“Challenging” or “Hard”?

“All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive safely at death.  But dear children, do not tiptoe.  Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don’t tiptoe.”  –Shane Claiborne

This morning I was thinking how life is a lot like spin class. I was noticing that I can never get through the whole class in the way it is taught. I get tired. I take a break. I slow down. And I realized, life is like this. Life is a challenge.

This is a framework I had not considered before. I had thought, we work hard and then we “get there.” But there’s no arrival. It’s just life. Even in business – we may reach our goals. But then there are new goals – either a next level monetarily, or a next level in business areas or a challenge to stay relevant in a changing marketplace. It’s a lot like spin class. The exercises change, and some of them seem easier, but in the end you get to keep challenging yourself. And even if you take a rest, you are still doing the work.  Class ends.  You did the work.  You come back again tomorrow.  You raise the bar on yourself.  You better be having a good time because in the end there is no “there” to get to.

I don’t mean this to sound defeatist. In fact, I mean it to sound exciting.  I mean it as a framework that acknowledges the difference between having things be “hard” and having them be “challenging,” and that acknowledges the difference in the quality of your life when you can see it as a challenge – something you have chosen to take on.

I learned this distinction from a coach I once had who said to me, if you were whitewater rafting, would you say that it is “hard”? Or is it a challenge? And I started to see that things seemed “hard” for me if I felt I had no control over them or if I felt I had not consciously chosen but was somehow being forced to do something. If someone “made me” go whitewater rafting, especially if I did not want to, there is a good chance I would find it hard. But if I pay money and the guide teaches me how to stay in the boat and navigate the rapids, my framework will shift to “challenging.”

And this is why I say that life is a lot like spin class. No one forced me to be here. Indeed, I pay money for the experience of having this challenge placed in front of me, this challenge to get through a ride that I can never fully complete. And that is the challenge, that is the fun. That I know even if I can do the entire thing without stopping (and sometimes I do – on a very very good day) the next time I can turn up the resistance on my bike and I can challenge myself more.

And that’s what makes it fun. For me.

Other things that can be found in life to make it more like spin class:

• Find a group that is all pointed in the same direction, to motivate, inspire and create energy with you
• Find an instructor or a coach to motivate, to push, and to reassure you
• Get enough sleep
• Be nice to yourself
• Give it your all but don’t criticize yourself for not getting where you thought you “should” be
• Drink enough water
• Create that delicate balance between “going all out” and being tuned in to see when you need to stop or to slow down
• Eat foods that support your body
• Be willing to not be as strong as your neighbors
• Encourage your neighbors
• On days when you are tired, and not sure you can do it, do it for the people who are with you; do it for your team
• Keep showing up

Recognize you chose what you have in this life.  If it is that bad, if it is really “hard,” find a different game.  Or change your mindset.  Find the challenge.  This life is pretty short.  Have some fun.white-water-rafting