"difficulty builds mental muscle, while ease often builds only confidence"*
And then what do we do with that confidence? We act on it. But we haven't built the brain muscle to act appropriately. Self-esteem is good but it seems sometimes we put the cart before the horse when we give people (and ourselves) easy tasks so that they can succeed and feel good about themselves. We've done no one any service when we promote someone who isn't really capable, applaud mediocre work, hand out awards to those who showed up rather than holding them accountable to difficult goals.
Would you expect to be able to run a marathon because you can run around the corner without getting out of breath?
What can we do to encourage others, and ourselves and our children to try the difficult challenges, yes, maybe fail, and applaud the effort while encouraging them/us to try again?
*From: Come On, I Thought I Knew That! By Benedict Carey (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/health/19mind.html?pagewanted=1)