I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I’m more the sort of person who sees things that need fixing and fixes them. I don’t wait for some arbitrary date on the calendar. Recently I’ve been in a funk. It’s been a long year, for a lot of reasons. When I sat down and thought about it, I realized that at least some of my funk is the result of not having enough challenges in my life. I’m learning that if you don’t challenge yourself, life gets into a pretty deep rut.
This wasn’t always a problem for me. I’ve always been pretty good about challenging myself to do/learn new things, or achieve more. Lately, though, for a variety of reasons (some health related, some life related), I’ve been sinking too comfortably into the status quo. While this brings a certain level of security to life, it also makes it boring. And I’m afraid it’s turning me into a boring person. It’s certainly turning me into a less happy person.
So I’m setting out on a mission to consciously challenge myself more every day.
Here are the areas I’m going to try to specifically challenge myself in. You may want to try to challenge yourself along with me. If so, create your own list, but feel free to use mine for inspiration. (What’s challenging for me might not be for you, so don’t get caught up on my issues.) If not, hey. There’s nothing wrong with being satisfied with where you are. I’m not satisfied, so I’ll be challenging myself more and more over the coming months.
Note that you don’t have to break records, struggle, or injure yourself in order to challenge yourself. You may only need to bump up existing activities, or start some new ones. This doesn’t have to be a big deal resulting in large expenditures, either. You can find plenty of ways to challenge yourself for free.
I’ve always been active, but this year I’ve slacked off. As a result, I’m noticing some weakness, aches, and pains where previously there were none. I’m sure part of this is age related. Getting older sucks. But it’s also related to not keeping up my activity levels. (That plus the lower activity has resulted in some additional weight. It’s not horrifying, yet, but every extra pound puts more stress on things.)
So I’m going to make it a point to get back to more challenging exercises. Throwing a some jogging with my walking, trying some new forms of aerobic activity, or maybe joining a sport or class down at the community center.
I feel like I’m getting dumber as I get older. My memory is shot and things that used to come easily, like learning new concepts, don’t happen as readily as they used to. Although I’m nowhere near dementia, it’s probably the thing I fear most. I want to do everything I can to help stave it off, so I need to start challenging my brain more.
The past year I’ve pretty much done the work I need to do and mot much else. Learning languages got shoved aside, as did a lot of reading and learning for fun. I plan to add at least one mentally taxing thing per day. That may be reading a difficult book, working on my languages again, learning a new board game, or learning about new subjects.
I do pretty well on this one, but I do shelve a lot of project ideas because I’m afraid they’re stupid, or I’ll make a fool of myself if I try. I’m going to try to do better about pushing those boundaries. Sure, not everything will work out, and some of it will likely be stupid. But everything can be fixed, or simply discarded if it’s too terrible. There’s no reason not to try.
This one sort of goes hand in hand with the above, but I need to put myself out there more. My freelance work goes pretty well through word of mouth, but I can always network more. The same with my fiction. I need to do a better job of marketing and engaging with people to try to move the needle on my career. My tendency is to hermitize myself, but that’s never good for business.
I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety most of my life. Drugs are no help as I’m guaranteed to get whatever oddball side effects are on offer, and more are worse than just living with the depression and anxiety. As a result, I tend to turtle away from people, attachments, and things I find anxiety-inducing. Self preservation, you know.
But I know I can do better than that. I’ve tried this before and it’s helped, but this year I’ve fallen off the wagon. I plan to challenge myself to do one scary emotional thing per week. Whether that’s telling someone how I really feel, going out more socially, or trying things I’m afraid of. Life is calling and it’s up to me to answer.
I’m frugal by nature, but lately I’ve let those saving muscles atrophy. I’m not about to go bankrupt or anything, but I’ve been crossing into spending territory that makes me uncomfortable. Some of it is due to the chaotic nature of the past year. Sometimes it’s easier/less time consuming to spend than to DIY. But I need to rein it in and get back to my frugal ways. Lifestyle creep is real and, generally, doesn’t make me any happier, so it’s time to dial it back.
Internet-ly (Yes, I’m making up words, now.)
I’ve got to dial back the amount of time I spend on the internet. Like, yesterday. As much as I love it and find it helpful for my job, it also tends to inhibit most of the goals above. All those ads and easy shopping sites don’t help the financial side of things. News sites and social media don’t help the anxiety and depression. Time wasted isn’t helping the creativity, and the stupid stuff out there isn’t helping me mentally. And the butt-sitting isn’t helping physically.
It’s time to seriously curtail my usage, and get down to need-based use only. Do I need it for work? Yes. I need it for research, for posting things here, and marketing/engaging with readers. I don’t need to spend thirty minutes scanning Twitter or reading the news. And I definitely don’t need to shop unless there is something I really need, not want. I’m going to challenge myself to only go online when there is a clear, need-based reason to do so.
So that’s my challenge list for the coming year(s). I don’t view it as a resolution, because I know it needs to be part of my life forever. These are all things I’ve done in the past to good results. It’s just that for a variety of reasons, I’ve lost the thread of them. Time to get it back.
(Photos by Juan Jose, sydney Rae)