Choosing the Right Challenges: Slogs & Leaps, Part II

By July 20, 2010 3 Comments

Today is part two of our four-part series on Slog and Leap Challenges. If you didn’t read yesterday’s post introducing the series, you might want to start there; it will tell you what I mean by slogs and leaps.

In the series, we get to hear from three readers — each a remarkable woman—talk about slogs and leaps in their lives. Today, you’ll hear from Topi about how she learned to give herself permission to take leaps, and why it’s paid off.

Topi is a mom of three, working in business. She writes the wonderful blog Topi-Tour, an account of her journey with personal growth. As she writes, the blog is, “a place for me to record the things I’m doing differently, and the light-bulb moments I’ve had…”

Topi, what about the idea of slog challenges versus leap challenges resonated with you?

I’ve spent a good part of my life pursuing slog challenges, and only very recently have I given myself the permission to more freely pursue leap challenges. That permission has come from a better understanding of the two types of challenges, and what they mean to my personal growth and fulfillment.

I’ve recently come to accept that in order to grow I need to pursue leap challenges (or, the challenges that I felt would feed my soul). Then I read your post, and the light just came on. Now I have a much better sense of why I’m doing what I’m doing, and the importance of differentiating between these two types of challenges.

Yes, permission. I think it’s hard for many of us to give ourselves permission to go for the leaps. They are scary, and because sometimes they can feel almost indulgent. leaps! I love your point: when we get conscious about and name the two types of challenges, it becomes easier to go for the leaps.

Tell us about a slog challenge you took on because you thought it would be “good for you” or “good learning,” and what you learned from the experience.

In a previous job role I was “tapped on the shoulder” and asked by a senior manager to participate in a training program. I knew it just wasn’t for me. It didn’t spark any sense of passion in me. In fact, the whole idea of the program made me shudder.

But, I felt it would be a very brave career move to say no. I took part in the program and tried to enjoy it, because rationally I knew that it presented great opportunities for career development, and because I tend to stick things out once I commit to them. But I loathed it from the beginning.

I did experience fleeting moments of satisfaction — but that’s as good as it got, no more than bare satisfaction. I completed the program, breathed a sigh of relief when it was over, and went back to my old role without so much as a backward glance.

I learned some useful tools, and the fact that I’ve completed this program looks good on my resume. However, in the pursuit of my true passion, I would have learnt some of those tools anyway and the learning would have been much gentler, much kinder to my soul, and as a result I think the learning would have had a deeper and more lasting impact.

The wiser me knows that I probably would have learned much more by simply saying no when I was asked to do the program — I would have learned the importance of recognizing and sticking up for my gut feeling, I would have learned that the world doesn’t stop turning just because I said no to something, I would have learned that the tough decisions can actually help us to find our true calling whereas taking the easy path (the path of least resistance) generally leads us in the wrong direction.

I traded spiritual learning for superficial learning, and now I can look back and see that the trade was a poor one.

I think you are pointing to something so important —there are many gifts just in what we learn from saying no to slog challenges.

Let’s move on to the good stuff. Tell us about a leap challenge you are taking on.

I’m in the process of starting a business with a very inspirational colleague, and we’re pursuing our passion. It hardly feels like a challenge at all (although certain parts of it are definitely challenging, not to mention scary), instead it feels as natural as breathing. I feel energized. I dream about the business (in a good way) at night, I can’t wait to get started in the morning.

I’m excited, inspired and more passionate about work than I think I have ever been. Pursuing a leap challenge seems to generate energy that continues to fuel me long after my normal stores of energy might have been depleted. It feels like a gift and a privilege to be pursuing something I love.

That sounds pretty incredible. Energy has been a huge theme in the descriptions of leap challenges — the energy keeps on flowing, and leads to real achievement.

To the practical part: what helps you take leap challenges in your life?

Previously I felt like I needed permission to pursue leap challenges — as if it’s wrong of me to want to spend my time and energy on something that feels so good–surely there’s something wrong in that!

What has set me free from that mindset is a better understanding of the difference between leap and slog challenges.

My Mum used to say that the worse a medicine tastes the better it is for you. I think I translated that to mean the harder (meaner, tougher, more uncomfortable, more horrific) a challenge is, the better it is for your soul. But now I know that it’s the opposite that’s true, and that has set me free.

Powerful metaphor: the worse a medicine is, the better it is for you. A lot of us carry that idea around with us: No pain, no gain. The harder you struggle, the more likely you are to succeed. I’m glad so many of us are asking….what if that’s all wrong? What if the opposite is true?

When faced with opportunities, how do you discern the difference between slogs and leaps?

I’m a big believer in gut feelings (yes, actually the way my gut feels — not glamorous, but dependable nonetheless). Slog challenges make me feel sick to my stomach, leap challenges give me delicious butterflies in my stomach. It’s that simple.

Thank you for making it that simple for us. And thank you for sharing your wisdom. To read more from Topi, visit her blog, Topi-Tour.

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