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Commandments for Challenging Yourself

June 18, 2014

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Challenging yourself is a scary thought, isn’t it? For me, that scariness comes from the thought of failure—the fear of not completing the task I’ve challenged myself with. Besides the risk of not rising to a challenge you set for yourself, there’s also the uncomfortable idea of stepping out of your comfort zone, which can be scary in itself.

On the other hand—and the reason why I love a good challenge—challenging yourself gives you far more opportunities than threats, and the potential benefits outweigh whatever fear is holding you back.

One of my favorite websites for all things life and style is The Everygirl. I’ve been following them for quite some time now, and recently decided to start participating in their 30-day challenges.

My first challenge began in May, when I committed to a month of home cooking.  The rules were straightforward and simple: all meals must be home cooked.  This means that breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks were not purchased from a restaurant or a store.  However, it’s okay if you weren’t the cook and had a meal prepared for you.  Participants received four cheat days because, let’s face it, life happens: there are days when you get stuck at work or in a traffic jam, your kids have soccer practice, or a friend has a birthday dinner celebration. I also allowed myself to go out for the occasional glass of wine or appetizer with my girlfriends, because being social and cultivating relationships is another important part of my life. What’s great about taking on personal challenge is that it’s personal. Customize it so that it serves you and your unique life, rather than adhering to strict “rules.”

This month, the challenge is “Morning Motivation,” where participants wake up 30 minutes early every morning to do something they want to do, unrelated to work, before the daily grind starts. Morning activities could include meditation, working out, cooking a great breakfast, reading, journaling, or whatever feels right for you!

These two challenges from The Everygirl have been neither excessively difficult nor totally out of my realm of possibility, but they both forced me beyond my comfort zone, requiring me to say no to dinner plans and skip the snooze button in the morning. By pushing past these personal boundaries, I have seen a new side of myself and discovered a new sense of strength and capability.

Feel like you might be up to a little personal challenge yourself? Read on for my tips for success.How to Stick with a Challenge:

Use the Buddy System

Having a friend or buddy to do things with always makes things more doable. Find someone who motivates you, and encourage each other to complete the challenge with positive reinforcements. Even if your challenge is online, like mine was, or if your friend is long distance, you can still connect with people who will keep you inspired. Social media is a great tool for this. For example, using hashtags with the challenge name on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram keeps you connected to a larger community, and you will even discover new friends to follow. It’s amazing how supported you can feel by people you don’t even know.  

Get Back Up and Try Again

Ate a cookie after you challenged yourself to cut out refined sugar or gluten during weekdays? Don’t worry about it. Let it go, and remind yourself you’ll be dedicated again tomorrow. The more you dwell on slip-ups , the more defeated you’ll feel, and the more likely you’ll be to make the same misstep again tomorrow. I hit snooze on Tuesday because that’s what my body needed; I know I’ll wake up 30 minutes early tomorrow to write on my blog.

Use Your Calendar

Get excited about your challenge, because it’s going to make you a better you!  During the home cooking challenge, I planned my meals in advance, and during the morning motivation challenge, I chose my morning activity the night before. Planning out the logistics with things you’ll look forward to makes the challenge seem less, well…challenging! If you’re excited about what lies ahead you’ll be more likely to follow through on the commitment.

We’ve all heard the quote “if you’re comfortable you’re not moving forward”, and I fully agree with this.  This doesn’t mean that each and every action we take should be challenging, per se. I simply believe that by pushing ourselves and expanding our horizons, our personalities and mindset take on new shapes, and we are able to find the best, ever-improving version of ourselves.

Whether it’s facing your fear of heights with skydiving or simply cooking meals at home, I’d love to hear how you challenge yourself. Leave your reply below!

About the author

Hailey Miller is a contributing writer to Wellness Today. She loves running, cooking and baking, teaching spinning, writing on her blog On The Side of Nine to Five, and exploring NYC. She is enrolled in Integrative Nutrition's October 2013 Health Coach Training Program.