Every week, every month, every year, I look for a new challenge. This is something I started (by accident, like so many things in life) in 2009. Before that, I can’t remember purposely seeking out anything that was new or hard or different… because I was just too shy or too afraid or (most often) it just never occurred to me I could achieve whatever the new thing was. I really never did hard things.

But I wrote an essay a few years ago for a contest titled “The Hardest Thing I Ever Did.” The subject was my running the Chicago Marathon in 2009. And writing that essay forced me to see that I had finally done a hard thing.

Here’s what I wrote: how I had never run a step until a friend convinced me I could run a marathon. How I started training in April for the October race, had surgery in May, and didn’t train with any real purpose until pretty much July. How I never watched or ran even a 5k race before I landed in Chicago to run the 26.2, having zero idea what it would be like. How my training “plan” was not that great. How I was with a group of runners but didn’t think of myself as a runner. How I almost stopped in the medical tent at mile 25. How I finished with a pretty dismal time – but I finished. And finishing that race lit a lightbulb for me – that I could set tough goals – seemingly unreachable goals – and do it. The fact that it was a physical achievement was particularly amazing for me – since I was not an athlete of any kind.

So that was more than 6 years ago, and I’ve continued to find new ways to challenge myself since. Even if it’s not a “big” challenge, I just try to seek out new and difficult things to prove to myself I can do them. And, in the process, I hope I’m showing my kids that to really experience life we need to try, try, try things that are outside our comfort zones… it’s often how you find passion and purpose. So for 2016, I’m trying to do one new thing each month. Again, these are not necessarily big things – they’re just things I’ve never done before or don’t think I can do because… (insert excuse here).

For me, so far, it’s been:
January: Launch this blog. (Check.)
February: Make a cheesecake (I’d never made one before so one day I just did) and climb a mountain (Ok, it’s a small mountain, but it’s still a real mountain).
In March I’m going to make (yes, build) a desk for my daughter’s room. (Never on the radar before; I usually buy things, not make them, but my friend Jill did it so I can, too!)

I think we should all challenge ourselves sometimes, and here’s why:
1) Research shows if you set real goals and write them down, you’re WAY more likely to actually achieve them.
2) It’s your chance to dream. Where do you see yourself? Is there something you want to do? Something that others do that you’d like to try?
3) Life is short, and when you’re parenting/working/etc. it can get pretty predictable. Why not change things up?
4) You’ll discover you’re stronger, mentally or physically, than you think.
5) It will often lead you to new friendships, new relationships or a new view of your world.

How are you challenging yourself this year? Big ones? Small ones? I’d love to hear. 🙂

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