Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
James 1:12 (The Message)
How do we deal with challenges?
I am recalling an old psychological experiment from many years ago that went something like this. A group of young men were convened on a basketball court for the purpose of a study on how we challenge ourselves. The participants did not know the nature of the study, and they were simply told to position themselves anywhere on the court and take shots at the basket. They would be evaluated on the results, but the young men were not certain of what those evaluations might be based on. They were given basketballs, and told to take shots at the basket. They were given a number of basketballs, and a set time during which to shoot.
The breakdown of the study ended up with three types of individual cohorts. The first group were those who stood under the basket and shot layups the whole time. They wanted to be sure that they had the best chance for scoring with the most consistency. Another group went beyond the three-point circle and heaved up shots (even though in those days, there was no “3 point circle”). A final group went to areas around the “key” and challenged themselves with shots that were makeable, but challenging.
The researchers summed up the groups in terms of their willingness to challenge themselves. The “layup group” were very conservative, non-risk takers. They went for the “sure thing”.
The “long-shot group” were those willing to risk, but were hedging their bets about being judged as not competent, feeling that their long-range shots would not be held against them if they missed.
The last group, the ones that gave themselves a good challenge that was not overly easy, nor ridiculously hard, were those that researchers found to be the most independent and confident in themselves.
I find this research interesting, and indicative of human nature in all its forms. Some of us are fearful and want to ensure success or affirmation with as little emotional risk as possible. Some of us are willing to challenge ourselves, even if it means that we might fail and be judged by others.
I’m not sure where I might fit, and it probably depends on the circumstances.
Where would this little experiment find you? Just a little food for thought!
Prayer: Lord, help us to challenge ourselves in order to grow, Amen