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Challenging Yourself

Sean Lerwill outdoor sprinting

I was training with someone recently and we were talking about some work I did last week; she said “you’re one of those people who like to do something each day that scares you, aren’t you?!” It put me on the back foot for a second, as I had never considered myself one of those people; especially since I left the Royal Marines. However, I soon realised that I still challenge myself, perhaps not daily, but certainly often. The difference these days is that they are no longer all physical challenges. Often they are mental or even social.

This blog is therefore about challenging yourself. Do you do it? Ever? The beauty of challenging yourself; whether mentally or physically, at work or at play/training is the fact that it goes hand in hand with self-improvement. I’m not saying we all need to improve ourselves. If you are content and happy and have learned to love who you are and what you have, then that is a great place to be. However, there is something to be said for achieving things you may never have expected to or perhaps had given up on.

I’ve spoken to a few people on this and asked them if they ever wished they’d learnt a musical instrument or learned how to use a camera properly. One good friend just signed up to a ballroom dancing course. Kate Braithwaite, who writes for this blog from time to time, put herself on an improvisation course, and then the next level after that. There are always things that perhaps we wished we’d done when younger, but didn’t have the time or opportunity. Sometimes it’s hard to take the first step to do those things, but the emotional and personal reward for doing them is outstanding.

This is where I think challenging yourself physically can really help with the rest of your life, making the gym or exercise in general so much more than just about losing weight or getting ripped as so much of the industry leads us to believe. What if you undertook a 10km run not to lose weight but to try to achieve it under a certain time? What if you took up one of my free training programmes not to gain muscle or lose fat, but just to see if you can complete it without missing a session? What if you gave up processed foods for one month just to see if you can? Would you get a sense of achievement? Undoubtedly. Would it make you look at other areas of you life (job, relationships, work etc) and wonder if you can achieve a little more? Only you can answer that.

Personally, I find that giving myself little challenges helps me achieve. Whether this is starting a new training regime and seeing how many reps of something I can achieve by building it up over a set number of weeks, the amount of weight I can add to a lift or exercise, how fast I can do a set run, or how quickly I can perform a set of Tabata or the like. If you don’t improve what it is you’re doing, then your body and mind can’t improve either, so don’t be afraid to fail; challenge yourself physically, work and train hard and see what the outcome is.

Outside of training, I think the same can be said for anything we do. It is of course easier to sit back and be happy with what you have; the issue comes when you aren’t really content and that comes out in your relationships with others. If you feel like you are advancing yourself, your relationships or making a difference in some way or another it can be so, so cathartic and rewarding. It doesn’t have to be things that scare you, though often it is those things that will really change your life for the better. Take the book Change Your Life with NLP, which is a good read in itself for anyone wanting to utilise NLP to help themselves improve. The author, Lindsey Agnes, was a practised NLP practitioner and adept at helping people use NLP techniques to change and improve their lives. However, the one person she was missing working on was herself. She wanted to start her own business, but couldn’t take that step – it’s too scary. Friends helped her see that she was failing to take that step; then she did and the rest is history.

Of course, for every story of success there’s a story of failure. But at least if you try and fail, then you know. Better to have attempted to go for your dreams and failed than to be retired in your rocking chair thinking “what if…”

I would advise anyone that the gym or physical training is a great way to start challenging yourself. It allows you to set goals and milestones, reach them or not and learn how to deal with success and failure. It can also be a huge confidence raiser, and when you consider people say that as high as 80% of success is just trying/turning up, then having that confidence to at least try to believe you can do it could be all you really need.

Sean Lerwill - Author

Sean is an former-Royal Marines Commando Officer & Physical Training Instructor. He has been published as a writer five times, has a BSc in Molecular Genetics and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. He is also a Maximuscle ambassador.

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