We tend to think of easy things as good things. If something is easy, there is no stress, no challenge, "simple comme Bonjour" as the French say. But we also know that it is through challenges that we grow. I'm not here to go on a rant about how humans have gotten "too soft," or that we no longer know how to address challenges. There is plenty of that out there already and frankly it's not up to me to tell you how easy or difficult elements of your life should be in order for you to be appropriately challenged. That is for you to decide. Rather, I'm working with this idea that what makes parkour so powerful and transformative for many is that it can reconnect us with how to identify and approach challenges. It gives us a medium through which to understand them and to no longer fear difficulty.
Hearing this young man's question immediately brought me back to a time when challenges would really stress me out. My whole life I have held myself to high (often unreasonable) expectations. I have also always been one to thrive on challenges and seek them out. But I did so with damaging consequences: if I was unable to meet a challenge, I would persist in achieving it, but all the while messages of inadequacy would run through my brain: Who do you think you are, trying this? It's too hard for you. What gives you the right to think this is something you can do? You should just give up now. Granted, often times proving that voice wrong was the fuel I needed to persist in rising to the challenge, but that doesn't mean it was constructive or healthy.
Through parkour, I discovered -- in a very raw, physical, experiential way -- that it never gets any easier. And while on the surface that sounds daunting and hopeless, it's actually not. Once I accepted that it wouldn't ever get easier, there no longer was a value judgment attached to it. For many of us growing up in a culture where achievement, gold stars, affirmation, acquisition, are highly valued, this idea is revolutionary. I'm not bad or a failure because this discipline is hard for me. I'm not a loser because this jump is challenging me. It just is. That's just the way it is. The only appropriate response is to just keep training and working at it. I know that once I break the jump, a new jump will arise in its place. The limits keep shifting, and that's OK. In fact it's something to celebrate! How wonderful that there are countless opportunities for me to get stronger, more engaged, more resilient and aware?
Parkour practice can shift our mindset from one of external achievement to internal strength. Learning to embrace challenges on the concrete translates easily to embracing challenges in all areas of life. When does it get easier? It doesn't. How joyful!