I hope your “spring” (at least that’s how it feels in Arizona) is off to a great start and holds some fun challenges for you. I realized on my morning run today how pursuing happiness is a mistake.
This all fell into place last weekend when my son and I were climbing with a friend of mine. We reached a place where the next step was to go up a steep wall when we were pretty high off the ground. Mind you my friend and I had climbed this route many times before and had good safety systems in place, but it still looked scary.
As we were getting ready to go up, my son quietly told me that he was scared, so I suggested he try the first few moves and see how he felt. I made sure he knew I would be close to him at all times to keep him safe, and that this was a challenge that we chose that would help us be better people.
Why would anyone choose a challenge? Isn’t happiness the goal? It is, but the paradox is that by striving for happiness, we chase it away. Think of it like a cat, if you chase it, it will run away. If you sit down and create a comfortable place for it, it will eventually jump up in your lap and start purring.
How do you get happiness to come to us? According to Psychologists who study it, seeking challenge is the key, however the challenge needs to be the right type at the right dose. What types of challenge are there? I think about them in terms of chosen challenges and constructed challenges. Chosen challenges are those that you welcome and even seek out. These could be losing that last 15 pounds, completing a 5K race, getting an overdue raise, or finally writing that book.
Constructed challenges are those that you may not choose, like health challenges, relationship stressors, and friction at work. Your brain is hard wired to seek out things to focus on. If you create challenges that are compelling to you: these automatically shift you into a state of curiosity and creativity. Having created challenges does not mean you will not have constructed challenges but it does mean you will be in a better state to deal with them effectively.
Finding good challenges is not hard; your brain is very good at this, the hard part is not walking away from them. They always look scary when you are approaching them, but the benefits are worth it.
Back to the climb, once we got a few moves up the wall, my son told me that it was not as hard as he thought and he was feeling better about it. That is always the case with challenges, once you are in the work of it, its OK. The hard part is never the climb; it is always the anticipation.
We got to the top, and had a nice celebration enjoying the view before rappelling down.
If you look really close on the top right of the rappelling picture, you can see a group of hikers who gathered to watch us climb. The moment my son’s feet touched the ground, they all burst out in applause and congratulations for him. He was met with high fives and admiring questions like: “how old are you?” and “how did you do that?” By the time I got down, he was still beaming and talked about it the whole way home.
Wherever you are at in life, find yourself a healthy challenge and chase it to the sky. I’ll see you on the way!