The Challenge of Choice

During the briefing, when the leader says, “It’s important to be able to say at the end of our activity today that you challenged yourself in at least one way,” he is utilizing one of the most effective tools he has.  Challenge means going beyond the old, pushing into new territory, new ways of doing things, dealing with fear and accepting help and support.  Challenge also is looking at that part of ourselves that isn’t sure what it is able to do, or to be.  Challenge has the potential of stripping us bare, of getting down to the essentials, the nub of things.

But Challenge is a two-edged sword.  While it presents an opportunity for change and success, it also lays bare the issues we are afraid of:  losing face, failure, and injury.  Where there is opportunity for growth, there is also the opportunity for overstepping boundaries, of pushing too far, and thereby retarding the growth we want so badly for our participants.  For this reason, the dictum Challenge of Choice is important to us. 

Challenge of Choice offers a participant:

· The chance to try a potentially difficult and /or frightening challenge in an atmosphere of support and care.

· The opportunity to “back off” when performance pressures or self-doubt become too strong, knowing that an opportunity for a future attempt will always be available.

· The chance to try difficult tasks, recognizing that the attempt is more significant than performance results.

· Respect for individual ideas and results.

Principles to Keep in Mind when Challenging Your Group

· Not everyone needs to do everything.  Too often adventure leaders pridefully boast that each group member did a particularly difficult activity.  That may be a good thing, but it misses the point of Challenge of Choice.

· Utilize the activity sequencing information.  Proper activity selection goes a long way toward supporting the challenge once an activity is in progress.  Intensity decisions are an important accompanying factor. Time spent setting goals is time well spent when dealing with the Challenge of an event.  When the participant is clear about what he/she wants to do, it’s much easier for everyone.  Remember, goal setting doesn’t have to take place only during a briefing session removed from the activity.  A person may decide to do something during the session.  But the same thing holds:  make certain that the person knows what he is doing, and is as clear as possible about what it means.  (This can involve some Counseling on the Run.)

· Group pressure is very real and can be used in a positive way.  Participants are aided in this when they’re familiar with each other and aware of each other’s goals.  That’s why it is important, when choosing your activities, to reserve the more intense ones until the group members are more comfortable with each other.  Because of the trust that develops in Adventure groups, members are much more likely to respond to positive group pressure.  The agreement in the Full Value Contract, to confront and be confronted, comes into play here.  As long as we’re confronting in a positive manner, group pressure can and should be used.  It is then defined as group support.  You must be aware, however, that group pressure can go beyond the bounds of caring into aggression and abuse.  And it can happen very quickly.

· Trust is a great support of Challenge.  Certain challenges require a strong dose of it.  If the trust isn’t there, perhaps more lead-up is necessary.  On the other hand, effective challenging can bring about trust.  Sometimes you need to take a calculated risk by pushing ahead at a certain time, counting on the trust to emerge.

· Individualize when necessary.  Certain participants just will not do what the others are doing.  Take the heat off by finding something supportive for them to do.

· Regularly infuse a sense of fun and fantasy into what can easily becomes a serious approach.