The Cyclical Reality of Challenge

Posted November 29, 2012 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

LinkedIn blogger and organizational psychologist Dr. Maria Gottschalk eloquently talked in her most recent LinkedIn post about “The Dilemma of Challenge,” and her post was both thought-provoking and, oddly enough, challenging. She asks us all to consider what challenge means to us, and which challenges in our lives and our careers are worth taking, pointing out that challenge for one person might spell disaster for another.

But among her many incredible points was this gem:

View challenge as a cycle – not a constant state. Challenge may need to ebb and flow, allowing for rest. Instead of always pushing toward the next great assignment, map out a 5-year “challenge plan” that covers all the “should haves” in a logical and well-paced manner.

Challenge is something we’re taught, all our lives, to seek out and to conquer. What’s the next big thing for you? What’s the next job? Where’s the next raise? Who’s the next person who will change your life? Where’s your next date, boyfriend, friend, husband coming from? Next, next, next, next, next, next, next. It’s all about what’s next, and when you’re constantly looking at what’s next, it means you’re constantly seeking out challenge. When you run a 5k, people ask you when you’re going to run a 10k, then a half marathon, then a marathon. I learned first hand last year that there’s no such thing as just running a half. For me, it was the biggest thing I’d ever done, but for everyone around me it meant being able to ask me when I’m running a marathon, to which my panting for breath, tired self wanted to scream, “Are you kidding me?!?!”

It’s the same reason we ask people getting engaged when they’re getting married, and people who just got married when they’re having children. Because we are conditioned to seek out and conquer the next challenge every time.

But let me ask you this: what would happen if you accepted Maria’s notion that challenge is cyclical (because truthfully, that’s reality) and said that this year, you’re not going to challenge, you’re going to rest? It inherently sounds counter intuitive, doesn’t it? How could you possibly cycle out of challenge without feeling guilty, annoyed, and constantly thinking about the next thing. Here’s how: accept that challenge can and will naturally make itself back into your life and you won’t need to seek it out. We’re human, and we will find challenge entirely without effort in our lives. So if you’ve been in a constant state of challenge recently, do everything you can now to cycle out of that challenge bit in your life and into a more relaxed state. This reality-based cycling can mean you’ll accomplish more and love your life every day. Appreciate it!

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."