I dare you to challenge yourself!

Oasis Living Magazine, October 01, 2011

What is this whole concept of challenge? Why should we challenge ourselves? Why not just stay in our comfort zone and ignore the idea of educating ourselves further, of working towards a more interesting job, or climbing that mountain next spring? Why not just sit in a relaxing job that we are familiar with? Why work up a sweat that could cause us to stretch ourselves physically? The reason is simple: challenges allow us to grow and develop as human beings. Stretching ourselves beyond our level of comfort is how we become the best that we can be.

Most expatriates who have moved to the UAE have already completed a successful “challenge test.” Uprooting from the comforts of home, family and culture to come to a foreign environment and essentially start over is an achievement all on its own. However, once we adjust to these new surroundings, it is easy to fall into a comfort zone and cruise along without really challenging ourselves further.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a challenge is a “test of someone’s skill or determination.” However, there are two very distinct challenges that we commonly face – the ones that we seek and the ones that confront us. Whichever form they come in, most people will agree that we can learn a great deal from overcoming such challenges. If the challenge is a debilitating illness or a sudden termination of employment, this will require a lot of mental strength and energy to ensure we prevail. The effort required to cope with life’s trials and tribulations may be overwhelming at times, but once it is over, we can look back and know that the experience made us stronger and more resilient.
The challenges that we seek are the ones where we make a conscious decision to defy the norm. Whether it is running a marathon, taking on a more complex job or completing an MBA, a challenge can be an opportunity to develop and grow as an individual. We demonstrate courage and willpower to take on these challenges. Sir Edmund Hillary’s view on climbing Mt. Everest was that, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

A relevant analogy may be how the muscles work in our body. They will function day to day and continue to operate as they were designed for many years, but to make them stronger and more effective, you must work them, make them burn and test them. In fact, by doing weightlifting activities, you encourage microscopic tears in the muscles, which will grow back stronger.

How we grow and develop as individuals is not dissimilar. People often cite challenging and difficult times as the moments when they really learnt something about themselves. There is an appropriate African proverb that states: “smooth seas do not make the most skillful sailors.”

So, as you settle back into the school, work and home routines this October, this is a good time for you to reflect on the following:

Confronting Challenges

Are you currently facing difficult challenges in your life? If so, how are you coping?
What lessons are you learning and how are you growing?
Depending on your answers, these tips may be helpful to you:

Ask for help. Get the support you need.
Give yourself the time to adjust to this unwanted change, reframe and think positive.
Try to see this challenge as an opportunity, a way to achieve personal development.
Challenging Yourself

Do you have enough challenges in your life to ensure that you are growing and being mentally stimulated?
Do you feel you are in a rut? Do you want to test your skills and determination?
Depending on your answers, these few tips may be helpful to you:

Take charge! Sign up for an Arabic language or dancing class. Join a gym, volunteer for a charity, or plan your trip to climb that mountain!
Just remember, the more you challenge yourself and succeed, the more you will have confidence in your ability to do it again. A challenge doesn’t just help you develop your skills and knowledge, it also helps you to believe in yourself.