We’re all created with an innate need to be challenged.
God created paradise (Garden of Eden) with challenges in it. Adam and Eve weren’t simply lounging in a zero-gravity memory foam hammock while living in the garden (although can you imagine?? I’m sure we’ll get those in heaven). Instead, they were naming animals (potentially chasing those bad boys down first), gardening wild plants and flowers, and (unsuccessfully) avoiding huge snakes. Point being, there is a whole lot more to life, and to what composes who we are as humans, than comfort and relaxation.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say we were created for adventure and challenge. Think about it. This purpose explains the reason we get up and go to the gym.Challenge is the same reason we work hard to increase our salary/status/power hold, etc. Sometimes, we find ourselves seeking to grow within a social group or societal structure. Why? We naturally crave challenge.
Additionally, sometimes our day jobs don’t provide us with the necessary challenges and adventure we want or need to fill our lives with meaningful events. Which leads us to the question, “How do we provide worthy challenge to ourselves?”
There are primarily three areas most of us choose to present a challenge to ourselves: mental, physical, or cause-related.
A physical challenge is the easiest for me to identify with, and often looks like taking up a competitive sport or physical training regimen. For me, this manifests itself in trail running, cross fitting, and adventure racing. For others, a physical challenge may include joining a yoga class or spinning studio. Personally, I believe physical challenges should be incorporated into everyone’s lives because of the surrounding benefits they almost always include.
For other more studious individuals, conquering an academic study or intellectual debate is the hurdle they focus on to provide the challenge they need. People have left their jobs mid-career to pursue a new Master’s degree, or launch themselves into a pile of research to develop an expertise around a specific topic. These people are seeking challenge.
Others yet, commit themselves to a problem so big and so vast they know they cannot conquer the entire beast, but will die trying to make a difference. My friend, Andrew Zallie, recently returned from a prolonged trip to Ghana with aspirations to pursue this sort of challenge. Additionally, groups like Pencils of Promise and Rice Bowls (as well as many others) are dedicated to this form of adventure.
Whatever the obstacle, each of these options holds some inherent cost or expense to you (or your employer).
Let’s be real. Challenges are hard. An easy expense to consider is the financial. How can I afford this? Who will pay the bills? What money will I miss out on by pursuing this obstacle? Or, it could be a time issue. Maybe your employer has strenuous time-requirements that you would need to navigate around to pursue a worthy escapade.
For your specific adventure, the expense may be an emotional or mental battle. Perhaps your obstacle is so fierce in nature, or so compelling a movement, you’re not sure you can come back the same after accomplishing it (which would probably be for the better anyway). I point these potential expenses out to say this: It’s all worth it.
The ROI is incalculable.
The majority of the time we cannot empirically calculate the benefit of pursuing and conquering a challenge. The only thing that can be measured is what happens to those who do not capture their attention with an exciting feat: depression, affairs, fraud, lies, corruption, scandal, etc. Again, let’s take a moment to think about it. It’s when we’re too bored with our mundane lives, or too isolated from reality due to a myopic view that we fall into the traps listed above.
I believe we were designed to glorify our Creator by working passionately to overcome obstacles for His glory. Particularly as a Christian, I’m convinced it is our job to go through life overcoming what others would deem to be incredible obstacles in order that we can divert the associated attention from conquering those hurdles to our Creator. I once had a friend of mine in med school who asked me, “Where are all of the Christians who are doing great things for God? Why are we so scared to be great and so satisfied with mediocrity?” He’s right. We ‘re designed for challenge.
Colossians 3:17 tells us to “…do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” And while I don’t have scripture that would command us to face voluntary obstacles of a physical and mental nature, I believe we need look no further than the pages of the Old Testament to find true accounts of believers choosing a similar path.
Stories of men and women pursuing greatness and overcoming tough adventures (with the Spirit’s help) litter the pages of Scripture. Stories of David, David’s Mighty Men, Daniel, Paul, The Woman at Able (2 Samuel 20), Steven, Samuel, Saul… the list goes on. One author named Cliff Graham has dedicated years of research and writing to capture the “battle” that some Biblical characters chose to pursue. His books are full of stories written about worthy challenges.
The benefits today are no less important. Adventure is the stuff that makes marriages great, jobs fulfilling, and gives meaning to otherwise mundane life events. The adventure of marriage, for example, is one that takes a dedicated focus and provides an entirely new context to the life of a participant. A marriage that is selfish, boring, and lazy is going to lead to the inevitable end that those characteristics bring: boredom, lust, cheating, separation, divorce, etc.
Now, am I saying not doing adventurous things means you’re going to get divorced? Not really (sort of), but more accurately I’m saying that staying content and sitting back satisfied can lead to all of those things. We need challenges.
Bringing Challenge Back.
We need to bring back the art of challenge. We’re creating a society of soft, sissy, and sometimes sinful (alliteration — holllaa!) people who are too bored and selfish to remember what is truly important in life. Additionally, much of our culture is filled with self-inflated individuals seeking to promote their own name.
There are, however, examples of modern day Mighty Men who exemplify this need to be challenged, and are promptly averting all glory to God upon success. Some of these include: Russell wilson and the Hawks , Kevin Durant, Dr. Ben Carson, and my personal favorite, Rich Froning. No doubt there are many more, which is all the more encouraging. These publicly accessible men know what life is about, and are determined to do great things to share that knowledge with others.
On a more personal note, some friends of ours named Clayton and Ally Maze recently left their jobs, family, city, and church to pursue an entirely new career with the military as a medic. They decided to overcome the challenge of weight loss, conditioning, new education, and the emotional pain of severing ties with friends to pursue the challenge of serving our military. What an awesome example of a family pursuing their potential through tough obstacles.
So, let’s talk about us. You may remember some time back I mentioned an imminent brand launch for a project that a friend and I are working on. That project has split into two, and I’ll give you a hint: They both circle this topic.
I’ve become consumed with this idea and am determined to learn about the psychology and execution behind good adventure. So, please tell me – how do you pursue challenges? What is your obstacle to overcome or the adventure you’re planning. Or, if you have nothing that is similar to this in your life, tell me why? What is preventing you from pursuing challenges (reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org)?
In the meantime, look introspectively at the events you’ve got currently planned. Do they have a component of challenge in them? Is there glory to divert to the Creator once you’ve completed the event? It’s vital for us to find these aspects in our lives and chase them with all our vigor. Often, we’re created for so much more than we choose to pursue.
Go find your challenge.