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How Observation and Choosing the Struggle Allow us to Become Fearless

Identifying the Next Level

What does the next level look like? 

Our family loves to play Pacman. My sons and my husband are very good at playing the game, so their next levels look quite different from mine. It is not uncommon for their focus to be on beating an advanced level. Many times, I, on the other hand, am focused on trying to move beyond level one. As in a video game, the next level is specific to the person playing the game.  

Why the Next Level?

Each year I choose #oneword to frame my year.  Rather than have several different resolutions that lead me in several different paths, I like the idea of organizing my goals under one heading:  the word selected for the year.  

To experience challenges that produce growth, and allow my goals to move with me, I like the concept of looking at things in terms of the Next Level. I like the idea of not thinking about all of the growth at once, but rather one step at a time.  With an emphasis on the words “Next Level”, I can focus on what is right in front of me. 

The Next Level in the Classroom

It is not uncommon for students to be overwhelmed in the classroom when they look at all of their assignments, tests, and future projects at once. Rather than focusing on everything at once, the Next Level might look like reaching completion and success in subject areas by focusing on one thing at a time. 

The Next Level requires observation.

Taking something to the next level requires documentation, and being honest about where you are.  Observation also allows for an opportunity to notice what other people are doing or not doing.  It is essential to consider the positive traits other people exhibit and find a way to embrace some of them in our lives. Noticing what is right in the world allows us to find a way to seek more of what we want. 

Documentation Enables Evidence for Success

To perform at the next level and understand what the next level involves, observing where you are at, trends in daily habits, training, and ability to be successful or not with goals.  To hold myself accountable and monitor my actions, I decided that I needed to find a way to track my progress.  At the end of the month, I can look at what I did and determine if the areas I fall short with should be modified. 

Example of My Fitness Tracker

Choose the Struggle

When different paths emerge from taking the time to notice and be more aware of the options in front of us, choosing the struggle requires us to stretch ourselves to the next level.  Choosing the struggle looks like getting one percent better each day. Choosing the struggle is difficult. 

Just because something is difficult doesn't mean it is not the right plan.  

What does Choosing the Struggle Look Like?

Choosing the struggle is easy to talk about but tough to do. Choosing the struggle means not quitting when you feel like your legs are going to fall off during a challenging workout. Choosing the struggle means disciplining yourself in regards to time online or on social media. Choosing the struggle means being okay with not succeeding the first time. Choosing the struggle means learning something new when you have no idea where to start. Choosing the struggle means being okay with a grueling experience that might leave you restless. Getting comfortable with picking a choice that seems more difficult can leave you frustrated and not wanting more. However, there is also an opportunity to be fearless and not worried about what comes your way. 

Choosing the Struggle in the Classroom

In the classroom this might look like introducing students to a difficult concept or teaching something that you have never taught before. Choosing the struggle looks like talking to a student or parent when you know it might be difficult to get through a conversation. Choosing difficulty looks like giving students a chance to be challenged with a difficult assignment, even if it might make for more work teaching and grading. As Carol Dweck, author of The Growth Mindset says, “Becoming is better than being. Struggle is not a bad word. If we are not struggling, we are not fulfilling our potential”. Dweck explains that it is about learning how to show tremendous effort, grit, and fall in love with the process of working toward a goal. When choosing the struggle is part of our routine, we live without limits.  

Without Limitation, we can Be Fearless.

Being fearless or bold looks like training for races even when one has already gone virtual for the year.  It looks like doing things regardless of what the outcome could be. It looks like sacrificing a mindset where there is room for comfort and predictability. Being fearless looks like falling in love with the process and embracing the journey regardless of the outcome. 

Being Fearless in the Classroom

When it comes to the classroom, being fearless looks like reaching out to students even when they don’t respond. Being fearless looks like personalizing assignments, putting in extra time, and expanding knowledge in methods or a subject area to focus on growth. 

The next level can be Scary.

While growth is exciting and addicting, it also not without stress and frustration. Being honest about where you are and then requiring more of yourself is not an easy challenge. Choosing the struggle can be draining, and we might even wonder if it is worth it sometimes. The important things in life are worth it and will not always be easy. Life is a journey that must be traveled, no matter how bad the roads and accommodations (Oliver Goldsmith).  Leaning into the next level by making ourselves aware of where we are and where we want to go next gives us the ammunition to accept challenges.  Ultimately, through challenging ourselves, we can build confidence and eventually become fearless. 

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