IN PRAISE OF DIFFICULTY

“It’s easy: you can do it in no time – it’s really quick and no effort”. Our society promotes ease and instant gratification; instant food, pleasure: instant marriage and divorce. But gratification does not lead to satisfaction. In fact it leads to dissatisfaction, because satisfaction arises through the work, effort, tenacity and surmounting difficulties that gives a sense of achievement.

I find myself more and more using the world engagement, in the French sense; the sense of bringing one’s whole self to engage an idea, a problem or an object: to think, to write or to draw without any sense of extrinsic pressure, punishment or reward. In school there is so much extrinsic pressure, so much time we have to do what we did not choose because we are told to, to get a grade or to avoid punishment that it is difficult to find that engagement that leads to real learning.

The qualities necessary to achieve real satisfaction take discipline, another unfashionable word, meaning staying with something; practising, repeating, reworking, even when the initial enthusiasm fades. Excellence comes from work and attention to detail and caring deeply about what you do.

Do this and you will see further into things, discover new depths, complexity and subtlety and, in engaging difficulty, you will find satisfaction.

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