The Art of Challenging Yourself

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. It’s easy to quit, to give up, to admit defeat. It’s easy to cut corners and to take the short cut and to give something less than 100%—come on, what’s wrong with 80%?

And then you wonder where the results are.

Where’s my return on investment, you ask. Well, to generate a return, first you have to invest. And that means challenging yourself.

Here’s why, and here’s how.

Why You Should Challenge Yourself

To learn more about you, of course. Who are you—no, really? What are you capable of, actually, when you push excuses aside? Above all, what can you become?

More than you think, that much we can guarantee.

Only when you approach your true limits can you understand yourself; the search for these boundaries can be any combination of riveting, enlightening, and terrifying. Seeking challenge means facing the demand from your body to quit—the legs beg to stop spinning, the hands to stop punching, you can’t possibly run another step—and either ignoring the plea or outright denouncing it: “You will keep running, legs, and that is final.”

Amazingly, you keep going. A well-challenged mind knows that the body will always underestimate its capacity for suffering. The body cannot be trusted to determine failure; the mind must dictate what is in fact impossible.

Which is hardly anything at all.

“It sometimes feels like we have nothing left to give,” writes Angela Duckworth, a renowned psychology professor and researcher, in her masterpiece Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. “And yet, in those dark and desperate moments, we find that if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, there is a way to to accomplish what all reason seems to argue against.”

It’s human nature to limit our own ambition, for within the realm of possibilities lie an overwhelming amount of paths to take, and no shortage of uncharted territory to trail blaze, either. The easy path—the one that’s soft and gentle and familiar—may offer a simple journey, but it will not provide a satisfactory destination.

The rewards of pushing your limits are rich. As for the risks? Former American president Teddy Roosevelt once pointed out, rather eloquently, that the true risk is in avoiding challenge. Those who challenge their own capabilities “at best know the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with the cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Or, in hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s words, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Veer outside of your comfort zone to discover the possibilities of yourself. No one else can do that for you. Finish each workout with an empty tank. Go to bed with nothing left on the table. Wake up ready to do it all again—only better.

One day, new human looks back at you in the mirror. A better, truer you. Stronger, inside and out—a layer of grit, a shield of confidence, and a mind that hungers for more: “What’s next?”

First Start, Then Finish

If you find yourself thinking, “This is too hard! I quit,” then you “might enter a vicious cycle that reinforces giving up,” according to Duckworth. In Grit, she warns that you “might learn to give up one thing after another, each time missing the opportunity to enter the virtuous cycle of struggle, followed by process, followed by confidence to try something even harder.”

So, first: find a challenge. Complete it at all costs—do not quit. Then find another.

You already know what you’re good at; the challenge there has passed. Therefore begin with a weakness. What do you suck at? Be honest. Better yet, what have you failed at—what have you quit before that you can return to and conquer with a new mindset?

As Roosevelt said, it is not the critic who counts: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”

Club XO’s Badass 21 Challenge is your first step into the arena.

We look forward to seeing you.