This weekend I’m renting a kayak at Eagle Creek, just to challenge myself.
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of gliding across the still surface of a silver lake. Yep, it’ll probably take all my upper body strength just to paddle for the short two hour stint and I’ll probably hurt the next day. But I’m going after it – if only to put that notch in my belt of “challenges faced.” I know renting a kayak is a little thing, but small challenges add up and prepare us for the bigger ones we don’t always have the luxury of choosing.
It can be tempting in our busy lives to overlook our need for growth and simply subsist in the status quo – just getting by and surviving. Sure, we get challenged, but only in reaction to external circumstances. Instead, we can enhance our ability to respond instead of just react, by taking on challenges intentionally rather than simply waiting for them.
Intentional challenges move us forward in life, bit by bit. They improve our ability to rise to the occasion in any situation we experience. Ever see the look on the face of a kid who did something they didn’t know they could do, like ride a bike or swim across a pool? They’ve got a glow of joy and self-pride that’s unmistakable. When we’re young, we take on challenges because everyone else is doing it and we believe we can too. We’re encouraged by our parents to “just do it!”
When we’re children, our parents believe in us until we’re able to believe in ourselves. But when we become adults, no one is really cheering us on anymore (at least not as often). We don’t get as much encouragement to do the hard things, like interviewing for a job we’re not sure we’re qualified for, or losing the extra 20 pounds we’ve been moaning about for years.
More often than not, we have to face our challenges alone, which is all the more reason to improve our ability to meet life’s challenges head on.
Here’s what a regular challenge practice will help you do:
1. Increase your self-belief.
When we make ourselves do something “hard” and we finish it, we put a little notch in our belt of self-belief which translates into self-esteem. We have to intentionally work to nourish and grow our “self-estimation,” our larger sense of who we are, what we’re capable of, and what we can count on. On the other hand, when we avoid challenges, we undermine our self-esteem by saying, “I can’t.” We set ourselves up for a life of mediocrity, full of regrets and what-ifs.
2. Discover more about yourself.
Overcoming challenges creates opportunities to discover things about ourselves like strengths, preferences, and even passions. When we try new things, we discover hidden aspects of who we are that have yet to be developed. I’ve seen people find an intense love of dance and music much later in life than the norm, and they did it by taking one scary dance lesson with a friend. We unfold as a person who can experience joy, passion, and excitement for life when we choose to open our hearts to a new version of our Self.
3. Recognize your power as a creator.
When we face a challenge, we often have to dig deep within to find the personal power we need to rise up. When we pull those resources to the surface and put them into play, we create something new that wasn’t there before. Maybe a challenge you take on results in a higher paying job, a stronger and leaner physique, a work of art, a more organized lifestyle. No matter the outcome of taking a risk, you’re part of creating something better. Challenges teach us to appreciate the collaborative space between source and creation – our truest strength – the thing we’ll learn to count on when unexpected challenges hit us square in the face.
I’d love to hear about the last thing you did that was hard and challenged your beliefs about what you are capable of! Please share in the comments below.