We all need a challenge (it’s a basic psychological need)

Written by Robert Sanders. Posted in Basic Human Needs, Blog

goldfish bowl:the need for challengeIn this latest blog in my series on meeting your psychological needs I am focusing on our need for challenge. 

Not everybody wants to climb Everest, swim the channel or run an ultra-marathon. Some people do these things without thinking, but they are not essential to everybody. When it comes to being creative, which is related to challenge, we don’t all want to become the new Picasso. While it may be true that we all have a novel in us, we might be perfectly happy to keep it there!

However on some level, there is a basic human need to be challenged. If we live a life entirely based on habit, a safe environment, comfort and casual social interaction, over time, it is very likely that our boundaries of what is safe will shift.

I have written on this in the past (see for example “Why do we need to feel afraid?”. If we always live completely in our comfort zone, then that zone grows smaller. We become prone to conditions such as anxiety, phobias, depression and OCD.

You need to be stimulated and stretched, with a level that is acceptable to you. You may need to develop new mental or physical skills, with an aim to explore and develop your potential.

The fear continuum

For each of us, challenge is different. If you are the kind of person who loves putting yourself at risk, then you are probably already fulfilling this need instinctively. But for the rest of us, what is risk? Risk is about being aware of something that is along the ‘fear continuum’.

For most balanced people, there are a range of terms that express where an experience is on this fear continuum. It may be an increasing chain of words like:

… < nervous < edgy < worrying < anxious < scary < frightening < terrifying < …

A challenge can be anything that takes you onto that continuum, even at the lowest level.  If you decide to go to a meetup group on novel writing, that thought might make you nervous. The thought of reading your writing in public might make you anxious, and maybe approaching an agent or a publisher is frightening.

All of these acts are challenges and completing a challenge will develop you and improve your mental well-being. The great thing is that if you start with something lower on the scale, it makes it that much easier to step up to the next. If you join a group and attend a few meetings you will have better trust in the people attending. You may then risk reading your work out loud to them. As you continue to do this, they may make helpful comments that encourage you to go to a publisher.

How can I challenge myself

So take a step back and think where you are now? Are you giving yourself some challenges? Are you putting yourself slightly out of your comfort zone?

Think about something that you would like to do that scares you.  Test where it is on your scale of fear or challenge.

Write down, what you would like to do, and where you would like to be. If it is very scary, perhaps there is an earlier step that you could take that would get you closer to that outcome. You could write down the steps you would need to take. Let go of having to achieve that scary outcome, and focus only on the first step or two. You don’t have to do all of them if you don’t want to. The big things will look less frightening when you are further along the continuum towards them.

How will you know when you have reached that challenge? Where will you be, and what will you be feeling, seeing, thinking and doing?

If you feel you can’t get there on your own, then you may need to get some assistance from one of the Vinings team. 

Life Coaching, Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and Timeline Therapy, are all helpful in enabling you to set a goal, and achieve something new. In addition, where you need to overcome issues over confidence, or mental blocks or motivation you may want to try hypnotherapy, or some of the other interventions such as cranial sacral therapy, EFT matrix re-imprinting, or even acupuncture.


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