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Friday, November 7, 2008

There's Nothing Like a Challenge

November 2008 has already been a month like no other. The history-making election of Barack Obama has engendered a worldwide spirit of exuberance and optimism. But, while the beginning of a new era is on everyone's minds, the months of turbulent Presidential campaigning have led me to another topic: Goal-setting.
As I watched the exhausted candidates crisscrossing the country, giving speech after speech, exposing themselves to criticism and ridicule, I wondered why. Why do people voluntarily run 100 miles through Death Valley, climb Mount Everest, swim the English Channel, or run for President? Why do we feel the need to test ourselves?
I'm one of those people. Three decades ago I declared myself out of shape and took up running. In the beginning, jogging a block was a challenge, but I soon reached my goal of running two miles without stopping. While that would have been enough for some people, it wasn't for me. A year later I ran my first marathon, all 26.2 miles of it, after weeks of training during which my friends and family shook their heads at my pig-headed determination. While I was still training for marathons I took up bodybuilding, working out with weights for two to three hours a day. Then I went for power lifting, even though I weighed less than 115 pounds.
And when people asked me why, the best answer I could give was, "To see if I can."
November is also National Novel Writing Month, when thousands of foolhardy writers pledge to complete a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. While I applaud their resolve, I wonder how they'll manage to get it done--and why.
So I'm asking for your thoughts. What unusual, thrilling, or daredevil challenges are in your past, present, or future? Is the concept of goal setting uniquely human, or are those squirrels darting in front of our cars trying for a personal best?
Tell me. What drives you to stretch beyond your comfort zone?


Jennifer Echols said...

I'm actually participating NaNoWriMo this year. The idea of being exhausted and drained but still slogging through that novel to the finish, especially with lots of comrades going through the same experience, has always appealed to me. This year it worked out that I didn't have another deadline pending, and I'm thrilled to be able to do it.

Jan Blazanin said...

One of the members of my writing group is participating, too, and she loves it. She says it's the best experience she's had in a long time. Maybe I'll give it a try next year.