There has perhaps been no better time to be talking about the nature of challenges. As we begin to think about a “new normal” post COVID19, provides us with a valuable opportunity to understand not only how we overcome current challenges, but also how we prepare to face future adversities.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been exploring the nature of Challenge Pits. We’ve looked at four different types of challenge pits. Perhaps the most important of these pits is the Learning Challenge. This is the challenge that stretches us. This is the challenge that demands we fill our backpacks with more well-developed Habits of Mind in order to climb out.
But there’s never just one challenge. Life presents us with many challenges. So to understand the Learning Landscape, we must not only understand what it means to succeed at one Challenge Pit but also what it means to confront challenge after challenge after challenge.
So let’s take a moment to consider what happens when we make it a habit to take on Learning Challenges.
Imagine that you are exploring a part of the Learning Landscape. As you explore you encounter many Learning Challenges. Each time you succeed you gain a little extra height in the Learning Landscape, getting you closer to the mountains of expertise.
But taking on Learning Challenges doesn’t only result in you gaining height in the Learning Landscape. Each time you encounter a Challenge Pit you have to develop your Habits of Mind. You fill your backpack up a little more. So climbing higher in the learning landscape also results in you better equipped to climb!
Just imagine. You spend years taking on challenge after challenge. Climbing higher and higher in the learning landscape. Your reward is not simply the achievement of expertise in a part of the learning landscape, but also being able to climb like an expert!
And being able to climb like an expert makes all the difference when it comes to an uncertain future!
Filling your backpack, and becoming a better climber, is about the most important thing you can do in the Learning Landscape. Because while we’ve talked a lot about “taking on challenges” as if you have a choice, life isn’t always like that. Sometimes you don’t get a choice, and when that happens we call it “adversity”.
The only difference between a challenge, and adversity, is the source. When you confront a challenge, you decide to jump into the challenge pit and try to climb out the other side.
When you’re faced with adversity, life gives you a bit of a shove, and you find yourself in the Challenge Pit. And your only option is to climb out or languish in the bottom.
This is where a lifetime spent getting better, instead of getting busy pays off. When you’re in the habit of regularly taking on Learning Challenges, the side effect is that you fill your backpack. And that makes all your future challenges easier.
Unlike your expertise, which is specific, your climbing skills are transferable. You take your backpack wherever you go. You have them with you no matter what challenges you may encounter.
Nicholas Taleb, in his book Antifragile, told us that you can’t predict the future. There’s no telling specifically what challenges are going to present themselves. But he went on to say that you can prepare for the future.
One way to prepare for the future is to fill your backpack with the tools you need to be an expert climber. So that when adversity comes along, you’ve got the tools you need in order to succeed.
I’m not sure there has ever been a time where this message is more poignant. The only thing we can be truly sure of in our post COVID19 “new normal” is that there will be more challenges. If the “new normal” is about staying in our comfort zone, the next disruption is going to come along and we’ll find our backpacks lacking.
On the other hand, if the “new normal” is about stretching ourselves, regularly (not always), and filling our backpacks, then when new challenges come along, when life pushes us into the next Challenge Pit, we’ll be better prepared to succeed.
What are you doing to fill your backpack, to become an expert climber and prepare yourself for the next disruption?
If you’d like to know more about helping students to fill their backpacks with the Habits of Mind, I’d invite you to come along to the Learning Landscape Online.