How to Challenge Yourself in 2017

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on all that I learned and accomplished in 2016, and about my approach for continued growth in 2017. New Year, new resolutions, etc. I love the idea of taking time to look back on the successes / challenges of the previous year in order to move forward.

So today, I thought I’d write about goal setting for the new year, and, more specifically, how to challenge yourself to be better in a variety of ways.

In 2016, I really pushed myself outside my comfort zone – moving overseas to study abroad in London for 4 months, taking on my first summer internship at a magazine, taking an adult ballet class with a friend. And I’m really proud of myself for doing all those things. Best of all, I loved each of those experiences. 2016 was an awesome year.

I’m the type of person that’s always striving to be better – to continue learning and growing in all things. I’m very driven. But at the same time, I appreciate routine and will sometimes only do the things that make me feel comfortable.

I think it’s probably safe to assume that nobody enjoys – much less seeks out – situations that make them uncomfortable.

But, looking back, I’ve realized that it was precisely those uncomfortable situations that caused me to grow as a person. And I’m currently really happy with where I am today.

Something else you might be able to relate to is that feeling of pressure to “top” your previous successes. It’s difficult for me to think about where I was this time last year – in London! How could anything I do in 2017 be more exciting than that?!

It’s true – my study abroad experience was a pretty big deal, but largely because it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And just because I may not have another “once-in-a-lifetime” experience in 2017, doesn’t mean I can’t continue to learn and grow. I can absolutely continue to move forward, but I’ll be moving in new directions, and that’s exciting in and of itself.

So I’ve asked myself recently, What can I do in 2017 to push myself outside of my comfort zone?

First, I identified specific areas of my life in which I’d like to make improvements. This will be different for everyone, of course, but these are the areas I’ve identified…

Academic / Personal / Health / Social / Spiritual

This was my first week back to school. I’m still refining my schedule for the semester. I’m really close to graduating, and now that I’ve nearly completed the requirements for my major, it’s time to complete a minor. I’m taking two minors. I’d previously decided to minor in Communications, which goes hand-in-hand with my major and felt like a good fit. Choosing a second minor was not quite so easy.

I’ve decided to minor in Entrepreneurship, as well.

I was not encouraged when my dad picked up one of my textbooks earlier this week and made an interesting grunting noise – he flipped through the book and said, “This is going to be a challenging course, Brooke.”

And, naturally, I freaked. Because I’m SO CLOSE – and I don’t want to ruin it now by taking classes that are going to require excessive time/energy and may not even be relevant! I thought Entrepreneurship would be fun, and engaging, but certainly not something to fear.

I weighed all my options. I even went to class on Monday so I could meet my professors and take a look at each syllabus.

Ultimately, I’ve decided to stay in the classes, despite the fact that I know it might be challenging and that I’ve never taken anything like this before (I’m an English major). Why? Well, because I thought about my experience in London, and I thought about my intention to push myself out of my comfort zone, and I realized this would be the perfect experiment.

Entrepreneurship is giving me an opportunity – to learn something entirely new, to explore a new area of campus, to meet new people.

This decision to mix things up could be really exciting.

I feel similarly about taking ballet. I’ve always had this secret desire to be a dancer – I think dancers are so beautiful and elegant and strong. And I thought, I want to do something physical that also makes me feel feminine and graceful and strong.

But I haven’t danced since maybe the third grade. When I started this ballet class in the fall, I couldn’t even touch my toes.

Ballet is HARD. Honestly, it’s so difficult – it’s very technical, and requires incredible core strength and flexibility. Talented dancers make it look effortless, but it’s not.

It’s challenging, but that’s what makes it satisfying.

I’ve agreed to participate in a recital in May. (4 months, guys. 4 months.) And I’m not even close to feeling like I’m ready to perform onstage with the other ladies in my class. But that recital date is another incentive to keep pushing. Making the decision to take this class was different for me, but it’s performing publicly that will truly push me out of my comfort zone.

If you’re in a similar place, wondering what you could do in 2017 to improve as a person, as a student, as an employee, etc. – look for opportunities to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Do something that might make you uncomfortable. You just might experience growth in ways you couldn’t have expected!

Thanks for reading! New post goes up next Thursday.

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