Is it necessary to expose ourselves to the opposite of our nature in order to grow?

I think it’s safe to say that my nature is very steady, calm, generally relaxed and predictable, and focused on maintaining comfort and predictability. I may not like that reality, but I do think it’s the truth. So then I must ask myself whether, in order to expand my horizons and to become a better person, I must deliberately jump into things that are oppositional. I’m not sure what the answer is.

If it is indeed necessary, it leads me to conclude that not only would real growth occur at the cost of real stress, since anyone seeking to challenge themselves would find their non-preferred mode of being inherently stressful, but that it must be consciously chosen. So we must therefore decide to embark upon a journey of growth, and must then deliberately do the things we prefer not to do, for the sake of growing.

On the other hand, if we doubt the assertion that growth must occur through the different, then we could assert that by diving perhaps deeper into our own natures and preferences can lead to expansion of thought and capability. We’d be foolish in this case to deliberately stress ourselves, since it would be counter to true learning and betterment.

My gut tells me that the challenge is, in fact, necessary to growing; that reaching for the opposite of ourselves is actually a precondition of real change and growth. On the other hand, I also know that my deep preference is for going “with my gut”, and that I should perhaps not trust that direction. That is, since my preference of going with instinct is so clearly my nature, even if I assert that challenge is necessary, since it was asserted through my own instinct, it might actually be an argument in favor of learning and growing through that which comforts. Would I have asserted we should challenge ourselves by first analyzing all options? That’s counter to my nature, and I wouldn’t want to do it.

I read in Rolling Stone that Madonna has always felt herself to “have a fire lit under her ass”, and that she doesn’t feel like she connects with people who aren’t as driven to accomplish things. Perhaps it’s the nature of the person that determines how that individual best moves forward. If we assume that Madonna is a person who likes conflict and challenge (a safe assumption, given her words in that interview, and the actions of her career), it seems doubtful that her own growth could have occurred without that presence of challenge. Would she have thrived in a comfy environment? More directly, does her challenging nature require challenge in order to expand itself? And in the converse, does someone with more of a steadying nature, someone reluctant to challenge for its own sake (maybe like me), grow more through steadiness?

Again the key question arrives: is challenge a necessary precondition to growth and learning? For what it’s worth, I do my best work under deadlines, and Madonna’s been practicing yoga and studying Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, for decades. Are those facts proof of the need to do the opposite, or just happenstance? Correlations, or causations?

What is your nature, and what do you think?