If you want to make the most out of your career, weave these two words into the fabric of your approach to life: “Challenge yourself.”
You will never fulfill even a fraction of your potential by sticking to the safe and comfortable. Why? Because the safe and comfortable never forces you to rise to the occasion. It never offers the resistance that strengthens muscles you didn't know you had.
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You don’t need to make your entire path a challenge (though sometimes that’s a necessary part of progressing to the next level). But at the very least, try to always have something going that stretches you. Something that makes you wonder if you’re actually going to be able to do it. Maybe that’s a project you initiate at work. Maybe it’s learning a new skill and applying it in your job. Or it could be something outside of work, like organizing a fundraising event or climbing a mountain. Whatever it is, it should give you a chance to engage in a way that the safe and comfortable doesn’t.
Obviously there’s a difference between taking on a challenge that lets you flex your muscles and grow and one that is a recipe for disaster. If you’ve been on auto-pilot for a while, you might want to train yourself so you can thrive in a challenge. Think of it as getting into the gym after years of sitting on the couch. Start small and work your way up. Take something on that makes you feel a twinge of uncertainty, but still feels doable. When you successfully accomplish that, turn your attention to something else. If it felt too easy, ratchet up the intensity.
The more you challenge yourself and succeed, the greater your confidence in your ability to do it again next time. Challenge doesn’t just help you grow your skills and knowledge, it helps you grow your belief that you can.
After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As a speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About Work, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.