Psychology of challenges

Majority of us are inclined to play safe and remain in our comfort zones — the basic principle of survival. We are more fearful than courageous. However, each one of us is a unique wonder and capable of greatness. This is where challenges come into play. They are crucial if we want to unleash our greatness.

In comparison, let’s look at our body: it is built to adapt and respond to the demands placed upon it. The stronger the demand, the stronger the response. Physical muscles continue to grow and strengthen through the Principle of Progressive Resistance.

Challenge me and see me thrive!

This principle is based on the theory that our muscles must be challenged to get stronger and grow, and that they will progressively work to overcome a resistance force when required to do so. The opposite is also true, as physical muscles will downgrade and weaken with the absence of a challenge.

The progressive resistance principle operates the same way in all areas of our lives, and this is why we need to be challenged. We need intellectual, leadership, spiritual, relational, and any performance challenge that stretches us, forces us to overcome adversity, tests our limits, character, and commitment, and inspires us to say bye-bye to our comfort zone. Our finest self won’t materialize without challenge, without us being pushed to our limits, tormented, and put through personal hell. And, much more important than the nature of the challenge itself, are the traits and skills we develop when rising to it.

The mental rewards of rising to the challenge

  • Challenge develops mental toughness
    Victory begins in our mind. Through the nature of the challenge, we gain a psychological edge that enables us to remain focused and confident during high-pressure situations and to perform to our full potential.
  • Challenge engages the fight-or-flight response
    The first obstacle in rising to meet a challenge is to conquer fear and the mental resistance it brings along with it.
  • Challenge inspires courage
    Conceptually, we either practice courage or cowardliness. When courage is tested, it manifests itself in the form of character, initiative, self-control, and responsible behavior. When cowardice is tested, it presents itself in bad character, procrastination, excuses, and blame.
  • Challenge tests our limits
    When we rise to meet the challenge, we are never the same again: we emerge stronger or weaker, better or bitter and unless we test ourselves, we’ll never know our full potential.
  • Challenge focuses our attention
    It calls for our passion and devotion and means concentrating our energy to meet the goal.
  • Challenge builds self-confidence
  • Rising to a challenge changes everything: it transforms our mind and widens our perspective. A challenge involves psychological trauma that brings fear, self-doubt, and insecurity; ultimately leading to superior performance, proving ourselves we can do anything we set our minds to.
  • Challenge empowers freedom
    It requires blood, sweat, and tears. But freedom is the ultimate reward for rising to meet the rigorous demands of a challenge.

Workplace non-monetary rewards to boost motivation and productivity

  • Recognition and praise: as an individual, from peers and from Managers (including public praise, hand-written notes, employee of the month recognition and similar)
  • Opportunities for growth (including leading roles, e.g. leading their own project etc., training people so they can grow after adopting new skills etc.)
  • Happy and fun workplace
  • Belongingness and friendship with colleagues (minimising conflicts and working with people we like)
  • Autonomy
  • Free passes in form of free time to spend the way they want (and not from their annual leave)
  • Private health (+ dentist and ophthalmologist) benefits
  • Opportunities to contribute to key decisions company-wide
  • Opportunities to volunteer
  • a visible leaderboard that builds employee’s profile and reputation
  • Progress status
  • Rewards based on accumulated points (like air miles) which can be turned into different vouchers or paid activities (even though they can buy the vouchers with money earned, the thrill is in accumulating points and contains progress, growth and recognition).

I hope this article is useful and could help innovate the way we boost productivity at our workplace. If you do some of these things with your team or have a nice trend, I would love to know! Thanks for reading.




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Maja Petrovic

Maja Petrovic

People Operations @ Ministry of Programming

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