How to Choose the Right Challenges

By July 19, 2010 11 Comments

In April, I wrote an article for The Change Blog that struck a chord with many readers.

The article was about a pattern I had started to see — in my own life, in my friends’ and clients’ lives, about challenges. We were valorizing and glamorizing challenge — assuming that tough challenges were good for us, because they would “help us grow,” improve deficiencies, balance weak parts of ourselves out.

We were wrong.

The truth is, there are some kinds of challenges that grow and transform us, and others that mostly leave us depleted, resentful, and lost from our best selves. Over time, observing what happened in my own life, with clients and with friends, I started to see that there are fact two very different kinds of challenges: some challenges are “slog” challenges. Some are “leaps.”

After hearing so many, “yes, this speaks to me!” comments to my Change Blog article about slogs and leaps, I wanted to go deeper and hear more about slogs and leaps in your lives.

This week I’m doing a series of posts, with three fabulous people, each of whom will be sharing wisdom about slogs or leaps. Tomorrow, we’ll hear from Topi who writes the lovely blog Topi Tour, then from Judy, powerhouse CEO of TerraTap, and then from Ali Hale, the blogger behind Aliventures and the author of many fabulous personal growth articles on the web.

There are some fascinating common themes in what they each have to say about slogs and leaps, and some rich differences too. But first, today, I want to give you an introduction to slogs and leaps.

Leap Challenges

Leap challenges challenge you to stop procrastinating, distracting and delaying and instead:

  • Step up into who you really are, now
  • Share your unique gifts and voice
  • Take the risk of being authentic
  • Leave and risk standing out or not being popular,
  • Do things that fly in the face of the negative beliefs or limiting stories you have about yourself
  • Face all kinds of fears as you do this!

Leap challenges shake up all the parts ourselves need to be shaken up— the fears, the inner critic, the little ego stories, the instinctual, over-protective irrational part of ourselves that Seth Godin calls the lizard brain.

Leap challenges are gifts. They grow us. They rebirth us. They create breakthroughs in our lives. When a leap challenge shows up in your life, it’s a really good idea to go for it, scary as it seems.

Slog Challenges

Slog challenges are challenging because they pose a challenge to your essence, to your authentic self.

Slog challenges require you to work / live / create in environments that are just not nurturing for you, that are not the right fit, that are square-peg round hole, that take you out of your flow. They require you to work / live / create in environments in which you are unheard or unwelcomed, underutilized or even mistreated.

Challenge doesn’t help your essence any more than withholding light and water is going to make a better plant. It just leads to withering. We often rationalize going into slog challenges by saying we’ll grow from it, get tougher or learn how to survive in environments that go against the grain of who we really are. But it rarely works out that way.

Discerning Leap vs. Slog

Knowing whether you are facing a leap challenge or a slog challenge is very important. Here’s how you know.

Recognize a leap challenge–a challenge to your ego/fears/limiting beliefs/lizard brain–by these clues:

  • The challenge entails leaping into imperfect, vulnerable action
  • Fears of failure and rejection are rising up like tidal waves in you
  • You feel scared scared scared, but you also feel an edge of thrill or exhilaration in the fear
  • Your brain scrambles for reasons why now is not the time to leap, for example: you don’t have the time or money, the equipment. You hear arguments about all that in your head.

Recognize a slog challenge–the kind that’s about starving your essence–by these clues:

  • Your reasons for going after it come from your head, not from your heart or gut instinct
  • You feel tense and tight when you think about it
  • You feel confused by complex, intricate pro and con arguments
  • As you move into the challenge, you feel more and more lost from yourself. You feel dis-empowered, sad or weakened.

Those are the basics. For more, visit the original article at The Change Blog, or a related article, Grow or Blossom?, at Kind Over Matter.

Read along this week to hear how slogs and leaps have shown up in real people’s lives, and how they’ve learned to go for the leaps. For Part I of the series, a fabulous interview with mom, businesswoman and blogger Topi, click here.



Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • […] is part two of our four-part series on Slog and Leap Challenges. If you didn’t read yesterday’s post introducing the series, you might want to start there; it will tell you what I mean by slogs and leaps.   In the […]

  • Melinda says:

    Love it, Tara! What a great job of differentiating between the challenges that nourish us and those that deplete us.


  • […] four-part series on Slog vs. Leap Challenges. If you haven’t been following the series, you might want to start with this post; it will tell you what the heck we mean by “slogs” and “leaps.”   Today, we have the […]

  • […] out the earlier posts in this series:   An introduction to slogs and leaps   An interview with Topi about her experience with slogs and leaps   An interview with […]

  • […] go do next, when we are really stepping to what we are called to do, it isn’t cozy. It requires leaping. It involves shaking up the status quo. It requires challenging the inner critic so you can find […]

  • Kris says:

    Dear Tara,

    This article is quite a brain teaser and made me think and categorise each and every fear known to me. What I would like to do myself; to not see / know them as a fear but only as a hurdle. Do you see this happening to you as well? I often postpone / skip / ignore the inner critic; mostly when i feel this is not my comfort zone areas. Do you have any suggestions on that? Also, is there a wholesome approach to challenges wherein we look at them from a positive perspective? Hope am not too vague..


  • […] the dozens of lists of “how I could get those feelings right now.” Many people realized that taking more risks was essential to attaining the feelings they wanted. Simple rituals of self-care, meditation, yoga, […]

  • cevichequeen says:

    Definitely food for thought today.
    Sometimes it’s not one or the other, but elements of both.
    I am the point person for a business transition.
    As I go through this, I am more convinced of the purposeful work being done, and the necessity of it.
    Many times it is not pleasant, or fun, or affirming. Yet it must be done. And I am the one that must do it, do it right, do it well.
    The choice isn’t always there to do just what feels good. Yet, it’s purposeful.
    The alternative is not desirable.
    It is a marathon, not a sprint. Recharging is essential.
    Strength and grace too.

  • Utfordringer « rosenkrantzliv says:

    […] skiller mellom Leap challenges og Slog challenges, førstnevnte bra for deg, sistnevnte ikke bra! Her forklarer hun hvordan man skal skille mellom dem. Share this:TwitterFacebookLik dette:LikeBli den […]

  • […] Are you choosing the right kind of challenges? Here’s how to tell the difference between a leap and a […]

  • Sepidehs says:

    Such a great guidance,
    ThanKs from bottom of my heart,
    Luv, Sepideh

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