If you don’t push yourself and leave your comfort zone, how can you hope to discover what you are truly capable of, where your talents lie and what your limitations are? That’s why, as well as goals, we need to set ourselves challenges. Challenges not only force us to learn, develop and grow, but also keep complacency and laziness at bay.
If you are a gym-goer,for instance, then you will probably be aware that every 6 weeks or so you have to increase the amount of weight you lift in order to challenge your muscles to grow stronger. A runner may find themselves increasing their distance or speed every few weeks. This is because the body adapts to the pressure it is put under after a few weeks and your progress begins to slow. This is why it is necessary to increase the pressure under which the body is placed, in order to keep your muscles adapting and developing.
Challenges come in many forms, not just physical. Studies have shown that, in the workplace, people not only need to feel appreciated but also challenged. Without challenging your brain, work can start to feel mundane and repetitive leading to the best staff heading for the exit. Outside of the workplace, our brains can still benefit from exercise, whether it take the form of puzzles, creative work, video games or anything else that forces you to learn and develop.
In short, all forms of challenge can;
- Increase focus
- Give you something to aim for
- Force you to learn, grow and develop
- Provide a huge confidence boost when overcome
While laying in hospital in a weakened state, I decided I needed a physical challenge which would motivate me to work hard on my health and fitness. So, after I was discharged, I took the plunge and entered 3 triathlons for next year. It’s been a few years since my last race and this is the perfect motivation to get me back on track. For me, a triathlon is one of the best physical challenges with 3 disciplines back to back. As your body tires, the temptation will present itself to keep stopping, slow down or give up. Persevering through the soreness, tiredness and negative self-talk is as important as your fitness levels and preparation for the race. The feeling when you cross the finish line in a triathlon is like nothing else, because you have not only taken on a physical challenge and won, but have also become mentally stronger in the process. I want to experience this feeling again next year, 3 times, so have already started easing myself into a training programme.
So far, we have only looked at voluntary challenges, by which I mean ones which we consciously choose. These, however, are not the only challenges we will face in life.
As we pursue our goals in life, no matter how well prepared we are, at some point we will hit a roadblock. As in many other difficult situations, there will be a temptation to give up and try something easier. A little voice in your head will also be telling you the same thing repeatedly. These situations, which seem terrible at the time, can be a blessing in disguise as they force you to reflect on your progress so far, what has led to this point and what you could learn from them. Once you overcome these unforeseen challenges, you will be able to get back to pursuing your goals while being wiser and more knowledgeable for the experience.
Whether you choose them specifically or they just happen, challenges are powerful forces for good. They force us to learn and grow, and stop us from stagnating in life and becoming bored or boring.