I was always mediocre at math. I barely scraped by and opted out as soon as I could. I recently started learning microeconomics. It hurts my brain. However, it is incredibly stimulating. The perspectives, the intricacies of supply and demand, and the theory behind it all. With each problem I solve, I feel a sense of fulfillment, a sense of triumph. I’ve conquered another fraction equation, albeit barely.
However, the overarching doom of math looms over me. Still, I love it because it is challenging.
Everyone Needs a Real Challenge
All the physical, psychological, and spiritual growth you’ve experienced as a human being has been a result of a challenge. It has destroyed your barriers and pushed you against the ropes. In those particular moments your concentration was invigorated, your ingenuity called upon, and your fortitude and courage tested.
The struggle meant something to you and you focused on the activity without any perception of time. Self-consciousness seemed to melt away. That’s when real growth and change occurred.
Goals vs. Real Challenges
We all have plenty of goals in our daily lives and are busy multitasking, trying to satisfy our co-workers and spouses, while dealing with our day-to-days. Even ‘challenging’ goals hardly demand your concentrated attention, and mostly consist of daily routines.
A real challenge, on the other hand, demands your full efforts and abilities. There lies the true difference between feeling a real challenge versus ticking something of a goal list.
Goal thinking is about the destination; figuring out the ending outcome. Challenge thinking commands thoughts about the journey; it’s about giving more of yourself.
Maxim #1: A Real Challenge Demands Undivided Attention
A real challenge demands your undivided attention, as it absorbs and engages your entire mental and physical presence. It requires focus and must be something important, that compels completion now.
Each economics lesson, strained my mental capacity to the point that my brain sweat. Struggling through galvanized complete concentration. Similarly, public speaking doesn’t allow you do have side-thoughts. Everything occurs in the moment.
Maxim #2: A Real Challenge Stretches You
Choose challenges that are slightly beyond your comfort zone, that stretches your abilities. Aim to feel a little strain.
Don’t go from difficulty level one to level ten. Instead, try two or three instead, and feel the stretch with an impending sense of gratification.
I have a base level understanding of math, but economics forces my brain to use everything I know, plus a little more. If you’re a good public speaker that relies on notes, choosing to go without notes will stretch you.
Maxim #3: A Real Challenge Tracks Performance
Provide yourself with performance markers to track your progress during your challenge. While it seems like common sense, few people build progress checks into their challenges.
People get inspired, start strong, and fizzle out shortly after. Crafting your next challenge with progress markers will not only be more satisfying, but also makes it easier to continue.
Economics becomes a more satisfying experience when I can measure my competency. Presentations are more fulfilling when you can see the audience’s faces and reactions to your voice.
Maxim #4: A Real Challenge Possesses a Sense of Completion
Have a finish line in the forefront of your mind. A sense of completion gives your challenge an end. Pat yourself on the back when you hit each marker. Each small win will push you toward the next.
On Khan Academy, each lesson awards points that add to my total score, unlocking benefits. Even though the points are moderately meaningless, I strive. With each lesson, I collect more, chasing a sense of completion.
The public speaker tracks each speech and grants a pat on the back for each section of the speech. Negative or positive outcomes don’t matter; allow sense of completion to dominate.
Maxim #5: A Real Challenge Allows Sharing of Experiences and Results
You feel fulfilled implementing the last four maxims, but this last one puts the icing on the cake. Talking about and celebrating our personal victories with others is a powerful psychological experience.
Imagine the difference in feelings between the following scenarios. You practiced hard for a presentation, and after the mental strain of writing and memorizing; you completed a daunting speech in front of 400 people.
In one ending, you walk alone to your car, go home and never speak of it again. In the other, you celebrate with the energy of the crowd and hug your family and friends. Which outcome feels more fulfilling?
Talking about how strenuous microeconomics is fills my mind with an unabated sense of gratification. Sharing my experiences and results brings forth a recognition of my hard work and perseverance, which contributes to my sense of self-fulfillment.
Sometimes, I want to quit economics, but I am constantly reminded of these five maxims. Reflecting on each of my previous challenges, made clear sense that these five maxims were present. Now that you’re conscious of them, use them to intelligently craft new challenges that push you further in all areas of your life.