What comes to mind when someone talks about challenging yourself?
Maybe you think your life is challenging enough.
Or maybe your last challenge has you a bit nervous about embracing a new one.
The plus side?
You learn from your challenges, no matter what the results.
So, if your last one didn’t turn out the way you hoped, every lesson you learn gets you closer to the results you want.
To that end, we’ve found 21 rewarding ways to challenge yourself.
Which one will you try first?
What Does It Mean to Challenge Yourself?
You’re ready to learn how to challenge yourself. And you know it’s more than facing yourself in the mirror and saying the words, “I challenge you to do something challenging,” though that can be part of it.
In fact, challenging yourself out loud can be very powerful. Whatever you say out loud and with intention stays with you longer than words kept inside your head.
As you’ll soon see, though, challenges go beyond strong words and good intentions. And the best ones (for you) are well worth the effort.
What Can I Do to Challenge Myself?
The best way to challenge yourself is to take extraordinary action that gets you closer to a goal you want to reach.
The actions you choose should be some challenging things to do you may not have tried before. They should force you to step outside your comfort zone.
To be worthy of the name “challenge,” your chosen action/s should help you in one or more of the following:
The point of challenging yourself is to help you become the person you want to be, even if you’re not sure, yet, who that is.
Challenge Yourself with These 21 Goals
Look through the following challenges to see what stands out for you. Start with something that scares you a little but that you know you can do.
1. Build a new daily “brain dump” habit.
Daily journaling gives you a chance to get your thoughts out of your head so you can deal with them and prime the pump and make the day’s writing flow more easily.
2. Take a class on something that interests you.
Sign up for a class that intrigues you and might lead you closer to the life you want.
It doesn’t have to be career-related, either; this could be about a hobby you enjoy or an interest you share with someone close to you.
3. Learn a new language.
Whether you’re planning a trip to someplace where English is not universally spoken, or you just want to be able to communicate with non-English speaking members of your community, make time every week to learn a language you’re likely to use.
4. Start a blog.
Decide on a specific niche that interests you and write something for your blog every week, even if it’s just something new you learned or random thoughts you don’t mind sharing.
Give yourself a day to edit each post with a clear head before you hit “Publish.”
5. Downsize your possessions.
If, like most people, you’ve accumulated more stuff than you want to have in your living space, challenge yourself to downsize your collection, focusing on one category at a time (the Marie Kondo way).
Enjoy discarding (with gratitude) what no longer serves you.
6. Wake up earlier
Start waking up at least an extra half hour earlier and use that time for a new morning routine that helps you wake up and prepare for your day.
An extra hour gives you even more time for a new routine that energizes you and helps you reach your goals.
7. Start a daily meditation habit.
Start every day with at least five minutes of meditation and build a habit you can easily maintain. Also, learn what you can about the benefits of meditation. Try different types to find the one that suits you best.
8. Create a new sleep-friendly bedtime routine.
If you’ve gotten into the habit of binge-watching shows on Netflix until midnight (or later), it’s only a matter of time before you start noticing the consequences: fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, etc.
Create a bedtime routine that ensures you get a good night’s sleep.
9. Challenge yourself to do at least 20 squats a day.
Or make it 20 push-ups or a half-hour brisk daily walk. Whatever you know you can commit to daily, whether you go beyond that or not, make a habit of it.
Use an app like Productive to remind you of your new commitment and keep track of your streak.
10. Reach out to an old friend.
If you’ve lost touch with an old friend, find them and check on them — if only to see how they’re doing and what they’re up to.
They may take their time answering you (since you haven’t been part of their lives), but keep trying. Show them they still matter to you.
11. Strengthen your relationships.
Spend time every week repairing and strengthening your most important relationships.
Make time for sitting down for a heart-to-heart talk with your spouse, your kids, and your close friends to nurture the bonds you have.
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12. Create a savings or investment plan.
Make a plan to save or invest a specific percentage of your income or a specific amount of money by the year’s end, and calculate how you’ll get closer to this goal month by month and week by week.
Talk to someone who can help you make the best use of your income.
13. Create a debt management plan.
Make a plan to cut your debt by a specific percentage this year and calculate the payments you’d need to make each month to reach that goal.
You can focus on the higher-interest cards first or focus on eliminating the card with the smallest balance.
14. Broaden your culinary skills.
If your culinary style is “cheap and easy comfort food,” it’s time to build on your cooking skills and try new cuisines.
If you’ve ever tried and loved authentic Indian, Thai, Korean, West African, or other foods but have yet to try your hand at making them, now’s the time.
15. Prepare and cook your own meals.
If you’ve gotten into the habit of letting other people (i.e., restaurants) cook for you, challenge yourself to prepare and cook more of your own meals.
Start with something simple that you like or set a goal to learn how to make all your favorite foods.
16. Make some new friends.
If you want to make friends badly enough, and just hanging out in your usual community hot spots isn’t helping, reach out to someone on social media. Answer their questions, and pose new ones.
Be the kind of social media contact whose comments they look forward to.
17. Volunteer for a cause that’s important to you.
Donating to worthy causes is also good, but volunteering in person is more challenging and takes a whole other dedication level.
Consider your options and make some phone calls to see what volunteer opportunities they have and their greatest needs.
18. Spend more time around people who help you grow.
If you’re the average of the people you spend the most time with, raise the average by finding people to hang with who inspire you, support you, and help you grow.
If better company isn’t an option, raise your standards with your books, podcasts, etc.
19. Create a reading list and work through it.
Make a list of all the books you want to read. This can an annual list or one you continually update as you go.
Each month, make a point of reading (or listening to) one or more from the list. Mix it up to explore a variety of interests and expose yourself to new ideas.
20. Replace a bad habit with a better one.
How about replacing a nailbiting habit with a habit of keeping healthy munchies (baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers) handy when you’re feeling anxious.
Or think of any habit that’s been holding you back and think of one you’d like to replace it with.
21. Create a vision board.
Gather the supplies you need, whether you’re creating a physical vision board or putting something together online. Make it about your whole life or a particular area of it. Put your vision into words using quotes and affirmations that resonate with you.
Ready to challenge yourself?
Now that you know at least 21 ways to challenge yourself, which ones will you try this week? Which will get you closer to goals you’ve set in the past year?
Every action you take to challenge yourself yields something, even if it’s just a lesson in how not to do things.
Whatever you learn, you can apply it to future problems to create more effective solutions. Every failure gets you closer to success.
The more you challenge yourself and your thinking, the faster you grow.