The Value of Struggle
By Emmett Bicknell
Confronting and conquering hardship is an essential aspect of life.
In today’s world, there is a desire for comfort, and a fear of failure. People do not want to have to work at something again and again. Instead, they want to be able to do something right on the first try. If they cannot, often enough, they just quit. Although this avoidance of difficulty may seem harmless, it can have negative repercussions for future endeavors. Struggling with difficult problems leads to growth for future, seemingly unrelated, scenarios. Learning to struggle builds several skills.
The first skill that struggling with difficult challenges builds is the ability to persevere through adverse circumstances. If students are taught to keep going even when they don’t see an apparent way to solve a problem, they will grow in their ability to persevere. Although it may not benefit them immediately, this perseverance can be immensely useful later in life. For example, although struggling with problems in high school may not increase one’s grade significantly or change one’s circumstances, in college and in the workplace, the ability to keep plugging away at something can reap enormous benefits. In addition, as this skill develops, it continues to grow, giving greater and greater benefits.
The second skill that struggling builds is adaptability. This is the ability to take multiple approaches to a problem, especially when the first attempt is not successful. When a student works on a problem, sometimes the first strategy fails, so the student must change tactics. This is akin to climbing a mountain. Sometimes, a path up the slope may look promising, but after following it a ways, it may turn out to be a dead end. Then, the climber must back up and try a different way. Eventually, he may find a way that works. However, if he had simply given up and left, he would not have been able to experience the excitement of reaching the peak. Clearly, the ability to adapt one’s approach to a challenge can produce benefits. This sort of adaptability is key in solving many issues that arise in one’s day-to-day life, as well as more major issues affecting the whole world.
The third skill that struggling builds is the ability to find relationships between problems of different types. For example, if a student is working on a science problem, and solves it a specific way, he can later solve some other kind of problem using a similar technique. He also may eventually use that kind of technique in his vocation. In addition, he may be able to apply the same strategy in different ways. This struggling allows students to gain a deeper understanding of why a solution works, instead of just applying a technique without knowing how it works. This in turn increases one’s problem-solving abilities, making it easier to come up with new techniques in a variety of subjects. This kind of skill is useful in many fields, including research and design.
Although an aversion to struggling has permeated our culture, in reality, the ability to struggle with something without giving up is an important way to grow in one’s ability to persevere, adapt, and solve problems. We need to steer our culture toward a willingness to struggle and grow. As Eric Thomas, a well-known motivational speaker and pastor, said, “Where there is no struggle, there is absolutely no progress.” Although struggles may seem uncomfortable, and may not seem useful, we should embrace them and learn from them. After all, who knows what new things may await us outside our comfort zone?
Emmett Bicknell is a 17 year old homeschooled junior from Ohio. He enjoys mathematics (which he plans to study in college), reading, and playing baseball; he also plays several instruments, including the piano, the trombone, and the viola. He is currently working to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.
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