Have you been entrusted with a puzzle?
It was 3:30pm on a Friday afternoon. Sitting in the classroom on slightly smaller than normal chairs, across the table from a couple of his teachers, the topic at hand was a discussion about how best to navigate a learning challenge.
We sat and discussed the issues, the strategies and ways to help him fulfil his potential, to overcome the label of this diagnosed learning challenge and how to deal with the inevitable frustrations along the way.
As I thought about this later, I was reminded of a greater truth… my son has been entrusted with something great, a masterpiece in the making, with the ability to positively impact the world in a way only he can. The challenge is, this potential isn’t ready made, but instead has been packaged as a puzzle and is yet to be pieced together.
So as I think of how to best help him, and others who have been labelled with things such as ‘learning disorders’, I thought it appropriate to go on record with a perspective that goes beyond the label…
The label is on a circumstance, not on your identity
What does being slow to put words on paper say about you? Not a lot.
What does being slower than everyone in your class say about you? Very little.
What does trying your best and keeping a good attitude say about you? Lots!
If your car gets a flat tyre, you don’t say the whole car is useless, you simply replace or repair the tyre. Getting rid of a car because it has a flat tyre is about as useful as taking the label of your challenging circumstance and applying it to your identity.
On the contrary, how you face a circumstance that exposes your weakness, is the opportunity to develop your inner strength. If you are to grow bigger than your circumstance, you need to live by a label that is better than your circumstance.
The greater the ability, the more the pieces need to be assembled
When you buy a jigsaw puzzle, what is bigger, the finished picture or the box it came in?
Obviously, it’s the finished picture. Likewise, you just can’t avoid the truth, that the greater the ability you develop, the more it’s going to take assembling the pieces.
When assembling a jigsaw puzzle, it really helps if you look at each piece in context of what you’re working towards, rather than how odd the piece looks by itself.
Some of our challenges, in and of themselves, look like poorly shaped stuff that doesn’t make sense… in the bigger picture though, our potential to achieve for ourselves and to help others, just isn’t going to be complete without them.
You don’t need to solve the puzzle on your own, you just need to be willing to move
What happens if you get someone else to help you finish a jigsaw puzzle? Well, if you choose the right person, it typically means the puzzle is finished faster and with less frustration.
The best people to help you complete the puzzle of your challenges, are those who see your potential, helping you to authentically piece your way through it. A little fresh perspective goes a long way.
Training to overcome your challenge builds strength and capacity
It’s been said that you will always fall to the level of your training. Particularly with looking to overcome learning challenges, there is a hidden advantage in the opportunity to tailor and deliver a higher level of training, initially out of the necessity of the condition.
Particularly if this is developed into a framework for continued, intentional training, there is an opportunity to develop strength and capacity that exceeds that of others who never had to face the challenge you did.
It could be argued that this is a contributing factor behind why so many highly successful people started with a disadvantage, yet later excelled far beyond expectations.
Perhaps the opposite is also true, that many never face a challenge sufficient enough for them to need to build the strength and capacity that would see their potential realised.
In this light, is your challenge in fact your advantage?
A great success always starts with a great challenge
As much as we all like the idea of a quick fix, I am yet to be convinced that it actually exists. Anything worth having, has a price.
If you want the result (and the capacity to appreciate it fully), you’re going to take the time to put in the effort to pay it.
Also worth noting, is that avoiding challenge also carries a price…
What is the right label?
So what was the label that inspired this post? The official diagnosis is ‘attention deficit disorder’. What label do I give to the individual behind that label? Well, he is creative, has an amazing capacity to care for others, contribute ideas, gives of his best and much more.
Whilst this doesn’t currently show if you ask him to put words on paper, there are many other areas where you can see the pieces of an amazing masterpiece coming together.
With this in mind, I think a more fitting label would be along the lines of ‘emerging talent’, but the real challenge, as with all of us, is the label we choose to live with and give to ourselves.
It’s time to write your own label for your circumstance
Chances are, as you’ve been reading this, that you’re thinking of a challenge of your own, or someone close to you. Perhaps it has a diagnosis, a number, or some other label, by which you’re now accustomed to referring to it.
In light of who you really are, the potential you really have and all that you were created to be, what is the label that it should have? What label should you be living by?
Perhaps it’s time to take out one of those labelling machines and create a whole new label…
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