Challenge. It’s a human drive—one some people don’t bother to activate except under duress. But without challenge, you don’t live fully. You don’t feel the sense of commitment to growth, the excitement of taking on something new, or the gratification and confidence that comes from doing something outside your comfort zone. Without challenge, you don’t push yourself to higher levels of contribution and accomplishment.
Intentionally taking on—actually seeking out—challenge is a powerful way to step into the next best version of yourself and feel more alive. It’s a proven way to move closer to achieving your potential and fulfilling your purpose.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
I talk about the human drive for challenge often in my work as a Certified High Performance Coach. Most people realize they have the potential to do and be more than they are at this moment. But they find it easier to remain in their comfort zone than push themselves to do something uncomfortable—something challenging.
Yet, they feel the uncomfortableness of staying comfortable—doing the same ol’, same ol’ day in and day out. They want to realize their potential and fulfill their potential. When they don’t, they become more uncomfortable and unhappy.
And if nothing changes, they end their lives feeling a tremendous amount of regret.
Challenge Leads to Growth
Think about your life. Identify times when you felt challenged. And, using your 20–20 hindsight, look for how you grew as a result of those challenges.
I would bet money on the fact that you experienced the most personal and spiritual growth when you faced or took on a “real” challenge. The challenge might have been internal or external, but rising to that challenge caused you to stretch. Maybe you extended your self-concept, your skill level, your beliefs, or your physical capabilities.
Challenge of any type causes you to go beyond what you perceived as your limits. You find more significant levels of will, strength, commitment, focus, skill, and courage. In those moments, when you rise to a challenge, you also feel more alive.
Challenges are NOT Goals
Don’t confuse a challenge with a goal. They are not the same.
A goal could be one item on your to-do list, but it may not push you to go beyond your comfort zone or current performance level. Your goals may not require that you increase your efforts and abilities and grow closer to what you know is your best self.
A challenge does these things. Plus, a challenge inspires you in a way that most goals do not. Think about how we speak about the two…
You “rise” to a challenge. But you “accomplish” a goal.
Challenges are about becoming someone you aspire to be and giving more of yourself in the process. Goals are about getting something done.
Challenges take you on a journey. Goals get you to a destination.
I started thinking about the power of a challenge this past week as I prepared for the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge, a free event I run every year for nonfiction writers.
In the writing world, November is noteworthy for all the writing events held, specifically National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Novelists worldwide set a goal of writing 50,000 words—a complete novel—in 30 days. And many meet that goal.
The Write Nonfiction in November Challenge (aka National Nonfiction Writing Month) is different. It’s not about completing 50,000 words in 30 days—a goal. It’s about challenging yourself to start and finish a work of nonfiction in a month. There are no word counts, just the personal challenge to do something that feels uncomfortable, difficult, and above your current skill level. It’s a challenge to stretch yourself as a writer.
This challenge is not just about reaching the goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s about who you are now and who you have become at the end of the month.
Believe in Yourself
Three times in the last few days, I’ve been asked the same question about the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge. “What if I don’t think I can finish my writing project in a month?”
These aspiring authors feel defeated before they begin. They don’t believe they can meet the challenge. In fact, they are setting themselves up for and accepting failure.
They also are arguing for comfortability—to remain in their comfort zone.
That’s not the mindset you need for success of any kind, let alone to meet a challenge. And it’s definitely not a mindset that will help you live into your best self and create your dream life. Nor is it a mindset that will help you live a life without regret.
You have to believe in yourself—even if you aren’t totally sure of your outcome. That’s the exciting part of the journey…you don’t really know the destination. When you complete the challenge, you and your life will be different. You can imagine that…but you won’t get to experience it until you complete the challenge.
The first step of the journey requires commitment. The second step requires belief in yourself.
End 2020 Strong
This year has felt challenging to almost everyone all over the world. Many people, however, feel weakened by all that has happened.
Don’t let that be you. If it is, it’s time to find a way to feel strong. If you already feel strong, ensure that you enter 2021 strong enough to take on anything.
The way to do that is simple: Take on a challenge, and imagine yourself succeeding. Believe in yourself and your ability to rise to a challenge (because you can).
You could challenge yourself to get up at 5 a.m. every morning, drink three liters of water per day, read a book a week, lose 15 pounds, start your blog, build a new online course, start a business, run 10 miles, or write a book in a month. You decide on the challenge.
Just be sure that whatever you take on feels uncomfortable. The only way to get out of your comfort zone is to do something that makes you squirm a bit. A challenge will do that for you every single time.
Rise to the Challenge
Here’s one last bit of advice: Don’t take a challenge given to you by someone else. If someone says, “I challenge you to…” and take on that challenge, you do so to prove something to someone else.
Take a challenge because you feel the internal push to do so—to prove something to yourself. Take it because you want to move out of your comfort zone and grow. Challenge yourself because you want to fulfill your potential and feel more confident and alive.
Where in your life are you the most uncomfortable with staying comfortable? Challenge yourself to change that.
What personal challenge will get you out of your comfort zone and help you grow? Tell me in a comment below. And if you know anyone else who could use a challenge, please share this post with them.
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