There are many reasons to challenge yourself, beyond the normal challenges of day to day life. Here are my top ten reasons to push yourself out of your comfort zone and test your limits on a regular basis:
1. Because it makes you feel alive. There’s no two ways about it, being scared or worried about failure is a natural human instinct that reminds you of how alive you are. Even though you probably won’t be putting yourself into an actual life or death situation, your body probably doesn’t know that, and it will produce a cocktail of hormones designed to protect you in a perceived threatening situation. You’ll feel adrenaline coursing through your veins as you stand up to make that speech, or send your work to be reviewed, or have that conversation you’ve challenged yourself to have. Whatever your personal challenge, it’s going to make you feel as if you’re actually living, more than any amount of curling up on the sofa watching TV will ever manage to do. And it’s great to be alive, especially as we’re only here for such a short time.
2. Because you never know your limits until you test them. You might think that you don’t have the capacity for greatness in a certain area, but you’re almost certainly wrong. Given enough dedication, commitment and passion, anyone can do pretty much anything they set their mind to. People have been known to climb mountains, perform incredible feats of bravery and even become billionaires simply through sheer force of will and belief in themselves. If Steve Jobs hadn’t challenged himself to come back stronger after being fired by Apple, we might never have the iPhone. And that would be sad.
3. Because you will inspire other people to do the same. Since starting this madness of writing a million words in a year, I’ve been contacted by two other people who have also started their own challenges in different areas of their lives, and who have said they have been inspired by my own story. And that is great, especially as the main reason I’m doing this is to help other people in the long run. Plus, I was inspired by an acquaintance who set himself the challenge of running a thousand miles in a year a while ago, and I’ve been thinking about how great that was of him to do. Of course he did it for charity and raised a lot of money. But I don’t think people would sponsor me to write in the same way as people sponsor others to run. I might be wrong though.
4. Because challenges help you figure out your strengths. If you don’t know what you’re good at, why not challenge yourself to see how far you can go in a certain area. I don’t know if I can actually write poetry, but I’m going to use one of the months of this year to write a lot of it, just to see if I can. Who knows, maybe it’ll come naturally to me and I’ll have found a brand new strength I didn’t know I had. I doubt it, I think I’ll probably just spend a month writing tosh, but you never know!
5. Because challenges are fun. What’s more important than enjoying life, and making happy memories? When you look back at your life, will you remember all the times you sat on the sofa with your feet up, or will you remember all the challenges you faced and overcame? Actually, I have very fond memories of snuggling on the sofa with my husband and our kids, so that’s probably not the best example!
6. Because it will inspire improvement in other areas of your life. If you give yourself a physical challenge, it’s likely you’ll have to push yourself mentally, to face the desire to give in and to have to keep yourself motivated even when you’re exhausted. And since willpower is a muscle that you can train just as you can your memory, by using your willpower to face your chosen challenge, you’ll also be able to use that willpower in other areas of your life, such as financial management or removing bad habits.
7. Because you’ll be proud of yourself for doing so. Don’t underestimate how important your self-perception is in setting your level of success in life. If you see yourself as a winner, you’re more likely to put yourself forward for challenging situations in the future, and you’re more likely to be better paid, have a better social life and generally be happier in all areas of your life. Once you know that you’re the type of person who will face up to your fears – even if you don’t always succeed at every challenge – your inner confidence is bound to grow, and the rest of your life will improve as a result.
8. Because if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards. Even as you read this, other people are improving their lives in small and large ways, all around you. And even though you’re not in a race with those people, you will eventually find yourself being compared to others, whether physically or financially, and you might not like the result. It’s better to be ahead of the pack, and aware of where your own strengths lie, so that you can confidently find your own place in the world, regardless of where other people are.
9. Because you never know where a challenge might lead. If I write all these words, I don’t know what will happen to them. I intend to write at least three novels and a couple of non-fiction books in 2016, but I don’t have a firm plan about what will happen once they’ve been written. Will a publisher come knocking, or will I put them in a folder on my desktop and forget all about them for years, until one day, long after my death, they’re found on an ancient laptop, somebody reads them and decides to publish the posthumous works of a rediscovered genius? That’s a bit morbid, but you get my meaning. I’m writing these things more for the joy of writing than for the end results, but maybe I should start visualising a happier outcome.
10. Because you can. What better reason is there to do anything, than simply because you’re here, you’ve thought of it, and you think you can do it? Many great works have been created in the past simply because somebody thought they could do it, even though others might have thought it was impossible. There’s the famous anecdote about Sir Roger Bannister being the first person to run a mile in under four minutes, and lots of people doing it subsequently, even though it had been widely accepted to be impossible prior to that. Once you know how much you can achieve, it will become addictive to push yourself with greater and more impressive challenges.
So that’s a quick run through of ten reasons to set yourself big challenges in life. If you can think of any more, or if you’ve decided to take up your own challenge in 2016, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.