'Healthy Hard' Versus 'Unhealthy Hard' Challenges


Mark Householder compares the difference between healthy and unhealthy challenges.

On Jan 27, 2014, I sat across the table from a leader on the verge of taking on a new challenge. As we looked into each other’s eyes, he said to me, “This job and journey will be hard.” I had to agree. The assignment that he was taking on would stretch and challenge the best of leaders. But then I said, “It must be ‘healthy hard.’” No job is worth the devastation that “unhealthy hard” could bring to a person’s life.

When I refer to “unhealthy hard,” I am referring to the long-term, systemic and destructive hardness that our lives are not made to withstand over longer periods of time.

You might be experiencing an unhealthy hard situation if:

  1. Your role significantly surpasses your capacity and skill-set so that you feel  consistently overwhelmed
  2. The weight that you feel in the role causes emotional, relational and even physical damage
  3. You are cut off from the resources and support that you need, and vital nutrients cannot get to your system
  4. Stress and stress behavior are the norms
  5. You have lost hope as energy and passion are missing from your life
  6. Getting out of bed morning after morning is a major challenge
  7. Your reality has turned you into a negative, draining, cynical, self-centered, prideful and destructive person
  8. You are living in emotionally, relationally or spiritually painful situations and there seems to be no end in sight

My co-worker and I envision a “healthy hard” journey and process for him in this role. Here is what I see for a healthy hard experience:

  1. The right people resources are in place to supply needed nutrients, vitamins and antibiotics for my friend’s leadership system
  2. Priorities are clear, making both “yes” and “no” decisions easier to make
  3. Good processes are in place and decisions are made in a timely manner. “Traction” is the result
  4. Internal capacity and structure is built
  5. The challenge brings out your best
  6. Energy and passion are sustained and expanded
  7. Creativity, innovation and problem-solving flow
  8. Energy-drains and “black holes” are identified and eliminated

Is your reality hard?

Is it healthy or unhealthy?


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