Carl Richards has an intriguing article in the New York Times about how he’s come to realize something that seemed paradoxical at first: The things that get him the most excited are the things that come with a feeling of being “in just a little over [his] head.” You might think activities that have a chance of not working out or that he feels uncomfortable about would be things he’d want to avoid. Instead, they attract him. It’s because they’re a little scary and, therefore, thrilling.
It makes sense. A challenge where success is a foregone conclusion would be no challenge at all. When there’s jeopardy, your senses heighten, your heart quickens, and the experience is exhilarating.
Hormesis, Kind Of . . .
Richards has learned that this process may be a form of “hormesis,” where something that could destroy you in large doses builds you up when you receive smaller ones. Like exercise that exhausts your muscles one day and finds them strengthened the next. Sounds familiar, right?
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
That this applies to bungee jumping is no leap (sorry), but it can also apply to any part of your life, including your job. Pushing yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone to try — and eventually — master new things could be just what you need to bring lost excitement back to your work. Especially if it’s something you’re a little scared of, like an inscrutable app or diving into some aspect of the company’s business that has you mystified. Not sure you can do it? Do it.
Even when the challenge you take on has no obvious connection to your actual responsibilities, the effort and success can have a revitalizing effect on the rest of your job, and why not? You’ll gain skills, and you’ll be sharper, more energized, and more confident after your eventual triumph. After all, our research discovered that access to professional development leads to a 10% increase in employee retention. Give yourself or your employee some new work to do — new projects, new tasks — to keep them interested in their day-to-day activities.