Young or old, it doesn’t matter. We (especially the gifted) need a challenge going in our lives- at all times. It’s a common thread that pulls each of us toward novelty and excellence. It’s why an average work/life just isn’t enough. We’ve got to be doing more.
More can come in the form of work, family, friends, or personal goals, but we strive to innovate and perfect rather than settle in. Often, we can become complacent in our lives, but when challenges go away, so does our enthusiasm for life, our energy, and our dreams. Then the doubts, the anxiety, and the procrastination creeps in. We begin to feel like failures. The good news is that we’re not failures, we just need a new challenge.
Challenges give us a reason to look toward the future. I was one of those crazy teachers that actually couldn’t wait for Monday to come for so many years. Why? During my autonomous years, I created new activities, approached my lessons with vim and vigor (must vim always be coupled with vigor) and couldn’t wait to get to school to try out my new innovations. It wasn’t tiring to work all day and work several more hours at night- it was energizing. Why? I was on a mission to pursue my personal best. I craved the challenge.
Meeting my own challenges
I eventually left my public school teaching career behind because autonomy was no longer something that was valued in the schools where I worked. It left me little room to improve. It left me with no challenge. My mind stopped searching for more and I felt I was growing stagnant, inconsequential, and stilted. I needed a challenge. God and my son had a card up their sleeve. I was soon to be homeschooling a gifted child.
Even though I’d been a classroom teacher for decades, dealing with your own child (especially a gifted child) is a whole ‘nother ball game. I have that challenge. On days when I feel like I need more of a personal challenge, I reach out and write or connect to expand my understandings with other like-minded people. Since leaving formal education, I’ve created this blog and started a group for Gifted Adults. I’m enjoying a modicum of success with both, but they’ll only satisfy me until I grow complacent and need another challenge. I’m only satisfied when I’m aiming towards my personal best.
Do kids really need challenges? Isn’t growing up challenging enough?
My gifted child is going through the doldrums lately. He’s desperate for a challenge, but is bucking all of the wonderful ideas I am coming up with because though they’re fantastic (ha), they’re not his ideas. He hasn’t shaken off the routine; the comfortableness of where he is and what he’s doing yet. He hasn’t embraced the idea of a challenge. He’s too busy avoiding risk taking and failure to work towards being his personal best. He’s stagnant and dissatisfied. We have many existential conversations in those late hours.
Yes, kids need challenges too. It’s one of the struggles that I met often as a teacher. Many parents instead prefer to coddle their children (yes, I find myself there sometimes too) rather than urging them towards their next challenge. Grades can demonstrate achievement, but personal best is a better way to describe the goals of a gifted child or adult. We don’t always accept the definitions of society and instead prefer to know when we’re on the right path by reflecting upon our intrinsic perceptions.
How do you know if you need a challenge?
You might feel empty, worthless, or just itching to DO SOMETHING. Taking steps (even baby steps count) towards a goal will set you on the right path. When you’re feeling fulfilled, you’re probably in the midst of a challenge. It may not be a tangible one, but if it’s engaging your mind and spirit at the moment it’s probably satiating your need for challenge. Feeling unfulfilled, that feeling that something is missing is often a precursor to a new challenge readying itself.
How can you get into the challenge mindset?
Good question. I don’t have an answer for that one. I guess I’d say to recognize your feelings of emptiness or worthlessness not as a negative, but instead as a positive in the making. Those feelings are trying to tell you something. All of life is about learning, and if you’re not learning something you’re stagnant and ripe for anxieties to kick in. Whether you set a long-term, short-term, or 5 minute challenge, it’s a kick in the right direction.
How can you continue to challenge yourself?
When you’re at your lowest, you’ve let yourself sink too far. Catching it sooner next time will help. If you are down in the dumps already, set small challenges. Jay Papasan and Les McGehee catapaulted themselves to the top by focusing on ONE THING A DAY. It sounds amazing, but read on to see why it worked.
Bascially, we set up ourselves for failure by expecting too much when we can’t handle it. If we’re going like gangbusters and someone says, “Just finish one thing” it’s easy. It’s not even a challenge and we move on to much much more. When we feel like we’re not accomplishing anything, one thing is good for now; but it will multiply quickly and then we’re back into the challenge mindset without it seeming like a burden. Instead, it will be a pleasure.
I’m off to challenge my own child today. My challenge for the day will end as soon as I get to the end of this sentence and hit publish.