Friday, March 4, 2011


Challenge: A task or situation that tests someone's abilities

I challenge my girls (my residents) all the time. Here are three of my favorite challenges that I have presented to them in the past 4 months or so:

Challenge Cards

When there is a lot of negativity going on, I try to challenge it with positivity. At the end of last semester (Fall 2010) there was a lot of bum stuff happening. With finals, the new housing process, graduation, people studying abroad, etc people were getting super stressed out. And when you have 43 girls super stressed that is bad news bears, let me tell you. So what I did was a program I call "Challenge Cards". I came up with specific challenges for each resident, a challenge that really tested their ability to be positive, to get involved. A challenge that either took their time, their effort, both, or neither. 

In order to really do this, I had to really know my residents. I had to know what they really struggled with, what they strived to do, what they were passionate about, what they didn't get excited about, what they were skilled at, etc. Some of my residents would tell me that they wanted to volunteer somewhere, but they either didn't know where or they simply didn't have the time. Some of my residents didn't get along with the staff, some didn't know their neighbors, some didn't think they had much to offer. 

When I did this challenge, I was really intentional with the timing. I presented this idea to them after Thanksgiving break and challenged them to complete the challenge I gave them by a specific date. The date I gave them was the day after finals ended, the day we were kicking them out of the hall (note: hall, like residence hall. We don't have dorms at NAU. If you want to hear about the difference, I'd love to tell you!). They had about 3 weeks to do said challenge. One of those weeks was finals week, the other week was reading week, and the other week was last lecture week. AKA I gave them the most inconvenient time possible for them to complete the challenge. I did that on purpose though. Essentially, I did that to show them that timing is always going to suck and we can always use that as an excuse, and part of the challenge is not to do that. To be willing to take some time out of our days to  help people and to be more positive. Someone told me one time that while most people have goals and don't let anything get in their way and don't stop until they achieve said goals, that they viewed me as someone who is willing to stop for other people on the way to achieving my goals. That I care more about people and about influencing and impacting them and about my journey to my goal then just achieving my goal. That was super powerful for me to hear and it has stuck with me and something I now continue to strive to do. And it's something I tried to encourage my residents to do. 

Some of the challenges included:
  • Write a letter to the MoCa (Morton/Campbell) Hall Staff
  • Take your neighbor out to eat
  • Stargaze with someone for at least 20 minutes
  • Attend at least 3 programs put on my hall staff
  • Write a letter to people who live in certain rooms, encouraging them
  • Write an encouraging a note on everyone's white board
  • Volunteer at least 2 hours of your time at Flagstaff Family Food Center
  • Have a meal with at least 4 other people from Campbell
  • Write an encouraging note to each member on executive council
  • Get to know basic facts about at least 2 people in Campbell
  • Volunteer or write a supportive letter to CASA
  • Send a positive e-mail to MoCa hall staff
  • Have a meal with your roommate
  • Grab coffee with someone you don't live near
[This isn't the whole list, but the main ones.]

I asked them to think about specific things before/after/during the challenge. (I had them separated, but just put them in a long list here.)
  • What will this cost me time? Effort?
  • Is this challenge easy/hard? Why? 
  • What happened during this challenge? (Conversations, learned about someone, etc)
  • Do I feel more like a positive contributor to the community?
  • Why did/didn't I complete this challenge?
  • What did I get from doing it?
  • Will I continue to do this challenge once completed?
  • Was this challenge a reality check for me?
  • How do I normally interact with my community?
  • How did this challenge impact me?
  • What did I fear when I read the card?
  • Do I view myself differently? Others differently?
  • How do I view the MoCa community?
  • Do  I view the hall staff differently?
  • Is there power in encouraging others?
  • Is it worth my time to spend it with others and/or encouraging others? Why/why not?
That was essentially what I challenged my residents to do. One resident was having some issues with our hall staff and I challenged her to write a letter to the MoCa hall staff. She did. She told us about herself. She told us what she got excited about, what bored her, what she liked, what she didn't like. And at the end of the letter she thanked us for all of our hard work and acknowledged that she knew we really did care. After that, things changed. That was powerful for us to hear. We, as a hall staff, need to hear those things. We love hearing from our residents what we can do better, what we are doing really well in, how we are impacting them. 

Now, I will be honest. This program didn't have a high success rate. I asked people why. You know what their most common responses were? Ashley, I just didn't have time. Maybe if you gave it to me when it wasn't near finals I would have done it. Ashley, I just forgot. Ashley, this challenge is too hard for me. 

If you are ever challenged to do something, don't let time be an excuse. If you are forgetful, write it down, post it somewhere. And I believe in my residents. I know them. I know that I gave them real challenges, things that they struggled with. I was incredibly purposeful with them. And they know it. I believe each challenge presented was achievable by the specific person I gave it to. Just hard. I truly tested their abilities. I pushed them. I believe that if you don't have anyone pushing you or calling you out on excuses or crap you're doing, you don't have anyone that cares about you. And I deeply and desperately care about all of my residents. So I challenge them. And call them out on their silly excuses. 

Letter to self
At the beginning of the semester, I asked them to write a letter to themselves. In that letter, I told them to be real in it, to be honest in it. To write goals in it, to encourage themselves. To remind themselves how wonderful they are. To draw a picture, to make them smile. I gave them all "security envelopes" and gave them three days to write this letter and had them put it in the envelope and seal them. Currently, they are all in one of my drawers and I have picked out a date and put in my calendar to hand them back out. The only person who will see this letter is them. I'm just holding onto the letters and will return them back to each person in the sealed envelope. 

I have done this twice before and it can be such a powerful thing when taken seriously. About half of my residents decided to take on this challenge and I am so excited for when they get their letters back. 

Valentine's Day Challenge

Valentine's Day has gotten this bad rap for being this awful holiday, and is often referred to as "Single's Awareness Day". People hate Valentine's Day for all sorts of reasons and I always thought I hated it too. But I thought about it...and realized I don't really hate it (ha, kind of sounds like the money post...). People often get upset if they don't have a "significant other". But here's the deal. The term "significant other" actually means anyone you really care about, anyone who has the greatest effect on our judgments. Someone who serves as a social model, usually an important person in our life. For the week of Valentine's Day, I challenged my residents to not get so caught up in the "stupidity" of Valentine's Day, but to focus on the real meaning of significant others. And for that week, show someone that they care. Really care. I challenged them to make that person feel loved, feel significant, feel worthy. 

And I challenge you all to do the same. Be challenged. 

PS--New look of blog...good? bad? 

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