The Difference Between Problems & Challenges

Written by
Michael Wells

The Difference Between Problems & Challenges

An Important Distinction

Written by
Michael Wells

The Difference Between Problems & Challenges

An Important Distinction

Written by
Michael Wells
QUESTION
"What is the difference between a problem, and a challenge? And why does it matter?"

I dislike the word problems, because I believe it is an inaccurate way to describe most of our difficult life experiences.

What is a problem?

A problem describes somethings that shouldn't be. Something that's broken, warped, or malfunctioning, and needs fixed.

When you succeed at fixing it, all you've done is achieve "normal." Yay.

You could be the World's best problem solver, and you would still just have an average life, with no real improvement and no growth.

In my own life experiences, I find that's just not an accurate perspective.

Most of the things we think of as problems are better described as challenges, and the distinction is important.

What is a challenge?

A challenge is different from a problem in important ways...

A challenge is an opportunity to create something better.

The goal isn't to achieve "normal", it's to make progress that takes you to a better place in your life. Your world is not only fixed, but improved upon.

A challenge is an opportunity for personal growth.

Solving problems might make your world feel "better," because it has one less unwanted thing. But problems don't change you. Challenges do. When you are challenged, you often have to change yourself in order to overcome it. Learn more, communicate better, understand more clearly. You have to grow.

A challenge presents a choice.

Go towards the challenge... or don't. With problems, we feel like we cannot live life until they are solved, but that's rarely true either. Most problems could be mostly ignored if we really wanted to, but a challenge promised a better life on the other side, if we chose to accept it.

In the end, pursuing a challenge benefits us, no matter what.

Our life is better, and we are stronger, more skilled, more capable.

And these benefits happen whether or not we succeeded at overcoming the challenge.

Why this distinction matters

We relate to problems and challenges very differently.

Personally, I see the a "problem" as a negative thing. It is something annoying that must be dealt with. But a "challenge" is a positive thing- a gym which can make me stronger. That simple mindset difference is a huge perspective shift.

Dealing with problems feels like playing "catch up", just trying to maintain the status quo of life.

Pursuing challenges is exciting because it presents an opportunity to move ahead towards a better life and a better version of myself. Even if I fail in my attempt, I grow.

Moving house feels like a problem, because there are a lot of heavy boxes to carry. But at your gym, you can lift twice that weight in a single workout, and that feels like a challenge, because you're doing it for growth, rather than to fix something.

First published on 
. Last updated on 
November 16, 2020

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