Optimal Challenge

Learn to bend so you don’t break. If we stretch too far, we can tear ourselves apart. But if we don’t stretch enough, we get stiff. When we are rigid, it doesn’t take much force to break us. To be broken means we must recover before we can begin to make progress again.

If we want to see progress, we must understand the concept of optimal challenge. This is the bell curve of effort. We want to know how much stimulus we need to produce the most positive outcome.

We want to avoid the tails and stay at the peak. The threshold expands the more we stress it. But stressing it looks different for everyone, but the principle is the same.

The concept of optimal challenge takes a new form when you are working with clients. You are not only gauging what you have to do, but what the client’s response will be. You temper your efforts based on their outcomes.

If we push them too hard, they will shut down. But if we don’t push them enough, they won’t grow.

Optimal challenge is what I consider when working with clients who are inconsistent with their performance. These are often the ones who are particularly difficult to motivate.

It is a balancing act. It is a dynamic process. What worked yesterday may not work today.

We can bring a horse to water, but we can’t make them drink. That we know is true. But sometimes they are so dehydrated they need an IV and sometimes we should just leave them be.


Matthew CriscuolaComment