows we actually benefit cognitively from doing things that are difficult, that do not come naturally to us. The benefits are so stark that he suggests purposely creating difficulty even when we find ease. This theory flies in the face of the idea that we should play to our strengths, or at least the idea that we should always play to our strengths.
This article also has the wheels of my mind spinning around the concept of short-term versus long-term benefits. Should we accept, even relish, short-term challenge because in the long-term it makes us more creative, intelligent, quick, strong, resilient, and, let’s face it, interesting? Is discomfort today worth triumph tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow?
There’s only one way to find out.