Where’s the Challenge?

27 12 2010

The answer is different for everybody.  In the River House Outdoor Programs, and at the heart of other great outdoor programs, we operate under a philosophy of “Challenge by Choice.” A phrase coined from challenge course practitioners (Project Adventure), who adapted phrasing from adventure educators, who adapted phrasing from educational philosophers.  On the surface, and what is predominately shared with others through words, actions, and program designs, is that you decide your level of challenge.  No one else gets to choose how, and in what ways, you push yourself.

How high do I climb?

How far will I go out?

Am I willing to try this new skill?

Do I even get in the boat?

The answer arrives from a variety of routes and it is different for everyone.  Past experiences, abilities, one’s own self-efficacy, and a host of other factors work to frame your answers to these questions, but in the end, it’s your choice.

We mostly think of this choice as having to do with some sort of physical challenge, and it makes sense. After all, most of the programs that we offer are physically challenging.  We do not want people to go to a place where the experience is overwhelming or unmanageable.  However it is equally important to shed light on the emotional and social challenges that exist.  The challenge of how we speak, act, and treat other people.  The choice to offer an encouraging word is as real as the choice to take up climbing.  The choice to change how you treat someone is the same as deciding to attempt a new skateboarding trick.  Treating others with compassion in the future, when you may have attacked or blamed in the past, may be as hard and fearful as attempting a roll in a kayak while in a rapid.  Surely to take up, and face this challenge can be difficult, and to repeat myself, it’s your choice.

So how do we get there?  How do we face these emotional or social challenges?  Well, how did we get to the place of going down a steeper run, a higher element, or a bigger wave?  The answer is simple, start small.  On the challenge course we do not jump off a 20’ pole to catch a trapeze directly after stepping off of a bus.  There’s a process, a sequence, and a plan to making such a challenge the next logical step.  The challenge to invest and support the ones you love, and the ones you don’t, is arrived in much the same way.  Start with something small, get comfortable, and then challenge yourself to go to the next logical step.  Make a plan, be committed, and ask for help when you need it. 

This is why I love recreation.  It has everything to do with how it teaches me to interact with you.  It provides settings that not only challenge us to learn a new skill; additionally it pushes us to be supportive, to hear from others, and gives us real examples in being compassionate.  This inspires me to also be compassionate in other areas.

So I ask the question, “Where’s the Challenge”?

Remember, facing it is your choice and you get to choose your level of challenge.

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