How to challenge yourself


Crag
Watercolor
Suzanne McDermott

Slice of Life

I'm incredibly fortunate and deeply grateful to live steps from a beautiful beach right now. Every day, I take advantage by walking barefoot along the shore for at least 40 minutes. Longer or twice a day if I can.

This particular beach is interrupted by groynes (or jetties in other locations.) Rather than walk up to the dune end or around in the water at low tide, two weeks ago I decided to climb over the rocks at whatever point I approached them. I'm not a climber and have a history of ankle injuries but decided to try it anyway to change things up and give myself a bit more of a challenge.

Here's what I noticed. My focus sharpened, I felt a little braver and more accomplished, used a few extra muscles, and improved my balance. I challenged myself with a little thing and reaped some major results.

Now I'm down with a full-blown head and chest cold. I did get knocked out of commission for more than a few days before I fully understood that I had a virus. I don't get sick often so when I do, it suddenly feels like the end of all things. But it's not, of course. My challenge switched to taking good care of myself while getting back in gear.

I'll clamber over the groynes again but right now I'm exercising my flexibility.

How to Challenge Yourself

Start small

Growth is all about challenge and response. If you practice challenging yourself with small things, when you're faced with a task that seems like an insurmountable mountain, you'll know how to approach it. One step at a time.

Be imperfect

Many people are incapacitated by the notion that in order to do something new, they must do it perfectly. First of all, there is no such thing as perfect. Second of all, I take that back. You are perfect just as you are at this (and every) moment.

Instead of perfection, consider mastery. Mastering a skill takes practice. Practice takes commitment and dedication over a period of time. So...

Be brave

If you're afraid to take your first small step, ask yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?" Chances are, nothing of any consequence, especially if you are starting small with one small step.

Expect setbacks

Setbacks in any endeavor are inevitable. Setbacks are part of the challenge equation. How you respond to your setbacks are part of the response equation.

Don't give up when you experience a setback.

Be flexible

As you navigate setbacks, it helps to be flexible. If you're going to be flexible you have to practicing stretching yourself, mentally and physically.

Just as it was a stretch to take your first small step, it's another stretch to take another step after a setback. Even if you're knocked flat on your back by a setback, decide that you're going to proceed and get back on track as soon as possible.

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