Thursday, February 11, 2010

American Idol and Life on the Edge...

Last night my family was watching “American Idol” (tell me that name doesn’t typify American society) when I noticed a recurring pattern. Several contestants interviewed were in dead-end, no-win situations in life and they were seeking to become the next “American Idol” so that their circumstances could change. Clearly they should be applauded for their willingness to sing as the world watches. They also should receive some congrats for having stood before Simon Cowell and received their fair share of criticism as to why they will not be the next “American Idol.” However, I could not help but wonder why they would rely on such a long-shot for life improvement and would give so little thought to more tried and true methods – namely EDUCATION and HARD WORK! As I pondered this, the following thoughts came to mind…

Most people do not like to be challenged in life. The path of least resistance is the most trodden trail. They do not want to push themselves beyond what is comfortable and common. They are unwilling to embrace the struggle and sacrifice necessary for change to result and goals to be achieved. As I have observed, many routinely reject new challenges and remain in dead-end jobs with little reward and even less future. They refuse to struggle so that they might do something they love and instead opt for a bland life of stagnation. Oh, they may gripe and complain about their miserable circumstances and some will even pray for God to bring about changes for the better… but they put forth zero effort to embrace the challenge of change themselves. Singing on a stage and expecting instant gratification is one thing; sitting in a classroom for four years where tests are utilized to objectively measure achievement quite another. Finding a few minutes of stardom is a quickly fading sense of accomplishment; starting a new career when you hit 35 because life is to short for moss to grow over your dreams is a lasting achievement.

Risk avoidance is a common characteristic of those who are stagnating in life. The common stumbling block for many is the question “what if I fail?” This fear lurks in the shadows of everyone looking to embrace a new challenge. It is natural and warranted, but it must never be what stops personal growth from taking place. Whenever a challenge is met and a risk is taken that stretches a person beyond the normalcy of living, they win regardless. Win or lose the one who steps forward and gets in the game is always a better person. Their self-esteem has grown. Their life has taken on a freshness that rejects the repugnant stagnation so prevalent in so many. Risks are not for the faint of heart, but they are for those who seek to live life on the edge, draining every drop of goodness from the precious few days they have.

Psychologists have identified “controlled trauma” as a means of one embracing a challenge so that their life can shift upward for the better. Controlled trauma is the willingness to incur pain, sacrifice, and hardship so that a greater goal can be achieved. When someone purposefully steps out of their comfort zone and into a challenging and demanding situation, they are employing controlled trauma as a tool for personal growth. An example of this would be my son’s recent activities. Because he has some very specific and challenging goals, he willingly submits to an incredibly demanding fitness routine that brings daily trauma into his life. Regularly do those training with him hang their head over the trash can and lose their breakfast. There is intense pain involved, but the controlled trauma promises a greater possibility that he will achieve his dreams and therefore it is totally worth it. In a similar way, those who diet incur controlled trauma when they willingly put aside food so the scale gives the desired result. Controlled trauma is necessary at times in our lives – regardless of the pain and sacrifice involved.

My encouragement is that you submit to a total examination of your life. Are you achieving all that you have dreamed of or are you walking the path of least resistance? Are you embracing new challenges in your life and taking risks? Are you willing to submit to some controlled trauma to see your goals become reality? Nothing will change until you submit to this reality check and demand change from yourself. So what will it be – bland monotony or the thrill of living life on the edge? Me personally, I choose the edge!