How do you usually respond when someone says “I want to challenge your thinking about that.”
If you’re like most people, your autonomic response is defensive. That means we immediately begin formulating our response in defense of this challenge.
I’m still a fan of challenging ideas and conclusions. We need that to bolster our critical thinking. But can we do it in a way that doesn’t feel like an attack? For this, I haven’t really figured it out.
Maybe if we dropped the word challenge in those cases and instead offer an alternative to consider. Could this help us through political discussions? Too many political comments and discussions on social media are driven by rage, outrage, passion, or other emotions. It doesn’t help that two people can look at the same data, presented the same way, or even look at the same video and come to different conclusions. And both would still likely be wrong. If we pause our commitment to one answer long enough to consider the other side, how much progress could we make?
Let’s leave the word “challenge” to represent a difficult goal that we want to pursue and attain. My current challenge is to walk a half-marathon in every state and US territory within two years. COVID-19 screwed that up, but I’m getting it fired up again this month with a “virtual” race in Maryland the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The virtual race idea sounded pretty weird at first, but organizers are still offering t-shirts, medals, and other race swag but allowing people to run on their own instead of in a giant crowd. I think that’s a great work-around for our covid constraints. With Pfizer’s announcement about the effectiveness of their vaccine, I am hopeful that we’ll be back to real races by the middle of next year.
My other current favorite challenge is orienteering. I read about orienteering in a book called “The Great Escape” way back in 1972 and was hooked. Organizers plan courses of different levels of difficulty and distance in a park, and hang orange and white markers at different locations and on different landmarks or pieces of terrain and mark them on a map. At the start of the course, runners get their maps and have to find their way to each marker in sequence.
The Orienteering Club in Cincinnati, OCIN, offers a series of races every week from November through February. Last year they were really well done and I’m looking forward to getting started this weekend. They are challenging. They make you think. They are always a lot of fun.
One more example of a challenge I want to share is rock climbing. Last week, Emily Harrington became the first woman to free climb a route on El Capitan, a famous rock face in Yosemite National Park, in under a day. That is a beast of an accomplishment. Her approach was different from Alex Honnold’s free solo climb of El Cap in 2017. Emily still used ropes for protection, and Alex didn’t – which I think is pretty crazy, but that’s what made this a challenge for him.
One of these days, I hope I’ll get to do a little more rock climbing. It’s been a while, though.
What’s going to challenge you? What’s your next challenge?
I’m David Veech. This is Elevate Your Performance.
Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.