Why you should make your challenge more challenging

Sometimes a problem can seem impossibly hard to solve. Oddly enough, in those cases the best approach might be to make your challenge even harder…

In a previous post, I wrote about being creatively lazy and making your challenge unreasonably easy. Today I’d like to share a technique that is pretty much the exact opposite: making your challenge unnecessarily difficult.

The benefits of making your challenge more challenging

When you have trouble finding a solution to your problem, your challenge might not be inspiring enough. While it seems counterintuitive, making your challenge more challenging might just be the jolt your creativity needs.

A boring challenge is paralysing. A ‘moonshot goal’ is much more inspiring and will be fun to pursue.

Making your situation more challenging has several benefits:

  • You’ll start looking at your situation differently. Usual approaches will not be good enough to resolve the more ambitious challenge. You’ll need to look for something special.
  • Setbacks and limitations make people resourceful. Even when the limitations are artificial, you’ll automatically start thinking about more outlandish approaches than you would normally consider.
  • Unreasonable challenges spark unusual solutions. Luckily even the most preposterous ideas can be made workable. After all, it’s much easier to tame a wild idea than it is to make a boring idea interesting.
  • After trying to solve a much harder challenge, dealing with your initial problem will be a piece of cake. The solution to your unreasonable challenge might not be perfect (as desperate situations call for desperate measures), but you’ll have plenty of room to refine the approach. In the end, your actual problem is not as depressing as the one you tried to solve and a less radical approach will do.

There are several ways to quickly increase the difficulty level of your challenge:

Think big

Rephrase your target and make it (much) more ambitious. Say you want to increase revenue by 10%. What if you started thinking about ways to increase revenue by 300%? You’ll automatically start thinking about much more audacious approaches. You might still not reach your ridiculously big goal, but would you consider a ‘flimsy’ 50% increase a failure? Of course not, you’d greatly exceed your initial goal. Making your radical approach a bit more realistic might bring the number down a bit, but even ending with a 10% increase will be a win (as this was your goal all along).


What if you’d imagine the situation to be much worse than it actually is? What, for instance, if not only the sales of last quarter are disappointing, but all your customers suddenly leave you for an exciting new brand? What would you do to get them back? Thinking about dealing with your worst nightmare might lead to surprising insights and will force you to be resourceful in coming up with solutions.

Limit yourself

What if you make it hard for yourself by adding limitations? What if you would have a tiny (or no) budget? What if you’d have to implement the solution within the next two hours? What if you had to solve the challenge without changing anything to the space in which the situation occurs? You’d be forced to disregard the obvious approaches. You’d have to come up with unusual alternatives. Artificially limiting your options creates a necessity for more surprising approaches.

Some factors you could (artificially) limit are budget, people, time, space, volume, colour, shape and equipment.

In Summary:

To force yourself to be more resourceful, make your challenge more challenging. Rephrase your goal to make it more ambitious, ask yourself what you would do if the situation was much more dramatic (and thus more urgent) or limit your options severely.

How will you make your challenge more challenging?


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