This spring I attended a two-week journalism class in another part of the country. I felt stretched and challenged by every assignment, but one of the most complicated projects was creating a one-minute video news clip about a specific Supreme Court case.
I know a one-minute clip doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it was to me; I had never done any broadcasting work before, and my knowledge of legal processes and terminology is very lacking.
I soon learned that I wasn’t the only one feeling out of her depth. I overheard a fellow student talking with one of the instructors. She was fighting back tears and turned to go back to her seat, but the instructor stopped her, assuring her that it was OK that this was hard. “We’re here to do hard things and let it stretch us,” he told her. “So lean into it.”
It’s easier to check out
When I face a challenging task or assignment, my natural response is to avoid it. It’s so much easier to procrastinate. Binge-watch something. Scroll through Facebook or suggested YouTube videos.
But our instructor was right: Doing hard things stretches us. Grows us. I know that I need to grow in several areas of my life. It turns out that the challenges I try to avoid will probably be what God uses to grow me. So when I’m faced with my next challenge, here are some tips that I’m going to try to follow. Hopefully you’ll find them helpful, too.
Break it down.
For the video news segment project, our instructors broke the assignment into several steps. Each step had its own deadline, so it was nearly impossible to get too far behind. Zeroing in on one specific task at a time instead of the whole project makes it less intimidating.
Set the timer.
It’s so easy to fritter away time. Last night I planned to work on this post and wasted time on my phone instead. Focus on your challenge for a set amount of time. It can be 15 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour — whatever gets the job done without being too overwhelming. When you think of something else you’d rather do, remind yourself you can do it just as soon as your timer goes off.
If needed, ask someone to hold you accountable.
Sometimes we won’t need outside help to do hard things. But if we keep putting off a task or assignment, a little accountability can be revolutionary. This summer a group at my church is trying to memorize a set number of verses. Confession: I have yet to start memorizing. I know, I know — I should have started weeks ago. Two Sundays ago, I told one of the middle-school girls in the group that I still need to start and asked her to ask me about it later. Maybe she’ll help me get on track. Maybe she’ll forget — but I need to start memorizing in case she does ask me!
Celebrate the wins.
Once you’ve met your goal, don’t just move on to the next thing. Step back, take a deep breath, and enjoy this moment: you completed something that wasn’t easy. Good job!
The day of small things
Many of our tasks and assignments — even the challenging ones — don’t seem that important. They aren’t usually life-changing.
But hallelujah, God cares about our little efforts, too. I think in some ways He might even prize our unseen work more than the things we do mostly because we know they are important. He sees when we are faithful and diligent in little things, even if nobody else ever notices.
During that two-week class, I often felt like each new assignment was just as daunting as (or more than) the one before. But each time I found I enjoyed it more than I expected. And I’d like to think I grew a little more with each one.