How Do You Challenge Yourself?


The thing carrying me 13.1 miles

This post was inspired by two blogs I read recently. One was from John at Frugal Rules and his 40 Thoughts On Turning 40. #9 was, “stretch yourself at least once a year, if not more. Find a goal that is going to take you out of your comfort zone and throw all you can at it.”

I also was inspired by Cash Rebel’s post about learning to juggle: Proof that practice is more important than talent.

Both posts made points of suggesting that doing something out of your comfort zone, and committing to that goal is a great thing. I couldn’t agree more!

I made a comment on John’s post that I found that as we get older, it’s so easy to stay in your same old routine. I used to give my parents crap about it all the time. They always opted for convenience and familiarity. For instance when they travel, it’s always on a cushy motor coach type bus with people in similar stages of life. Now I’m not suggesting that my dad and stepmom start looking for hostels to stay in…I think they have earned the right for travel comfort and convenience, but my fear is I’ll become too set in my ways as I get older. I already have trouble sleeping in strange places (by strange I mean hotels-get your mind out of the gutter), whereas in my 20’s I could probably sleep on a beer-soaked floor at a party with 20 random people around me.

Why is change or doing something different so scary? Look at Listverse’s Top 10 Strong Human Fears. With the exception of death and maybe losing your freedom, any kind of change can cause a lot of those typical human fears: rejection, fear, loneliness, and of course, failure.

One of my biggest fears about possibly ever living in another city could be any of these above fears, and then some. Would I find new friends? Would I be lonely? Would I be able to make a living there? Would I miss my beach life terribly? Those are questions I have no idea the answers to unless I just flat out make the leap. I could of course minimize certain risks by talking to people online and making friendships ahead of time before I ever moved somewhere, or immediately join a sports team or social network once I moved. Or finding a secure job ahead of time.

Right now I’m not willing enough to make the move just yet. Maybe someday I will…who knows.

One thing I DO challenge myself with, is physical-type goals. For some reason my brain and body love to say, “bring it on man!”

I was thinking of this while I was out on a walk one day and looked at my email, and someone had made a comment about my 1/2 marathon training and said, “you are doing awesome and have worked so hard!” That comment made me tear up. Here I was walking off some calf pain, general leg soreness, and overall body and mental fatigue from not only my 1/2 marathon training and 6k trail run that I did last week, and feeling incredibly proud.

I’m reminded why I’m putting myself through all of this. Because anytime you push yourself past your comfort zone or boundaries, you build the confidence muscle. You did something which was not easy for you, and pushed through one or more of those basic human fears (in my case for the 1/2 marathon, it’s pain and failure) to come out on the other side a lot stronger.

One of the reasons I loved doing that 6k trail run was because it was rugged but doable, dirty and gritty but fun, hard work but finishable. I was in such a good mood after because truthfully I felt like kind of bad-ass, and started to crave more! What else am I capable of?

They say when you die you don’t regret the things you did, but the things you did NOT do.

Everyone has something they are afraid of trying. Are you afraid to take the leap into being an entrepreneur or freelancer? Are you afraid of what spending less could mean to your lifestyle? Are you afraid to sing in front of people, sign up for a triathlon, or eat alone at a restaurant?

I encourage you all to stretch yourself in new areas this year…and every year! I need to make that commitment too. While it’s been relatively easy for me to do physical challenges, or sing in front of people, or make new friends, it hasn’t been that easy for me to online date, or like I said, pick up and move to another city.

So how do you challenge yourself currently? What are you willing to take a chance on this year? What’s stopping you? 


Tonya is a video editor/producer and writer living in Los Angeles who enjoys beach volleyball, playing ukulele, and running. To get the latest updates, be sure to subscribe. To support her fundraising efforts to produce more video for this site, please visit her crowdfunding page!

Latest posts by Tonya (see all)

  • cashRebel

    Well said, Tonya. I like the idea of the “confidence muscle”. It’s one of those things that will atrophy if we don’t challenge it from time to time. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from you and other bloggers I follow, it’s that trying new stuff always leads to self improvement, even if it doesn’t work the way you thought it would. We are all capable of soooo much.

    • Tonya

      Yeah even if you fail, sometimes it’s just great to try. Plus failure builds that confidence muscle too!

  • Dear Debt

    I would like to challenge myself more in the physical arena this year. I’ve been mentally challenged with work and my blog, but am ready to take on the physical. I’m also ready to stop biting my nails and try to get over my fear of heights. I think challenging yourself is so important. I also don’t want to get set in a routine, or ever feel like I’m too old to change or too old to do something.

    • Tonya

      Good luck with your challenges! How do you plan on getting over your fear of heights? You should try a trapeze class. :)

  • debtfreeoneday

    Great post Tonya! I’d really like to take a chance on my job this year. I have a self employed job working from home which isn’t exactly bringing home the bacon. But I started it to work around my daughter which is really important to me. Alas, February will be a bad month for me in terms of income, so reluctantly I’m starting to look for office jobs now. The thing is, I’d love to be able to take my blog forward… I’m not sure what’s stopping me. Time I guess and not believing I can do it is probably another!

    • Tonya

      I hope it picks up for you soon. I know you can do it!!

  • MyMoneyDesign

    I’ll confess – even in my 30’s I can already feel I’m way too set in my ways. Every now and again when I recognize this, I will challenge myself by forcing me to do things that I would never normally do. They may be small things, but I know they are victories if I can overcome them.

    • Tonya

      Small changes are great too!

  • Matt @ momanddadmoney

    This is awesome Tonya! This is actually one of my big themes right now, as I’m stepping WAY out of my comfort zone in trying to build a business from scratch that will support my family (and quickly!). It’s forcing me to do a lot of things that I’m not totally comfortable with, but they simply have to be done. Fear of change, fear of failure, fear of the unknown have all held me back in the past and it’s hard to push past them, but I couldn’t agree more that there’s just so much value in doing so. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Tonya

      You’re welcome Matt. What you’re doing is a big, scary thing!

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    Super post as usual, Tonya. My very biggest challenge this year is staying on track to get our debt paid off. Our DTI is still super high, and it’s very often discouraging as all get out. Nearly every day I’m tempted to give up, but as in running, I just keep telling myself “One more step, Laurie.” My other big goal this year is to get back in great shape. In the nearly year and a half since our move, I’ve put on 30 pounds due to stress, etc. This year I’ll get back into tip-top shape. Both scary things,for many reasons, but both better than their alternatives. :-)

    • Tonya

      You guys seem SO focused on that debt payoff that yeah, i can see where it would be easy to throw your hands up and say “forget it!!!” I think we each have our own “forget it” moment and it’s how we push past that that really builds mental and/or physical strength.

  • Brian @ Luke1428

    Life sure is a balance between being comfortable and stretching. And both have value. There are some things that I will be set in my ways until I die. Yet to grow, I know I need to get out of my comfort zone. As tough as it is to stretch myself, I’ve found when I do, I usually enjoy it.

    • Tonya

      I’m usually happy I accomplished whatever goal I set out for myself, but I have to admit sometimes the “process” makes me want to pull out my hair! Especially if it’s some kind of technology challenge like wordpress.

  • Holly Johnson

    What’s stopping me from challenging myself lately is only time. I feel so bogged down from the day-to-day challenges of life that I feel like I don’t have any time to do anything. I am so ready to move this weekend so that our lives can get back to normal.

    • Tonya

      Time is a huge one for me too. I have a big question for everyone regarding reading and commenting on blogs. It’s such a HUGE time suck for me, but at the same time it’s important for relationships.

  • Travis Pizel

    Hey, leave me alone about my comfort zone…I’m all happy and snug inside my bubble of familiarity. :) I do like to push myself physically as well. I’ve got some big goals for my running this year, and I’m pushing hard to achieve them. Can’t wait to see how you do with your half marathon!

    • Tonya

      ha ha! Oh at this point I’d just like to finish in one piece. :)

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup

    We all love the comfort zone, but I challenge myself by trying to learn something new each year. Whether it be a new software, or coding my own script, or doing some DIY that I never tried before. I like to push myself to learn a new skill.

    • Tonya

      That’s awesome! What’s on the agenda this year?

      • Grayson @ Debt Roundup

        This year I am going to focus on knowledge to advance my career, which means learn how to code scripts that will provide efficient processes to the company I work for.

  • Pauline @RFIndependence

    I am trying to challenge productivity at the moment, which is pretty hard, but slowly and surely it is taking shape. I can do big radical change when really motivated, when only so-so it has to be slow.

    • Tonya

      Motivation is probably a big challenge for a lot of people. My biggest hurdle is time and money.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money

    I am trying to develop a second website this year. The fact that I already have little to no “extra” time will challenge me to outsource things and in general operate more efficiently.

    • Tonya

      Oh I so know what you mean DC. Time seems to be the biggest obstacle for most of us, second only to money.

  • Debt and the Girl

    I would love to open another site or buy one that is already a little established. I am either going to have to get really serious or just let this go for a while. Only time will tell I guess.

    • Tonya

      A lot of people seem to be doing this. I’m not sure I can handle more than the two I already have. It’s SO time consuming. I love it but time consuming. Let us know how it goes!

  • Kathleen O’Malley

    Less than two weeks til race day! That’s a big challenge for me.

    • Tonya

      I saw that you just ran 14…I’d say say you’re killing it. I can’t even RUN that long…I’ve been walking some. So impressed!

      • Kathleen O’Malley

        ha bad representation then. I ran/walked.

        • Tonya

          Ah ok…I feel better about myself then. lol! Truthfully I’ll be glad when it’s done. I feel very out of whack lately. I still do plan on doing the Austin 10/20 though!

  • Girl Meets Debt

    Great post Tonya! I feel like 2013 was already such a year of change full of many challenges for me that I wouldn’t mind a low-key 2014. However I have 14 major goals for 2014 that I am working hard to accomplish. :)

    • Tonya

      Good point Wendy! You don’t ALWAYS need that kind of thrill. Contentment is underrated. :)

  • Done by Forty

    Thanks for the kick in the pants. I guess the two things I’m trying to do this year to stretch are to learn to play a few songs on the guitar (the progress is AWFUL right now…I feel like I am permanently alienating my pets every time I pick up the guitar) and to start a side business. Both are equally terrifying, but I’m going for it, you know?

    As for picking a new city, I find that I end up liking the move almost immediately. I figure I can always head back, and that’s comforting.

    • Tonya

      Good luck with the guitar! I’m sure your pets will eventually forgive you. :) I think you’re right about the new city thing…I just HATE the process of moving.

  • Prudence Debtfree

    I’m gearing up to challenge myself with different types of financial interval training this year. (Since you’re an athlete, I’m guessing you know what I mean.) For instance, one month, I plan to cut our weekly grocery bill by 25%. Another month, I plan to take the bus to work and save on gas for the car. Another month, I want to dig out everything in our house that we don’t use and either sell it or throw it out. Our big challenge for the year is to pay off our business debt (a whopper), and I’m hoping we’ll accomplish this through these monthly challenges.

    • Tonya

      I love that term financial intervals! Yes I totally get it. :) Good luck with your challenges!

  • alwayshungry4

    Uh oh, I don’t like sleeping in strange places (like hotels), too… guess I’m in good company the night before race day! I have a hard time with public speaking – I’m in this leadership thing all year, and it’s really helped me with speaking in front of people, and being able to answer off-the-cuff questions. It’s terribly uncomfortable, but I’m always glad I’ve done it afterward. How did you like Coffee Meets Bagel (was that the platform name)?

    • Tonya

      ha ha. Maybe we should play a really boring board game or something that night. :) Or something else to pass the time like knit a quilt. :) I didn’t like CMB because I was getting TONS of texts because that’s how you communicate. I think it’s great you are doing the leadership thing!

  • E.M.

    I love these posts by you, Tonya. So inspiring! You really are kicking ass with your training, and it’s making me hate my “it’s too cold out” excuse every time. I can’t wait to move somewhere warmer. I am challenging my diet this year. I’ve been doing a lot of research since *last* year and I need to take action. It’s not going to be easy at all, but I know I’ll be thankful for it in the end. Also, you can add me onto the list of people who can’t sleep easily anywhere else but home!

    • Tonya

      Thanks EM! I’m so bummed I can’t just sleep anywhere anymore! :( Diet is always an area I’m trying to extend myself too…so far I’m off to a shaky start this year. Not sure why. Just not cooking as much.

  • jefferson @seedebtrun

    I need to find a way to do this more, Tonya. Pushing yourself into uncomfortable situations can be a great cure for anxiety.. And I there are few things that I loathe more than being anxious.

    • Tonya

      I know what you mean Jeff. I feel like this 1/2 training has really messed with my “routine” a bit more than I’d like. And I used to get super anxious before volleyball tournaments…one of the reasons I stopped.

  • Charles@Gettingarichlife

    Taking improv classes will push your boundaries. I’ve taken it personally and professionally, performing in front of strangers forces you to get out of your comfort zone. I also took Dale Carnegie training although that didn’t help me as much.

    • Tonya

      I’ve taken improv classes too and really enjoyed them. It’s a comfort zone extender for sure!

  • Kemkem

    My big goal for this year is to take some graphic design courses and do some freelance work. I have therefore been teaching myself Adobe illustrator for the past couple of weeks and will start a class next month if l can fit it into our travels. My little goal is to keep on coming up with high scores in scrabble (my big fear is my brain turning to mush, so l try to challenge myself in little ways).

    • Tonya

      Have you ever tried using to learn some of these skills? I used it before and thought it was really helpful. I love the Scrabble idea. I heard you should be doing these types of activities like crossword puzzles to “exercise” your brain but I haven’t. Maybe I should make that a goal as well!

      • Kemkem

        No, I’ve never even heard if that. I will check it out though thank you.

  • AvgJoeMoney

    You’re really feelin’ the motivational post today, huh? :-)

    By the way….my mind wasn’t in the gutter until the part about the 20 people sleeping with each other on the floor…..

  • Mackenzie

    Moving out of state is definitely doing something that is normally outside of my comfort zone; I am not a person who likes change. But this move that I am about to embark on, has really shown me that I am capable of adapting and that it’s okay to step outside the comfort zone once in awhile :)

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    I think when you get to a certain age you’ve earned the right to be a little more comfortable with having things the way you like them, but I don’t think you should use that as an excuse to never push yourself. It’s sad that out of 4 living grandparents, we only have one who will actually come here to visit our daughter because they other three just won’t get out of the comfort zone it would take to travel. However, I do understand the need to be comfortable. I have much higher standards for food and travel than I used to and I’m OK with that. I just don’t want to become one of those people who never leave home because they might have to take a step outside the comfort zone for two seconds.

  • Suburban Finance

    Sometimes, I feel like I challenge myself far too much and sometimes I feel like it’s not enough. I am all or nothing.

  • Stefanie @ brokeandbeau

    This is one of the reasons I chose to run the marathon last year. It was a challenge I could never imagine doing, but I knew it was possible and tangible. That process has motivated me in all the other challenges (most of which are less tangible) in my life.

  • Fit is the New Poor

    If it involves an investment of money of any kind- I stick with it. Like running. I paid for the half marathon and then trained my ass off for it. Or, this blog. I paid for the hosting. I’m going to make the most of it! This year, my challenge is the blog and finding a new job (or path to freelancing). I’ve started to map out the process and am looking on how to put my money in to it.

  • Liz

    I would really like to take a chance on myself and become a healthier person. Eating better and getting more exercise are at the top of my list. I work an office job and find myself sitting for more hours than I would like to admit.
    In addition, I am taking a chance on blogging. I’ve had such a great time so far and am really excited to keep on riding through 2014! Loved this Post Tonya- Got me all motivated!

  • Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses

    I think the biggest challenge I’m doing right now is going back to school. I was so afraid I’d be awful at it but I’m one course down and it felt amazing leaving the final exam.

  • Student Debt Survivor

    The older I get the more set I get in my ways (and the most scary things are!). Like you said, when I was 20 I had no fear. I moved to Boston because I wanted to live there without even having a job first. These days I want to move but have stayed here with bf because his job is here. I’m hoping he’ll find a job elsewhere in the next year or so (just have to motivate him to challenge himself!)

  • La Tejana

    Awesome Tonya! My big physical goal for 2014 is to run the Marine Corps Marathon. I was training for it last year and hurt my knee and had to defer my registration. So I am going to start training earlier this year :)

  • Erin @ My Alternate Life

    I am one of the few people who love change! So quitting my job and moving across the country without a job or apartment actually didn’t scare me too much. I’m a wuss with things I’m actually afraid of, but I try to make myself try new things :)