The Concept of Challenge
Challenge is something we are immersed in from an early age but its nature and context are only implicit. We are given no formal explanation of challenge as a concept. Is it an innate drive to strive, to succeed and expand our experience?
How To Cope With Challenges
The word “challenge” has immense power and emotion behind it and is used by most people, in almost a generic way, to describe many different aspects and events in our lives. Yet how many of us have considered what it really means to us and why it is important? If we can understand challenge fully, we can harness its power by setting and achieving our goals, enhancing our lives and pushing ourselves to heights we never thought possible.
Being challenged can be highly motivational and educational. The absence of challenge can lead to boredom and wasted potential.
Challenge Is A Good Thing
While challenges are complex, with innumerable and very different goals, the process of taking on and achieving them is universal. When you talk to people about their challenges, you can sense the passion in their eyes. It is the burning desire and passion that doesn’t go away.
By understanding the various components that make up a challenge and using each stage as a guide, we can successfully reach our goal and learn something new about ourselves as we develop new skills and try new experiences.
The 4 Main Areas of Challenge
Challenge is not a single concept but made up of four main areas. The easiest way to think of these areas is that they are similar to the links in a chain, with each link representing one of the four areas: time, emotion, achievement and motivation. A strong chain of links facilitates the conquering of challenges, whereas an incomplete chain can lead to failure.
Challenge and Time
Challenges invariably have a time element associated with them – a beginning, middle and end – but the time associated may vary from challenge to challenge. It could be short term (you need to complete a work task by the end of the week), medium term (you are dealing with a mental or physical health issue that may be with you throughout your lifetime).
This timeframe for challenges can take the form of lists of desires and dreams, to be completed by a given time. These could be work-related, such as “by the time I am 30 I want to be married and settled down”. A major challenge may be to lose 7lbs in two months. However, once this challenge is completed successfully in the timeframe, the decision might be to lose another 5lbs in another two months thus creating a new challenge and timeframe.
Challenge and Emotions
There are many different emotions connected with the challenge. Initially, some people can be apprehensive about challenges, but the general consensus is that the greater the challenge, the greater the feeling of elation and happiness at completing it. One of the reasons for this may be that new challenge usually requires the learning of new skills or information in order to complete it, but it is this pushing of personal boundaries that make it worthwhile.
One of the most important parts of emotions and challenge is the “Who are you doing it for?” part. For some individuals it is about proving their capabilities to themselves, it is about self-belief and pushing boundaries. For others, however, it is about proving their abilities to the people around them.
In a work situation, this could be showing you are a capable employee suitable for promotion or, in a personal situation proving to someone who has always put you down or said you will never amount to anything that you are capable of achieving great things and surpassing their low expectations of you.
Ensure the challenge excites and engages you. A challenge should be about passion and excitement; if it is boring, it is not a challenge but just another task, chore or job.
Challenge And Achievement
The ultimate outcome of taking on a challenge is to complete it successfully. This achievement is unique to an individual; it may be climbing Everest or taking a few steps after not being able to move through the pain. If something was easy to complete, individuals may feel that something of value had been accomplished, yet everyone who I have spoken to about challenge has said the challenge they take on has to be “doable”. By that they mean they recognise it may be difficult and push their skills and abilities, but they must still have the opportunity to meet that challenge successfully.
This is the most important part about setting challenges; do not set yourself up to fail from the beginning. There is a very fine line between being close to the edge of your abilities, and going beyond them. Achievement is about pushing yourself but recognising when you may need to enlist the help of others, whether that be for advice and guidance, training or professional services.
Challenge and Motivation
Without motivation, the challenge will not be completed. Levels of motivation will change in relation to the challenge; initially, it may be very high but dip slightly when the challenge becomes harder. As long as some motivation is kept, the challenge is usually met successfully.
Individuals tend to focus on two key types of motivation when taking on a challenge: intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation stems from inside the person and is arguably the strongest motivator. It is driven by personal desires such as wanting to learn new skills or becoming more adept at what we do already and is seen as an opportunity to push ourselves to new heights. Extrinsic motivation refers to rewards such as money, prizes and acknowledgement by others.
People tend to be more motivated if they are in control of the challenge from the planning stage and able to set the goal of the challenge themselves. This is because it allows them a personal “buy-in” to the challenge and to set their own strategies to complete it, rather than have strategies imposed on them.
Challenge is hard and can be frustrating and stressful, but there is little to beat that feeling of happiness, pride and accomplishment of taking on a challenge and achieving it.