Get Out of the Rut and Challenge Yourself

This post is in some ways an extension of Tuesday’s post.

Succinctly put, it is important that we challenge ourselves rather than always falling back into the same repeated, familiar, comfortable patterns. It is only by challenging ourselves that we can grow and improve and become better.

The best example of this that I can think of is my own limited ability to put contacts in. 

I have been wearing contacts for about 12 years, since I was a senior in high school. My eyes are very
sensitive, and I always hated having eyedrops or anything put in, so it was a challenge for me to learn how to put contacts in and force a foreign object into my eye. I had to use both hands and have a mirror to do it so I could stare straight ahead and get the contact off my finger and onto my eye.

But here’s the thing: since I always put my contacts in this way, I never learned how to do it otherwise. I’ve known lots of people who can put their contacts in with one hand or without use of a mirror, but because I never challenged myself to learn how to do it, I’m still stuck in the same two-handed, mirrored rut (which can be a problem if you find yourself camping without a mirror or a broken arm or something prevents you from getting both hands to your eye).

I think this is an important lesson to learn for a lot of different aspects of life:
  • Think of how limited our health care options would be in brilliant and daring doctors hadn’t pushed the limits of what was considered to be possible at the time. A lot of the surgeries and procedures which are now commonplace are only possible because people challenged themselves and risks were taken.
  • A pitcher with a great fastball might tear through the high school ranks, but unless he challenges himself to try different things and learn additional pitches, he’ll never have more than a mediocre career.
  • Maybe you’ve never received the promotion at work that you want because you haven’t challenged yourself enough. Maybe you haven’t spent free time learning new skills that would make you an attractive candidate, or maybe you haven’t gone out of your way to network and develop the relationships that are needed to get the promotion.
  • Do you find yourself ignorant or uninformed about a specific topic that seems to come up over and over again? Challenge yourself to expand your knowledge in that area. Talk to a mechanic to better understand what’s going on under the hood of your car, or read a book that explains inflation, or get some CDs to listen to in the car that teach conversational Spanish.
  • If you are a Christian, are you tired of the fact that you claim to live your life based on a book that you only study at church and barely understand? Commit yourself to studying the Bible every day. Talk to a minister or read a book for tips on how to study deeper and more effectively. Sign up to teach a Bible class at church—that will force you to spend time in study!
  • Are you frustrated with your relationship with your teenage children? Challenge yourself to understand them better—listen to the music they listen to, ask about their interests, sacrifice your free time to spend time doing what they like to do with them.
We could probably come up with dozens of examples, but the principle remains the same: if you want to improve your life—professionally, spiritually, athletically, relationally, socially, informationally—you’ve got to challenge yourself. You can’t stay in the rut, doing the same things over and over and expect to improve.

Oh, and by the way, today I put my contacts in without a mirror (You know, practice what you preach and all that).


Unknown 5/30/13, 3:21 PM  

I've started doing something this week that has been challenging me in this way. Usually with my hair its shampoo, rinse, repeat, condition. This week I switched from shampoo to baking soda/water with a vinegar rinse to do the 'no shampoo' method so you wash your hair less. Anyways without getting into it involves finding the right mixture of things and ratios to water to what works for you individually. Its been challenging at first, especially with something so normal as shampooing your hair. Something you normally would not think twice about. So far i love the results, but had to step out of the box. I havent commented yet, just reading, but since this felt like it applied to my week wanted to share. Thanks for posting Luke.

Luke Dockery 5/31/13, 9:38 AM  

Hey Bonnie, thanks for the comment. I think your personal anecdote illustrates well just how far-reaching this idea is in life. Whether it's hair care, spiritual growth, professional development or whatever, it is essential that we challenge ourselves or else we will stagnate.

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