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Challenge is the third of the major core concepts of OptimalWork.

Preliminary Topic Outline

The Idea Behind Challenge

  • Application of the athlete's mindset to our daily tasks
    • Runner practicing for an event needs a stopwatch
    • Pole-vaulter needs a pole to measure progress
    • And the use of high-intensity training, just beyond one's capacities, to create that progress
  • Seeing one's own work, and ability to work, as a skill to be developed
  • Challenge as the way to be constantly improving
  • Psychological benefits of flow, too

Reframing Adrenaline

  • Jeremy Jamieson's "Turning Knots into Bows"
  • Allison Wood Brook's study on public speaking
  • Closely related to the concept of reframing: seeing surges of catecholamines as good
  • There are some circumstances in which adrenaline naturally arises due to the nature of the task
  • Cultivation of challenge allows for one's adrenaline to be called forth at any time
  • Chronic effects of stress vs. beneficial effects of adrenaline

Neurological Effects of Challenge

  • Sends person into flow
  • Colloquial description of flow
    • Effortless attention
    • Optimal efficiency of the brain
    • Clear sequencing
    • Being in the "zone"
  • Allows the brain to be in continued mindful activation/attention (parasympathetic activation) while re-engaging the sympathetic nervous system
  • Brain in harmony; 3 axes and hierarchies in the brain
  • Sends rush of acetylcholine and norepinephrine into the brain
  • [Will need to find fMRI studies that demonstrate the areas of relative activation of specific brain regions]
  • Increased plasticity and ability to rewire while surpassing one's own abilities
  • Also re-engages the default-mode network as a sequencing tool that carries your attention forward to the next step along the way

Can There Be Too Much Challenge?

  • Dienstbier
  • Hans Selye
  • Jamieson's collection of sAA levels in 2010 study
  • Original conception of the Yerkes-Dodson Law

Quantitative and Qualitative Challenges

  • Quantitative
    • Amount per hour
    • "How much of this task can I possibly accomplish within the time I've allotted to myself?"
    • Good introductory concept, but has limitations:

Challenges in Work

  • Challenge should include laying out the tasks beforehand
  • High-intensity interval training
  • Specific hours of work with crisp deadlines and clear tasks to accomplish

Challenge and Growth

  • Challenge as the fulfillment of mindfulness because it allows for greater growth than does mindfulness alone
  • Can refer to Peak: several hours of deliberate, focused, intense practice creating growth
  • Again can refer to the study of superagers
  • Seeing challenge as the raw material for growth
  • OptimalWork focused on reframing any challenges along the way that might otherwise become negative difficulties, but also seeking out challenge to be inducing growth continually