Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
A man found a cocoon for a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared stuck.
The man decided to help the butterfly and with a pair of scissors he cut open the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. Something was strange. The butterfly had a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man watched the butterfly expecting it to take on its correct proportions. But nothing changed.
The butterfly stayed the same. It was never able to fly. In his kindness and haste the man did not realize that the butterfly's struggle to get through the small opening of the cocoon is nature's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight.
I believe it is in our nature to immediately run to those who are struggling, offer them assistance, and help them minimize the struggles they face. Unfortunately, this does very little to prepare them for the struggles to come. As a parent, one of the toughest things I do is watch my children struggle. Spelling is tough and math can be even tougher. I immediately want to jump in, find the solution, and end their homework misery. However, when they find themselves in the classroom the next day and they begin to struggle - instead of turning to themselves they look for someone else to help them. I have taught them nothing if I do not teach them to figure something out for themselves - to endure a struggle - to keep going, keep trying, and continue fighting until the struggle ceases.
This applies to almost every aspect of life - personal or professional. When professionals struggle, we look to fix or help them through the situation. What if we stopped doing this and started asking them to come up with their own solutions to these problems? What if we viewed each person as capable? What if we considered struggles to be the mechanism for development and preparation for what's to come?
We can certainly learn from others and sometimes that is exactly what we need to do. Fact is, before we offer assistance - give an individual a chance to try and struggle through the challenge. If they get frustrated and want to quit - give them a piece of the solution and motivate them to continue trying. This teaches them skills needed to cope and work their way through struggles. Jumping in and offering solutions teaches people nothing - other than to turn and look at someone else for a solution which they themselves are fully capable of developing on their own.
Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that human progress required struggling and during the struggles suffering would occur. He knew it would require sacrifice and passion from a dedicated individual to overcome these struggles. He knew that getting through the struggles one faced would inevitably lead to progress, making one stronger, and much more prepared for the struggles yet to come.
Let them struggle (just a little) and in the end they will become stronger as a result of your decision to be still rather than jump in. As always, questions and comments are welcomed!