Towering Pines Blog

The Value of a Challenge

For a real challenge, try a sailing regatta!

For a real challenge, try a sailing regatta!

The third week was full of events that worked to challenge the boys. Starting with  Gold Rush, a few sailing regattas with the Woodland girls, and rounding out with Paul Bunyan Day yesterday, in addition to the regular activities, I can hardly keep track! But with a little effort and deliberate guidance, the boys are ready to tackle those challenges and make them into meaningful experiences. The third week is challenge week, after all!

IMG_6742Challenges are scary. When faced with a challenge we are not only asked to do something out of the ordinary, but we are asked to consider what everyone fears: failure. Everyone has their fears, there’s no shame in that. And there’s no shame in being afraid of failure. That’s natural; no one wants to fail. However, we all want to grow and to improve. To do that, we need to risk failure.

Sometimes, making a fire can be quite the challenge...

Sometimes, making a fire can be quite the challenge…

I know I’ve said this before, but challenging ourselves means going beyond our comfort zone. That means that failure is possible, and sometimes very likely. I’ve been trying to think of ways to explain that to children (and adults), because I don’t think American culture addresses failure in a meaningful and positive way. So, I’ll bring it up again here.

I know it seems strange for me to be so fixated on failure here, as a main theme for my discussion during challenge week, but bear with me. What I’m really talking about is the danger of comfort. To be challenged means to be a little uncomfortable at times. It’s the only way to grow. Failure can have many consequences, from embarrassment to injury, and so it is natural for all animals to strive for comfort. However, a little bit of discomfort or stress is necessary to figure out where one’s limits are and to go beyond them.

20160717_193136“Challenge” is kind of a soft word in the English language. Something is challenging, it’s difficult, unexpected, or maybe we aren’t prepared to use more negative words to describe the situation. But I encourage you to think of it as downright positive. Challenges are what make us take a step beyond the comfortable middle and expand our horizons.

Sometimes kids are better at doing this than adults. Kids are naturally curious and know fear only as a reaction. Much of fear has to be learned, just like caution and awareness. The boys at camp are faced with a lot of challenges that can lead to truly enriching experiences, and they need to learn how to navigate those challenges. That’s where the counselors come in. It’s a counselor’s job to teach not fear, but awareness. The difference being that fear paralyzes where awareness can mobilize. When faced with a challenge, we shouldn’t shy away from it, but we should look around at the situation, consider our options, and act accordingly. That is what it takes to turn a challenge into growth and a failure into success.IMG_6730

I think the boys met their challenges with enthusiasm this week. I think they are ready for the days to come and an excellent last week of the second sign-up. A lot happening this week: ropes course, canoe trips, adventure day, and the beginning of coed show practice; so check in again soon to keep up!