Why are challenges a challenge?

I suppose they wouldn’t be called challenges otherwise, right? So how do we tackle them? What makes them so… challenging? Methinks it has to do with the things I’m about to write. They’re not groundbreaking, and I don’t think they’re new, but they’re worth stating.

First, we should remember that our attitude determines our altitude. Don’t know who said this, but it holds true here. How we perceive a challenge, whatever it might be, determines how we deal with it. Is it insurmountable? Do we think it is? Then we’ll cower before it and procrastinate till we absolutely can’t procrastinate anymore. And then, we’ll put out a mediocre, last-minute, so-called solution to the challenge that faced us. We’ll hope it’s good enough, and keep our heads low so we don’t meet with such challenges again. Or worse, we’ll give up. We’ll avoid it. We’ll call it quits.

Or do we find it an easy task? Great, then we’ll get right to work on it, till we get stuck, and all of a sudden, that small challenge starts growing before our eyes. The more stuck we get at whatever phase we are in our progress, the more scary the challenge becomes. If there’s a deadline looming, things get worse. All of a sudden, it’s insurmountable. It’s there that we face a choice. Do we move forward and get over that obstacle, or do we do what I outlined in the paragraph above? Most people opt for the “so-called solution”. Of course, others move right past that obstacle. They find a way, and they complete what they set out to do. We call them winners. I suppose we could call the others wieners, at the expense of offending them…

So what is it that separates the winner from the wiener? (I love saying that…) I don’t think it’s just innate ability, although that plays a part. The thing is, all of us have different gifts, and while we may be great at some things, we’re not so good at others. So what stumps us may be a piece of cake for the next fellow. What’s more, that means that we’ve all been winners AND wieners, so there’s no reason for anyone to feel offended. I think we can all think of times when we met with success, and times when we failed… or we put out the “so-called solution” and got by, but felt we could have done much better. I think what separates us is the ability (and this is not innate, but learned) to step back and look at things in a different light when we’re faced with an obstacle. It doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily come up with the solution, but it means we’ll give it another go, with a different mindset. It may mean we call for help, or we try a different method, or we go back to the drawing board — the specifics of what we do are different for each challenge. The point is, we don’t quit, we persevere.

What also helps is breaking down each challenge into bite-sized morsels. I actually can’t stress this enough, because it goes back to what I wrote in the second paragraph above. This directly affects our attitude, which then all but determines our success. I’ve found time and time again that if we take the time to plan something carefully and break it down into small steps, while that challenge may be huge, it becomes achievable and much less intimidating. I wrote “morsels” before because each step should feel like a small achievement, a victory, a reward that we can give ourselves. Feel free to do a little dance if you wish when you achieve a step in the process. Marking progress encourages us to push forward. I think it’s called a positive feedback loop.

It’s funny that no matter how intellectually advanced humans are (okay, that point may be a little debatable when we consider humanity as a whole…) we are motivated in the same way as animals. We give a hamster a morsel of food repeatedly after performing a certain action, and he’ll keep doing that action in the hope of getting more food. Pavlov’s dog is another example of this. Sure, we don’t usually strive to achieve goals for food — we do it for a sense of accomplishment, success, pride, vanity, lust, money, power, sex, things, and sometimes, food… but it still works the same, and that’s funny to me.

The next time you are faced with a challenge, remember, don’t be a wiener, be a winner. Break it down into small, achievable steps. Find out what motivates you (hopefully it isn’t something bad) and feed that motivation with little morsels of success. Get help when you’re stuck, or look at it in a different light. Above all, don’t give up, keep at it, and before long, you’ll find you’ve overcome it.