I recently observed something that came as a surprise to me about the emerging generation. As a part of a team that trains for short term international missions, I had designed an event that was tiring, difficult, challenging, team-focused, and intended to be generally miserable. Events like this should help people pull together as a team and become a unit, instead of just a collection of individuals. Common objectives in an adverse environment is the stuff that molds us together, helps us see each other as we are, and not by the facades that are common. With this in mind, I had revved up the planning to make the event, not impossible, but hard.
We were taking the students in teams of roughly ten, so that we could isolate the activity's focus and no one would get lost in a crowd. That part worked well. Really it all worked well. The students came together and helped each other, pulling each other along and not leaving anyone behind when weaknesses became a clear liability to the stronger members. They pulled together. They overcame the adversity. They championed the challenge.
The surprise to me was the responses we got later in the weekend. Without my bringing it up, students from all the teams came to me and described the event as “awesome”, “really fun”, and a “blast!”. This was not really what I expected to hear, though a welcome sound it was. Events like this are designed to increase the mental toughness of the team members. As such, they need to be sufficiently difficult, flushing out fears and calling for focus to overcome against significant resistance. If I pulled you off your couch right now and stuck you in the middle of the training that was done, I don't think I would hear “awesome” as the feedback you would provide. But maybe I am wrong…..
It was cold. We were wet, and we were being pounded! Mind you, I was right in the middle of everything that was going on. I wasn't calling out the moves from an easy chair at the edge of the action!
One fact about increasing your mental toughness that I have recently read is appropriate to highlight here. It is approaching everything you go through or everything you are in from the standpoint of being a champion, overcomer if you will, and not just a survivor. This voice doesn't sound like, “I know I can get through this if I can only….” Rather, it sounds like, “In order to turn in a personal best in this challenge, I am going to have to focus on…..” Keep in mind, it is good to survive! If you can't have a goal of overcoming, mastering, or as the emerging would say, “beasting” or “owning”, then please do have a plan to survive!!! But don't expect to become more mentally enduring when you are waiting it out in dread and drawing back to comfort with the phrase, “I hope I never have to do that again!” That kind of approach only reinforces the mentality that keeps you a subject of your surroundings, and never a champion.
Are you emerging, or are you finished? Are you arising, or are you fading? Are you advancing, or are you retreating?
Hold these questions in your mind for a minute, and resist the urge to just check them off with you in the plus column. What does the evidence suggest? I mean the evidence of your daily life…. what does it suggest?
I say these things to encourage you! The approach of an overcomer is within your grasp. Jesus, the original overcomer, fashions us in His image! His bravery and mental toughness is unparalleled. And He will fashion us of this same sort.
So now to my point.
The emerging wants to be challenged, and challenged deeply. If they are challenged deeply, they will complete the challenge and think about how awesome it was. But if only partially challenged, they are going to walk away thinking of how lame that was. Half-heartedness is out of vogue. As leaders and motivators, we need to realize this about the emerging! They want to be “epic”, not pretty good. And this requires us to provide a good example of whole-heartedness, one that seeks to impart the courage and mental toughness that is exemplary. Are we as leaders ready for the challenge?