There are many things in life that present challenges. At times things can seem too challenging, others not challenging enough. Can we live without challenge? Perhaps the search is for the challenge that is “just right”? Not too challenging. Not too easy.
What about you? Do you like a challenge?
The nature of challenge
Challenges present something that is difficult to do, that requires effort. Challenges can also be accompanied by fear and anxiety. The value of challenge is to take you out of your comfort zone, to make you stretch to achieve something and learn more about yourself and your capabilities.
There is an inherent and intrinsic value to setting yourself challenges and then working to achieve them. It is more than just satisfaction, as Dan Ariely demonstrates.
If you read books of people who climb mountains, difficult mountains, do you think that those books are full of moments of joy and happiness? No, they are full of misery … frostbite and having difficulty walking, and difficulty breathing — cold, challenging circumstances. And if people were just trying to be happy, the moment they would get to the top, they would say, “This was a terrible mistake. I’ll never do it again.” But instead, people go down, and after they recover, they go up again. … It suggests that we care about reaching the end, a peak. It suggests that we care about the fight, about the challenge.
~ Dan Ariely
Challenge is a choice
Like most things in life, there are choices about challenges. You can choose to avoid them, and take an easier path. But how realistic is that? In truth, most things you learn are as a result of some sort of challenge – although it may not appear that way.
By avoiding challenge, we don’t have the opportunities to learn about ourselves.
~ Stephen Joseph
We are presented with many small challenges every day and deal with them without thinking too much. This comes with change. When you are driving and you encounter road works, you take the indicated detour or you find one.
It is the more substantial challenges that cause us to pause – the ones where there is more at stake, where the detour is not always obvious or easy. This is the stuff that makes us grow. By dealing with these disturbances in our equilibrium, we learn how we can best deal with and resolve difficult situations.
The value of rising to the challenge
Learning is certainly one of the benefits of rising to challenges. The learning is not just about the content of the issue. It is also learning about how to tackle it – how to manage ourselves and the anxiety that a challenge provokes. It is about how to “frame” it in our own mind.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is another benefit of meeting challenges. More value is placed on hard-won achievement. When something has been difficult and you have put in the effort to resolve it yourself, it is perceived as being more valuable. Not only is there that sense of satisfaction, but also the sense that you have earned it. Anything that is resolved too easily, seems to hold less value or has cost us less.
I have seen this over and over. When people get things too easily, they don’t seem to appreciate them as much. If they have had to work for them, to sweat, to strive, to go without in pursuit of an achievement, their investment is keenly felt. What’s more, sometimes people seem to need to make things harder for themselves so that they can find out what they can do – what they are capable of, what makes them real!
“A life without challenge, a life without hardship, a life without purpose, seems pale and pointless. With challenge come perseverance and gumption. With hardship come resilience and resolve. With purpose come strength and understanding.”
~ Terry Fallis
What can we learn here?
When we are challenged by a situation, it provokes anxiety. Learning to manage that anxiety is where the juicy learning occurs. We can learn to:
- Take stock – get perspective on the situation
Try and get an objective view of what is happening. Can you see yourself being subject to the circumstances? Can you separate yourself from that – take a helicopter view of the situation and “see” your role in it?
- Chunk it up – into smaller, manageable bits
Deal with one chunk at a time. Give yourself a break in between. Reward yourself as you progress, chunk by chunk.
- Feel the fear – and do it anyway
Notice the anxiety that rises when challenges present. Acknowledge this. It is part of the process. If you can have this awareness, it moves you closer to be able to accept it as “normal”, to be able to tolerate is while taking action to move forward.
None of this happens in a vacuum. Talk to people. Share your ideas and your concerns. You will see others have the same or similar things going on. By talking about it, you can connect on a more meaningful level. By disclosing and sharing your own vulnerabilities, you demonstrate and develop your own strength further.
Do you have a story to share about dealing with challenges? I would love to hear it, and to share it here of you are interested. Email me so we can connect.