Why do we challenge ourselves?
I recently saw a Ted Talk about introducing new challenges in your life and how adding challenges to your life can change your life. Why is it important to challenge ourselves?
From the very beginning of our lives, we are being challenged. From birth when we fight to gasp our first breath, to later struggling to hold our heads up, learning to walk, talk and fend for ourselves. Life has never been and will never be easy, nor should we want it to be. It is those challenges that help us grow, make us stronger and make us learn about ourselves.
A chicken that is aided in breaking out of its shell will die shortly after hatching. What is it about the challenge of breaking out of the shell that makes the chick strong enough to survive? Challenges make us stronger. It pushes us to the brink of our limits and allows us to go just a little bit further.
Why as adults, when life is supposed to be a little easier; we can walk, talk, read and pretty much take care of ourselves, do we challenge ourselves? Why do adults go back to school when they don’t have to? Why do people enter in physical endurance events when no one is forcing them to? Why do we set goals for ourselves when they, at times, only make life more difficult? Because we want to know that we can do more. We want to know that we can be more.
Sir Edmund Hillary scaled Mount Everest “because it was there”. Just because it was there doesn’t mean the mountain must be climbed, there was something within Hillary that pulled him to climbing the world’s highest mountain. Why did Ernest Shackleton feel the urge to try to be the first man to make it to the South Pole? Why after trying and failing, falling 97 miles short of the South Pole in 1901 does he try again in 1911? What drives people like this to challenge themselves to complete a goal, even when death is a very likely outcome? Both of these men knew there was more out there then the life they were living. They knew their lives were meant to be something more and they knew they were the only ones who could take their lives to the next level. It was their drive and willingness to set challenges, even in the face of failure, doubt and even death, that pushed them through those hurdles to achieve what no one had done up to that point.
Why is it so important to partake in such challenges when the individual is the only one who cares about the outcome ? Hillary and Shackleton were embarking on these adventures to satisfy their own urge, not to prove anything to anyone but themselves. It is this drive that makes us who we are. It makes us stand out from everyone else. It also proves to us that we have control over our future. This idea is comforting to some and scary to others. This may determine what makes some set challenges for themselves and others who are content being where they are. Knowing that you have control over your own success means you are also responsible for your failures. If you are willing to accept the responsibility of failure, you deserve the sweet reward of achieving your goals and overcoming your challenges.
This drive is what separates those who are successful from those who are not. You have to decide what you want for yourself and how you are going to obtain it knowing that if it is truly worth it, it will be challenging, difficult and test you in ways you may never have known, but once your success is achieved, you will realize the challenge was worth it.
What challenges have you set for yourself? It doesn’t matter how big or how small those challenges are, it matters that you challenge yourself in order to grow. To challenge yourself is not enough, you need to find a goal that you would like to achieve and work your way backwards. What steps do you have to take to get you where you want to go? Who will you need on your side to help you? What steps need to be taken and how long will it take you to get there? Whatever your challenges may be, work hard, don’t give up and know that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.