The idea of challenging yourself is one of the pillars of personal development. By challenging yourself, you grow as a person and you learn to trust yourself more, which greatly increases your likelihood of having happiness and success in life.
Some ways of challenging yourself though are better than others. The best ones in my view are the ones that meet 3 fundamental conditions:
- They take you out of your comfort zone without putting you in serious danger;
- They provide you an intense, accelerated learning experience; and
- They help you develop skills and attitudes that are highly valuable to you in life.
Over the years, working on my own self-improvement and coaching others while working on theirs, I’ve identified 4 ways of challenging oneself that I believe are particularly useful, because they meet the 3 criteria above brilliantly well. I see them as the smartest ways in general for people to challenge themselves. Here they are:
1. Meeting New People
I just can’t say enough good things about meeting new people. I find it to be an amazing way to challenge yourself, and build a fun social life to boot.
When you deal with new people on a regular basis and you interact with individuals with a whole range of personalities, it really stimulates your social skills to grow. You learn how to talk with all sorts of people and keep conversations flowing, you get better at reading social cues, and you become more skilled at navigating complex social situations.
This is very important because good social skills are critical for developing good interpersonal relationships, and the quality of your relationships plays a determining role in your overall level of life satisfaction. So I encourage you to be active socially, attend social events regularly and make sure you habitually meet new people.
Personally, I love to travel. And the more exotic the travel experience, the more I love it. Beyond personal preferences though, travelling is another great way to challenge yourself.
Travelling takes you out of the environment you’re familiar with, and throws you into the unfamiliar. Thus you get exposed to new places, new cultures, new customs, and of course, new people. And in this sea of novelty, you adapt and you grow.
You learn to find your way in a city you’re in for the first time, to communicate with local people even if you don’t speak the local language, to handle the mishaps and unforeseen events which are only ordinary when travelling, and to somehow manage to enjoy yourself while doing all of this.
The most rounded, interesting individuals I know are people who’ve travelled a lot, have seen a variety of places and have experienced first-hand a variety of cultures. So I never hesitate to recommend travelling as a tool for self-growth.
3. Physical Exercise
Physical exercise is often talked about as a way to be healthy and stay in shape. I see another side to it though. I see it as a good way to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
This is because when you exercise, you put in some degree of effort. Whether you’re running, or lifting weights, or jumping rope, some sort of physical and mental exertion is involved. And this exertion has many benefits in terms of self-growth.
Through regular exercise, not only that you train your body and you develop your strength, speed, endurance and so on, but you also train your mind. You develop willpower, vigilance and confidence. And there are now studies that show regular physical exercise is associated with a higher level of perseverance and determination, which you know how important can be in life.
If you’re not exercising regularly, I believe you really should. Find some forms of exercise that you enjoy and make physical exercise a customary part of your life.
4. Aiming High in Your Career
Big, bold career goals can really challenge you and help you grow as a person. But I’m not talking about theoretical goals though that you dream of achieving, all the while spending most of your time watching TV. I’m talking about well-defined career goals that you work to achieve.
These goals can relate to the amount of money you make, the number of people you impact through your work, the role you play in a company, or the magnitude of the projects you manage. Whatever floats your boat.
The main point is that by setting and pursing such goals, you will be forced to develop as a person. You’ll need to study, to develop your expertise in your field, to innovate and to take calculated risks. All of this implies unbelievable self-growth.
In order to have a huge impact through your work, you have to become the kind of person who can deliver a lot of value. It takes time, patience and strategy to get there, it really challenges you, but it’s a worthwhile task.
These 4 strategies are like the 4 pieces of a puzzle. Put them all together and what you have is a lifestyle that entails constantly challenging yourself and growing in all the relevant directions: you grow socially, you stimulate your mind and body, you develop your expertise and you get wiser each day.
I don’t know about you, but I find that to be a pretty cool way to live. There is no better way I would want to see my life progress.
Eduard Ezeanu works with shy people and helps them improve their social confidence and social skills. He has coached privately clients from over 20 countries, on 5 continents. He also shares practical advice on his blog, People Skills Decoded.