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Threat versus Challenge

While reading an article about managing life effectively, I was struck by an idea it presented: the confusion people have recognizing the difference between threats and challenges. This is exactly where disregulated eaters (and others, as well) often get themselves into trouble, so I thought a blog would be in order.

Many of you are confused about the difference between a threat and a challenge. Before I give you my take on the subject, consider how you would describe the way that “threat” and “challenge” are different and note whether you often confuse the two. Okay then. A threat is something that will do actual physical or mental harm. Examples include standing in front of a speeding car and repeatedly reporting to work late without an excuse. There’s little doubt that these actions will cause pain and suffering. In fact, I doubt there’s anyone on earth who would argue with this assertion.

A challenge, on the other hand, implies no danger or harm, only, perhaps, difficulty. Examples include learning a new language or joining a dating service. Where’s the danger? Where’s the harm? There is none except in your mistaken perception. True, you might not learn the language quickly or may speak it poorly or you might like someone who ignores or rejects you. But, the point is that there is nothing intrinsically threatening in learning a new language or joining a dating service, whereas there is absolute threat in standing in front of a speeding car or being chronically tardy to work.

Make a list of acts, behaviors or activities which you perceive as threatening. Toss in everything that scares you. Now go through the list and check off those acts or events which truly will cause grievous harm. I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t check off a one unless you had things on the list like shoot up a bag of heroin, remain in an evacuation zone when you’ve been warned to leave, drive drunk, embezzle work funds, or the like. Your perception of these acts being harmful to you—or anyone—is accurate because they are all dangerous in and of themselves.

The next time you’re frightened of doing something, ask yourself if it really qualifies as a threat—ie, would it be dangerous for most people. If not, slide it over into the challenge category. That makes it something that may not come easily to you, but also won’t harm you. If you tend to confuse threats and challenges (and I expect you do), try to understand where this mistaken viewpoint comes from and don’t let perception intrude on reality. Challenges are positive, will do no harm, and may even do you some good.