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different types of challenges- and a Perfection Deflection

Posted Jul 02 2010 2:46pm

First off, GREAT job, PTC, walking without the heart monitor!! Really nice work. Now you've done it, you got to see it didn't result in you dying or getting fat or chaos ensuing. And now it's done. End of story. Doesn't mean you have to keep doing it every day, or even ever again- it's totally your choice. Having done that challenge does not at all obligate you to anything in terms of the future. You may at some point decide to take on that challenge again, you may not... only time will tell. For now, congratulate yourself on a hard won success and some terrific effort.

This challenge thing can be rough, can't it? And that's not specific to sufferers from eating disorders of course. It's true for all of us- each of us just faces different things that are challenging.

It's important to be thoughtful about what type of challenge we pick for what type of situation. Wow, that wasn't a great sentence... oh well, hopefully it still makes some sense. I was thinking about what Ann said- about hard it is to give up the number buddy.


It occurred to me that different types of challenges fit different circumstances. Some types of challenges can be done quickly, they're kind of "one time" challenges (this doesn't mean they're easy to accomplish, just that they are very short term). PTC's walking to therapy without the heart monitor is an example of this type of challenge.

And don't even let yourselves think for a moment that a short term, one-time, challenge is less valuable than a longer term one... sheesh, I have to bust you guys right and left :) Other short term challenges are things like buying yourself a pair of earrings when you've never let yourself do that before (because you didn't think you deserved them), or going to a movie even though it makes you anxious, or taking a day-long workshop on something interesting to you...

There are longer term types of challenges. Getting away from a dependence on a number buddy is an example of this type of challenge. So is earning a master's degree or writing a book or going to culinary school.

Some challenges really HAVE to be taken on, whether you feel ready or interested in them at the moment. For instance, if you have lost a significant amount of weight and you are beginning to be in medical danger, you seriously have to take on the challenge of eating enough to restore your body to a reasonable place- even though you likely aren't interested (in fact, you're probably pretty darn freaked out about having to take on the challenge) in eating or gaining any weight. In a case like this, there are both short term and longer term challenges involved. 

One of the short term challenges is facing today's lunch, and the next one is facing today's dinner... and then breakfast tomorrow becomes your first short term challenge of that day. Longer term goals include keeping this up over time so that your body can have time and nutrition to repair itself. This is not at all easy to do. It sure is crucial though. One of the ways to make it more bearable is to not try to think about the longer term aspects of the challenge. Like you suggested, Ann, go day to day, sometimes hour to hour, and focus only on the immediate challenge before you.

I remember beginning my PhD program and thinking, "no way... just no way anyone can make it through all these years of school..." Then I told myself I had to focus only on what was right in front of me. Sometimes I focused on the course I was taking, sometimes I had to scale it back even more and focus on only the specific paper I was writing. Approaching it this way allowed me to not get overwhelmed and intimidated by the enormity of such a big project. The process is the same with any other longer term challenges- these kinds of challenges always include many, many shorter term challenges as a part of the bigger one. You didn't think marathon runners think the entire time about 26.2 miles, did you? No way! They'd get overwhelmed with what a long distance that is. They focus on each mile, or divided it up in some other manageable way. And then, eventually they get to the finish...

If we can be clear about what type of challenge we're looking at (and now I'm thinking it might be more accurate and helpful to have a bit wider range of categories- like shorter term, medium term, longer term) we have a better chance of figuring out when, where and how to take on each challenge- because understanding which category it fits into affords us a measure of predictability and stability... and us humans like that :)
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