The Importance of Challenging Yourself – by Ryan Burley

I would like to pose a question to you: Is there something you would like to change about yourself? I’m willing to bet you answered ‘yes.’ Everyone has something they would like to change or improve upon, whether it be physically, spiritually or materialistically. We all (should) crave growth. And in my opinion the most important contributor to growth is the action of continually challenging yourself.

It was a challenge that really kickstarted my yogic lifestyle (I won’t call it an obsession, although others might!). It was a challenge I’m sure some of you reading this have completed – 30 days of yoga. At the time that this challenge was presented to me, I had about 5 months of classes (2-3 times a week) under my belt. It’s safe to say I thoroughly enjoyed yoga, but I hadn’t fallen in love yet. Aaaand I wasn’t totally in love with the idea of 30 days in a row either. But I signed up anyway, with the intention that I would go for at least ten days in a row and see how things went from there.

The first ten days were great! My awareness was growing from the repetition of poses and from noticing different cues for each pose from different teachers. This was going to be a breeze! It was somewhere around this 10-15 day mark that I caught a cold (it was winter). Just when everything was going good, I was presented with a setback. But was I going to think of it as a setback? I could think of it that way… but I didn’t. I saw it for what it was – another challenge to overcome. I continued making time everyday for class and ended up finishing the challenge without missing a day. And that’s when I fell in love. The growth I felt from that one month was enough to inspire me to grow and expand my practice to new heights.

To name a few, since the original 30-day challenge I have completed a personal 12 Days of Christmas Hot Yoga Challenge (where I wore a Santa hat to class for 12 days leading up to Christmas), started journaling and meditating (and made them both habits), finished Mudd Sweat and Tears (without ever having run 10k before, much less an obstacle course trail run!), as well as completed a 30-day challenge put forth by someone who thought I couldn’t go a month without eating meat. The knowledge I have gained from these actions is immeasurable, and lead me to challenge myself again – this time to 100 days of yoga in a row. At first I was unsure if I wanted to undertake this, if I could commit to it. But that thought lasted about 0.7 seconds. The seed was planted, and I was determined to take it on and have a new goal. At the publishing of this article, I should be around Day 80, with less than a month to go.

And now that you know my story, it’s time to start writing yours. And to help you with that, I would like to share with you what I have learned so far from these challenges:

Don’t wait for a challenge to come along – You don’t need someone else to present a challenge to you; you can do it on your own. Create and set your own intentions! Look inside yourself and discover where and what you need to grow, and set your goals accordingly.

Just do it! – Maybe Nike was onto something with this phrase… There’s no need to second guess yourself. This is your growth we’re talking about! Are you going to let anything stand in your way? Set your goals and…

Start today – You don’t have to wait until the beginning of next month to start a 30-day challenge for example. Today can be Day 1, whether it’s April 10th or November 24th!

Set aside the time – Quite often in this busy world we find ourselves running out of time to do everything we want. If you’re challenging yourself, make time for it and yourself. Make it a priority. If the challenge is a daily one, set a time to complete the day’s task and stick to it! If something comes up and you can’t make it at your specified time, be flexible and plan to complete the task at another time.

Make your challenge attainable – Don’t set unrealistic goals for yourself. You know your own limits (or at least have a reasonable idea) and your challenge should push those limits, but not to a point where it is completely unachievable.

Track your progress – Make your progress visual. Whether it be through an app on your phone or a calendar at home (Mosaics Bookstore downtown has 2014 calendars for $2!), counting the days will provide you with more motivation. You’ll find yourself needing that checkmark or heart that you draw to signify another day completed successfully.

And finally…

Celebrate your success! – You’ve done it! You have completed your challenge! Or maybe not! There is no failure when you challenge yourself! Just like your practice, everything is incremental. Every action and attempt is a building block toward achieving your goal. Even if you don’t complete your challenge the first time, the important thing is you tried! You made progress! Today is a new day. Begin the challenge anew. Build upon the groundwork you’ve already laid down. Surpass your previous achievement. And if you did complete your challenge? Great! Go celebrate and treat yourself to that steak or go buy those new shoes you just need to have. This is your victory and you’ve earned it!

The growth you experience from completing challenge after challenge will motivate you to succeed and accomplish ever-greater feats, each one building upon the foundation you are creating. You will find yourself doing things you never imagined possible. You will now have the power to do, change and transform anything you put your mind to.

I sincerely hope this motivates you to reach new heights and grow. All questions and comments are much appreciated and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoy sharing it.

Namaste.
Ryan Burley
Ryan is an avid yogi and regular at The Hot Box Yoga in Kelowna, BC and is fast approaching the completion of his 100 day challenge.

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