3 Quick Exercises That'll Help You Distinguish Good and Bad Challenges

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Jane Scudder
Jane Scudder

How many times have you learned about a new project starting at work or a new business opportunity forming and no matter how satisfied or not you are in your work, personal life, and/or a combo of those things, think to yourself, “Man! I’d like to be doing that!”

As a society we have have never had as many options as we do — in work and beyond — as we do today. And in turn, choosing how to allocate our time has never been more difficult.

But it doesn't have to be.

A cornerstone of my work as a certified leadership and personal development coach is value establishment. An individual client or organization might think it’s something that should be bypassed or moved through quickly, but the truth of the matter is all roads lead to values. Especially when we’re talking about making choices and whether a new opportunity is a good or bad use of our time and energy.

With clear values established we can determine what matters to us and why, and then can ensure we’re doing our best to live a life honoring our values (provided we want to be living a life aligned with our values — which, in my experience typically is the case).

So why am I bringing up values in this article you’re reading that is supposedly about taking on good vs. bad challenges? Again, all roads lead to values. Which means that understanding your values is the key first step.

There are countless different establishment techniques. As a coach, I’m biased and believe it’s often best to do this with someone else. This is because it’s such a personal thing — I’m often inspired to ask a certain question inspired by the specific client or group with whom I’m working. Also because it’s a never-ending process — you think you may have identified all of your values but in the middle of a conversation with someone else you realize one (or two!) more.

That said, there are some ways you can explore this on your own. Feel out the vibe of the situation and the people around you and stick to your beliefs. Here's how to tell the difference between good challenges and bad ones and three simple things you can do to work on your own values:

1. Journal. Journaling may seem like it’s the answer to everything in the self-help and leadership development community but there’s a reason why it’s such a staple — it works. There’s a difference between what we say in our heads and what we express.

2. Say it out loud… preferably in a conversation with someone who’s committed to your value discovery. Giving our interests and desires voice helps us hear them better. Remember how I said there's a difference between saying something in our heads and writing it down? It changes again when we give it voice. Get in the habit of doing this.

3. Ask yourself, “What matters to me?” This is an intentionally very opened ended question and is a good place to begin that journaling and conversation if you’re unsure where to start. The first step in doing something meaningful and aligned with your values is to figure out what those are.

After you begin to get clear on your values, actively use them as a guide. When you’re faced with a new opportunity or a choice but can’t decide if it’ll be a “good” or a “bad” move, go back to your values. Are they aligned? Are they being stepped on? Will this work for your against what matters to you?

At the end of the day, the only person who can say for sure whether something will be “good” or “bad” for you is you. But this can be one of the most difficult things to determine. So next time you’re faced with a decision and you’re stuck on whether it may be a forward step or not, go back to your values and assess from there. All decisions we make that honor our values are decisions that will take us in the direction of living our happiest, most fulfilled, and productive lives.



Jane Scudder is a certified leadership and personal development coach, facilitator, and workplace & strategy consultant based in Chicago, IL. She helps individuals and group navigate their careers, teams, and personal lives. Find out more at janescudder.com.