The fates lead him who will-him who won't they drag.
-- Seneca

 

   

The MONTHLY Motivator - February 2003

Thriving on challenge

Have you ever noticed that life is best at those times when it is the most challenging. A quick look back will confirm that the most fondly remembered and valuable experiences also had some kind of significant challenges associated with them.

Why is that? Because it is your very nature to overcome challenges. You are exquisitely equipped to thrive on the challenges. In fact, ever since the moment you were born you have been successfully dealing with challenges ranging from staying alive to getting attention to improving your environment and the world around you.

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to have no challenges at all. There would be no decisions to be made, no problems to be solved, no physical effort or exertion necessary, nothing new to be learned, no relationships to nurture. And there would be nothing to accomplish, no way to achieve a genuine sense of satisfaction, no means by which you could grow stronger.

Making progress in life is not a matter of completely freeing yourself from the challenges, for that would render life virtually meaningless. In fact, making real progress is a matter of constantly moving on toward more and more meaningful and valuable challenges. By so doing, you are fulfilling the best of your possibilities.

The more willing you are to take on challenges, the more richness you’ll bring into your life and your world. The best teachers are not the ones who simply explain the material, but rather the ones who challenge their students to explain it. The best coaches are the ones who refuse to accept anything less than outstanding performance.

The more challenges you have, the more you learn, and the more you grow. Challenge can inspire you to innovation. It motivates you to get started and to keep going. Challenge can make strong and gives you the confidence to attempt great things.

Challenge can often be frustrating, yet in that frustration is a powerful degree of motivation. The worse you feel, the more willing you are to do something about it. Challenges provide you with that edge, and can bring out a strong desire to move forward. When you seek out challenge, what you end up finding is opportunity. What you end up creating as the result of taking on challenges is real and lasting value.

A key part of thriving on challenge is to know why the challenge is meaningful to you, and to keep yourself focused on that reason, that purpose, as you undertake the difficult effort necessary to deal with the challenge. Sometimes you’ll be facing challenges that you’ve chosen. Other challenges will be thrust upon you. Yet both kinds of challenges have a clear and compelling meaning for you. Otherwise you would not be facing them.

With a challenge that you’ve chosen, the reason for taking on that challenge will be clear and straightforward to you. But it is easy for that reason to be overwhelmed by the sheer difficulty involved in working through the challenge. So it’s important to remind yourself on a regular basis why you’re doing it in the first place. Before choosing to take on a significant challenge, spell out in writing exactly what your reasons are for doing so. Think of, and write down, as many personally meaningful reasons as possible. Illustrate what you’ve written with photographs or other visual cues, if appropriate. The more real and specific you can make it, the more it will continue inspiring you to do whatever is necessary to successfully move through the challenge.


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—Ralph Marston