We Choose To Go To The Moon!
We meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds. No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come. —John F. Kennedy, September 1962
Those words opened one of the most transformational speeches of our time (3:42). Listening to it gives me chills. Its opening is equally true today, if not more so.
In the climax, President Kennedy declares
We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we’re willing to accept. One we are unwilling to postpone.
What he puts his finger on is the importance of embracing challenges. But many shy away from challenges for fear of failure. They may be afraid of looking bad, being rejected, losing money, being physically hurt, or even killed. But for those who embrace challenges, the rewards are huge.
Research has shown that those with a fixed mindset are five times more likely to avoid challenges than those with a growth mindset. ― Brendon Burchard, Leadership Coach and Author
What gives challenges their value? Here are three thoughts:
Challenges Focus Us
Challenges create questions about ourselves and our abilities that we feel compelled to answer. We ask if we can accomplish the thing. The result is a dopamine-driven focus to answer the question or get the thing done. The focus and motivation can be sustained for decades, generating a sense of purpose to satisfy the hunger.
What differentiates an ordinary team from an extraordinary team is how they react to challenges and setbacks. ―James Kouzes & Barry Posner
Challenges Strengthen Us
When we go after a challenge, whether physical, mental, or any other form, we experience stressors that promote our growth. Think of lifting weights at the gym. Lifting the bar with successively heavier plates builds our strength. The process can be thought as hormesis.
Hormesis – the response to small amounts of substances or conditions in which low exposures result in favorable adaptation to the stressor.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. — Friedrich Nietzsche
Hormesis does not apply only to physical stressors. It also applies to nutrition, our immune systems, and even emotional stress. Emotional strength is not built by being sheltered from stress. It is built by navigating and surviving emotional challenges.
Challenges Fulfill Us
Overcoming challenges reinforces our self-perception that we are strong and capable. This releases serotonin, promotes neurogenesis, and acts as an antidepressant. In other words, we feel good about ourselves.
Voluntarily accepting and embracing challenges is one of the most powerful things we can do to grow, develop self-worth, and be fulfilled and happy in our lives. So, I challenge you to do hard things and see what happens.