To achieve Step 4, individuals should show that they can take a positive attitude to new challenges.
In earlier steps, individuals built some of the foundations of this step. They have shown they can recognise and take pride in success, as well as knowing when something is too difficult or dangerous for them to attempt.
The building blocks of this step are learning:
In the previous step, we explore the idea of being successful – that is, being able to achieve success criteria. We saw that it was essential to take pride and enjoy that success.
Over time though, we mustn’t just stick to safe challenges – only doing things where we think that we are very likely to achieve the success criteria. It might feel that we are very successful initially, but eventually we will take less satisfaction from doing the same things over and over again.
The bigger problem is that if we only do the same challenges or activities over and over again we will stop learning.
When we first do an activity or use a new skill, we tend not to be very good at it. We find it difficult because we have to think hard about how to do it, and we will often make mistakes. Over time though, we get better at it – it starts to feel more natural and we are more successful.
This is because we have learnt how to do the task well, and we will be able to do that task again in the future with success. This expands the range of what we can do and means that we can be confident in lots more situations.
Anything that we have learnt to do in our lives started off being difficult – whether learning to read and write, swim, ride a bicycle, cook, or any number of other skills we have built over time. By working hard at them, and adding those skills to our toolkit, we are much better able to be successful in lots of different situations in the future.
Sometimes we will be given challenges to work on – particularly in education where teachers will often think hard about what the next thing to learn is to give the right level of challenge. However, in education, it is still good to push ourselves to try difficult tasks, and outside of education – in the workplace, or our broader lives – we have to take even more responsibility for finding challenges for ourselves.
In finding or setting ourselves challenges, we need to get the balance right:
Instead, we need to find our stretch zone. This is the area where the level of challenge is just right – where we have enough support to help us be successful, but not too much to make it easy. In our stretch zone, we should feel like it what we are doing is difficult and needs us to think and work hard – but it should not feel impossible.
The reward of working in our stretch zone is lots of learning – and therefore being able to get better.
In education there are lots of opportunities to take on new challenges: starting a new class, learning a different topic or subject, managing homework or independent study, working with new people or volunteering on a student council. Taking on different challenges is what helps us learn and is anexciting way to discover new interests. In every subject, when we find our stretch zone we should feel like the balance is just right – not too easy but not too difficult. We can try to work out our stretch zone ourselves or our teachers may support us and suggest work that is at the right level.
The context of the workplace is rapidly changing and jobs and projects can often present new challenges. Working with a positive approach helps us grow and develop our skills and can open up new pathways in our career. We might take on a new responsibility, navigate new software or collaborate with a different team. Working positively also helps to create a good environment for those around us, be it our colleagues, customers or clients.
We can come across challenges in all areas of our lives. We might find we have reached a point in a hobby or sport where it is too easy, or we no longer enjoy it as much, and feel ready to take on the next level. If we avoid doing things which are more challenging, and just stick to what we are already good at, then we won’t learn or improve. For example, we might feel nervous about meeting people but by staying positive we have the chance to make new friends. Often if we look back at challenges we have overcome, and the decisions we made as a result, these are key moments which we can be proud of and which help us to move forward.
To best practise this step of Aiming High, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!
To teach this step:
This step lends itself to reinforcement in the classroom. The teacher can introduce opportunities for learners to take on more stretching challenges if they feel that they can quickly achieve the success criteria for tasks that they have been given.
Recognition can also be given to learners who are trying out something new and stretching so that they build new knowledge or skill. This is an essential complement to recognising success.
This step is best assessed through sustained observation and reflection with learners about whether they seek out new challenges or whether they stay in their comfort zone of only doing things that they know they will be successful at.
This step is relevant to everyone who has the opportunity to take on new challenges in the workplace.
To build this step in the work environment, managers could:
There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:
For those already employed, this step is best assessed through sustained observation. For instance:
During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed for by:
We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.
We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:
We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.
At home, you can easily support your child to build their essential skills. The good news is that there
are lots of ways that you can have a big impact, including: