Remember that old, cliché expression, “no pain, no gain”? It’s about the need to push ourselves in order to improve. Nobody wants to hurt, but sometimes progress can hurt and put us into overwhelming situations, causing stress, anxiety, or illness.
Consider the stress of having to find a new job. What about moving or a remodel? To avoid the discomfort, we shy away from pushing ourselves further or putting ourselves into challenging situations again because it just doesn’t feel good.
But it feels good to expand our horizons or to improve who we are or how we do things. It can help us be more productive because when we’re always in a comfort zone, we tend to get well . . . comfy, and then do the minimum required to get by.
If we practice challenging ourselves, we’ll have an easier time dealing with change. Brene’ Brown says taking risks in a controlled environment (in this case, one we create) is less risky and eliminates uncertainty, making us braver and more prepared (or resilient) for unexpected situations.
If we practice challenging ourselves, we might find it easier to push the envelope in the future. Once we start stepping out of our comfort zones on our own, it will become easier.
I realized several years ago that my brother has a bucket list. It isn’t really so that he can check off things before he “kicks the bucket”, which is what the term “bucket list” originally referred to. No, his list is more to challenge himself to do new things.
And he does. He completed the Mongol Rally. He starts businesses. He pushes himself physically. He learned to paint and sculpt. Some of the things he does might be considered wacky to other people, but that doesn’t matter. He’s not challenging himself for them. He’s doing it for himself.
I admire people who push themselves to improve, but our efforts don’t have to be major. Sometimes all the challenge we need to feel rejuvenated is to take a new route to or from work. To feel like we’re getting healthier, we might only need to try to eat a new food. To feel more attractive, we might need to simply style our hair differently. Little things add up to big changes.
With that in mind, here is a list of 25 ideas, big and small, to challenge yourself. Consider how each of them makes you feel when you do them and then pick a new one. Let these be a starting point for you to brainstorm new ideas and challenges as you get into the habit of trying new things.
- Call instead of text.
- Resist checking your social media accounts when you have nothing to do. Find something else to do instead.
- Put a meal together using only three ingredients you have in the house.
- Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers.
- Take a different route to or from work or school even if it takes longer.
- Read a book in a genre you don’t usually read.
- Change your sleep routine. Wake up or go to bed earlier.
- Do something alone. For instance, go to lunch.
- Do something with new people. For instance, go to lunch.
- Take a class or seminar you’ve always been curious about.
- Memorize something.
- Volunteer somewhere for an organization you’ve been interested in.
- Make exercise time non-negotiable instead of when-convenient.
- Buy that ticket. You know the one.
- Learn a new language.
- Live within your budget.
- Ask for feedback. Be prepared for the feedback.
- Don’t drive to work. Bike or walk or take public transit.
- Try a new sport.
- Learn to play an instrument.
- Help somebody without being asked.
- Buy the shoes and wear them.
- Ask for help.
- Don’t ask for help.
- Declare your love.
Remember to take good care of yourself and/or get back into your comfort zone when you need to. How do you challenge yourself and what would you add to this list?