Happy Challenges, Happy Self

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Challenge is essential to my happiness. When someone asked me to imagine my best life, it would include some challenge. But finding the right amount of challenge is key. I can’t imagine a life without any problems to try to solve. I’m not talking about where to buy new winter tires or how to fix the drippy tap. For me, those everyday challenges hold only annoyance and not fascination. If they interest you, that’s great! Everybody needs to find their own bones to gnaw on. My happy challenges are creative in nature: how to make things with colour, pattern, texture and words.

Find Your Challenge Level

For me, a challenge must be intriguing and at a level that is not too … challenging. When I was setting math problems for my students, it was important to find work that was at each child’s level: not too easy but not extremely difficult either. I understood that skills need to develop slowly, a step at a time, to encourage students to persist. Like math problems, my happy challenges need to be at a level that I can do them without endless frustration.

Consider The Amount Of Time Available

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Have you ever tried to do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper or a particularly challenging number puzzle? If you have the time, it can be a happy challenge. During lockdown, many, many people had lots of time to devote to puzzles that they wouldn’t normally try. When I’m choosing a happy challenge these days, I consider how much time I want to devote to it. If it takes too long for me to finish, I start to feel that pull from the other things that I need to do in my day. There is a limit to the amount of time I want to spend on it.

Frustration Eats Your Day

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Another way that time enters into the equation, is the difficulty level of my challenge. If it’s beyond my skill level, even if I have all the time in the world, I will give up. Just like a student with a math problem that is far beyond their present level, I will ball up the paper and shut down. Who wants to inflict that kind of frustration on themselves? It makes you feel useless and unworthy. That kind of energy is not welcome in my life.

Do You Like/Need A Deadline?

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The last consideration when choosing my happy challenges is the deadline. I remember deadlines from all my years of working. I didn’t like them. They could be helpful tools to stop me from procrastinating but they rarely helped me think creatively and solve problems.  These days if a challenge has a deadline, I’m less interested in it. 

My Happy Challenges

I am seeking happy just-right-for-me challenges on my retirement journey. They include challenges that take only a little time in my day such as word puzzles (Wordle), geographic puzzles (Worldle) and ones that are not too taxing, such as reading mysteries. They also include challenges in which I’m gradually gaining more skills bit by bit (crochet, geli printing, writing). I can work on them intermittently without worry of a deadline. I even enjoy the occasional challenge with a built-in deadline such as boardgames or Escape Rooms with family and friends. But my happiest challenges are creative ones involving fibres, words and paint.  What are your happy challenges?

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