Where New Possibilities are Born


The struggle is the point.
That’s where new possibilities are born.

I see it all the time – individuals, teams and organizations trying to make decisions with as little struggle as possible. They look for “low-hanging fruit”, which can be a great strategy to gain quick wins but a lousy one to reach the plump juicy fruit at the top of the tree!  The best stuff requires climbing, reaching, extra effort, a higher cost.

Several events last week have reminded me of this basic truth about learning, development and personal growth. I’ll share two of them.

First, I worked with a group of adult summer day camp staff and their young campers (middle school age) in our Team Building Adventures outdoor challenge course.   This particular group had some issues with authority that were holding them back. Not the typical issues of kids challenging the authority of their adult supervisors. Quite the contrary!

One staff person so earnestly wanted the kids to succeed that he directed them in everything, tried to be the sole problem-solver, planner, decision-maker, etc. – and the kids let him even though it wasn’t working.  One young lady quietly confessed she wanted to offer an alternative to his ideas, “but that would be disrespectful.”

So we discussed as a group the difference between authority and leadership, how each has a proper time and place.  I also muted the adults (no talking!) for the next challenge, since they were trying to eliminate the struggle. This small change in group dynamic required the youth to communicate, plan, offer alternatives, resolve conflicts, share and evaluate one another’s ideas, allow one another to lead and, ultimately, succeed for fail on their own as a team, even though they still had the physical resources of the adults on their team.

I’ve long since learned to trust group process and intervene only when absolutely necessary. This group struggled, REALLY struggled at first. They seem to have grown dependent on adults making or arbitrating all decisions and I took that luxury away from them, leaving them on their own.  The didn’t like me very much at one point during their struggles, but they persevered, and they discovered they had all they needed to succeed.

Typical goals of our facilitated challenge and team building processes are:

  • To build commitment and camaraderie by having some FUN together!
  • Emphasize the interconnectedness of the team members and how they impact each other.
  • Recognize the different contributions/skills of each team member and strategize ways to utilize them effectively.
  • Transfer the team member’s experiences during this experience to what they experience while working together as a team in ever day situations.
  • Practice team skills like:
    • Clearly communicating ideas, asking questions, listening to others, actively sharing information, keeping a positive attitude, taking initiative, setting goals, following through on goals, building commitment to goals, solving problems creatively, making group decisions and resolving differences productively.
  • Build Trust! Recognize the importance of demonstrating trustworthy behaviors such as reliability, consistency, honesty and confidentiality.

These are exactly the kinds of things that began to happen among group members as they struggle to find their own way. This group didn’t like me much at times, but in the end, their consensus evaluation of the day was “I never would have believed what we could achieve together before today,” and “I trust people in this group a lot more because of what we achieved.”

The struggle is the point.

That’s where new possibilities are born.

Second: last Friday, June 18, I was the featured guest on the Blog Talk Radio show Diane Viere hosts called Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children. Diane and I discussed how The Intersection of Purpose and Now is relevant to parents of adult children who struggle to succeed.  Of course, the basic connection is that without Purpose and clear, concrete values we become victims of our circumstances. We have a tough time making decisions and value-judgements because we lack the necessary clear, concrete values to do so. As a result, we are dependent on circumstance and the feelings of the moment, with little else to rely on to make sound decisions.

When it comes to our children, those “feelings of the moment” nearly always involve love. I believe that every parent loves his or her child. A relationship may not seem to others as having love, but it’s always there.  Love is the foundational value of any healthy relationship, but it’s not enough.  Other values shape and determine the effects of love.  We cannot lead our families well without love, but love alone still leaves a lot to circumstance.  “Spoiled” children were typically raised with a lot of love in the home, but perhaps not enough other values to develop in them a sense of responsibility and personal accountability, for example.

In short, parents must learn to “suffer through” their children’s struggles. Seeing your children (or your employees) struggle may “break your heart”, but the heart is a muscle and needs to struggle to build strength. Certainly, we can support others and help them along the way, but NOT to remove the struggle. The more we own our struggles, the more we own the possibilities for growth from those struggles.

The struggle is the point.
That’s where new possibilities are born.

In case you are interested in listening to the Blog Talk Radio interview, here is the link.

Listen to internet radio with Diane V on Blog Talk Radio
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About pdncoach

A Go-Giver business coach working with leaders whose success depends on the performance and productivity of others. I coach individual leaders and their teams... in small to mid-size businesses, ministries and non-profits... to accelerate their results and achieve dreams by getting past the difficult, strategic challenges of their current realities.
This entry was posted in decision-making, group dynamics, possibility, team building, teams, values. Bookmark the permalink.

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