How to Challenge Yourself - 17 Surprisingly Effective Challenges 

Let's explore ways to challenge yourself for personal development. The challenges below will expand your mental and physical limits...

How to Challenge Yourself - 17 Surprisingly Effective Challenges're up for a challenge. 


That's great, because when you challenge yourself in even the smallest ways, you break down barriers and open up interesting possibilities. Let's talk about why challenging yourself is important and some of the best ways to challenge yourself, starting today.

What Does it Mean to Challenge Yourself?

Typically, when we seek to challenge ourselves, we are seeking opportunities for growth. Challenging yourself is a somewhat ironic concept, because it means putting yourself in an uncomfortable (and perhaps slightly painful) situation now, so can reap rewards (and be more comfortable with yourself) later. 


Challenging yourself involves exiting the comfort zone, going the extra mile, and immersing yourself in activities that require courage and creativity. 

When we talk about challenging yourself, it's important to remember than what may be a challenge for me might not be a challenge for you.

We are all different, and we progress in different areas of life, so the ways we challenge ourselves will differ. Setting personal challenges requires honest self-assessment to identify areas where you might not be stretching yourself enough. 

Why Should You Challenge Yourself? 

Around the world, swimmers of all ages do something that the rest of us would avoid - plunging into into ice-cold waters.

Why do they do that? 

Why do they voluntarily enter a situation that's incredibly challenging - both physically and mentally?  

Because most of the time, these swimmers are looking for something more than the activity itself - after all, jumping into ice-cold water is not something that naturally occurs to the average person. The objective of such a challenge is usually based on at least two rewards - an adrenaline rush and health benefits.

Most of the time, challenging yourself is not even about the activity itself. It's more often about what you learn from the challenge - about yourself and the world. 

Doing something you don't want to do, but is good for you, is a very good thing in the long-term. 

Challenging yourself helps you take control of your life, build up your confidence and eliminate barriers that were holding you back. Because most of the time - you are only confined by the walls you build yourself. 

With this in mind, let's look at specific ways to challenge yourself. 

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17 Surprisingly Effective Ways to Challenge Yourself 

Here are some ideas of things to do to challenge yourself. Have you done any of these things and reaped the benefits? You get a good feeling when you push yourself to new heights - whether it's psychologically or physically. 

1. Help a stranger within the next 24 hours

Can you challenge yourself to help out someone that you don't know? It's a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and there are many ways to do it.

For example, you could pass up a close parking spot so someone else can park there, leave a big tip for a server at a restaurant, or help someone who's broken down on the road. 

One of the greatest ways you can help a stranger is by listening to them. If you pay attention, you'll notice that people are always letting you into their lives a little, and they often rant about things that bother them. Challenge yourself to listen to someone and show that you value their opinion.

There are also many websites where you can help people out by answering questions, like Quora and Blurtit

2. Plank

The plank is a brilliant exercise to challenge yourself and strengthen your abdominal muscles. Can you plank for 1 minute? How about for 2? 

Not only does a plank tighten your core, it actually works your whole body and helps sculpt your arms, shoulders and legs as well. I love doing this exercise and gradually increasing the amount of time I stay balanced for. There are also many variations of the plank you can try to take the exercise to a whole other level. Here's a guide to doing the plank challenge if you want to try it out

Challenge Yourself By Doing the Plank

3. Learn to Code

Learning to code is a fantastic way to challenge yourself. When I learned to code, I found that it opened up my mind in a unique way. Coding is like speaking another language, and different programming languages are like different dialects. Coding sharpens your problem-solving skills, which transfers to other areas of life

Treehouse is a website where you can learn to code. The platform has on-demand videos and interactive code challenges to help you learn on your own schedule. You can sign up for a free trial and get full 7-day access to the courses here

4. Go out for dinner by yourself 

How do you feel about being out in public alone? Like, eating a meal in a restaurant by yourself. Does it frighten you a little? 

If so, this is something you absolutely need to try as a challenge.

Although eating out in public is something I've done for years, I've learned that it's something that many people dread. I guess there's the fear of standing out, and having people watch you. But it's often not as bad as you imagine. The reality is that most of the time no one really cares and people are more focused on their own conversation and lives anyway. 

This mental barrier can make you miss out on so many amazing places, meals and experiences - so challenge yourself to overcome it. 

Related Post: Why You Should Have the Confidence to Do Things Alone 

5. Go to Sleep and Wake Up at the Same Time Everyday

How good is your sleep routine? This challenge requires you to be disciplined. Set an ideal time for going to bed and waking up. If you usually go to sleep late, you might set an earlier target bedtime, such as thirty minutes to an hour earlier. This might also be what you need if you find it a struggle to get up in the morning. 

Getting a good night's sleep can be a challenge sometimes, especially if you find that the internet keeps you awake longer than you intended. You can set an alarm on your phone to make sure you shut everything off at the designated time. 

Consistency is one of the most important things when it comes to your sleep schedule. If you are able to build the habit of going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, you'll find you get a better rest and feel more refreshed in the morning.

6. Get off social media for a month

Do you find that social media is wasting your time or even draining you emotionally? Challenge yourself to cut it out for a while. A social media detox can help you focus on things that matter more to you - such a spending time with family or friends, in real life. 

This is a good challenge because sometimes it can feel like your whole life is on social media. Learning to go without something you usually use every day trains you to not be so dependent on it.

Another thing you might consider doing is deleting any social media accounts that are not really serving you. If you identify that you're better off without a certain account, free yourself! I've done this in the past and it frees up so much physical and mental space. 

7. Have a go at the Courage Over Comfort Deck 

The Comfort Over Courage Deck by BestSelf is a deck of 150 daily challenges to help you get out of your comfort zone. The activities in the deck can inspire you to face your fears by doing new things. The idea is to continuously challenge yourself to ultimately break down any mental barriers you have. 

A great way to use this deck is to grab some friends, pick a card, and encourage each other to step up and take action. It's a great way to make personal development fun, and if you can do the challenges in the cards, what else is possible for you? 

8. Learn a New Language

I've always admired people who can speak multiple languages. Learning a new language is one of the best ways to challenge yourself, and one of the most rewarding. As you learn a new language, you gain a wonderful cultural experience, as you learn the background behind a language and certain phrases. 

There are many free resources to help you learn a language. You can find many free language lessons on YouTube. One thing I recently discovered is how to learn a language while you sleep, this example is Persian. I also love the Duolingo app because it's a beginner-friendly platform that can help you learn a lot of vocabulary quickly. 

9. Plan a Tour of Your City 

How well do you know the top spots to see in your city? One way to challenge yourself is to plan a tour of your city. Imagine that a friend or tourist is visiting your city and create an itinerary for them. Try doing this without using the internet first (that's the main challenge) and then do some research to fill in the gaps. 

This activity will help you develop a new-found love for the place you live. You'll also become an expert on popular attractions in your city, so you'll be able to give great recommendations to others. And best of all, you'll have a list of new places to visit and explore! 

10. Journal 

One of the most interesting experiences I've ever had is when I wrote a journal every single day for one year. Journaling is not just a way to keep track of time or write about the daily happenings of life. Your journal can be anything you want it to be. It can be a place to write about your hopes, goals and dreams. You can write about your challenges, fears, and current obstacles.

The process of journaling is amazing for reflecting on personal growth. But if you've never kept a journal before, it could be a new challenge that pushes you out of your comfort zone. 

Find what you love to write about, and to get into a regular routine of journaling as often as you can. According to this article, journaling keeps your brain in tip-top shape since it increases working memory capacity, boosts your mood and strengthens emotional functions. 

Related Post: Creative Writing Journal Prompts 

11. Write a letter to someone you love 

When was the last time you received a hand-written letter? Do you remember the feeling you got from reading a letter that someone took time to craft for you?

Pass that feeling on to someone else.

Writing a letter to someone you love stretches you in a couple of ways; it makes you think of something meaningful to share with your loved one, and it challenges to you pick out the right words to express your feelings. Moreover, most people are not in the habit of regularly writing letters, so it's a great way to sharpen a special skill. 

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone you love?When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone you love?

12. Choose one of these 3 reading challenges:

It would be all too easy to say: challenge yourself by reading more books. I'm sure you get that advice all the time, so instead let's personalize it. Moreover, you might already be an avid reader. Here are 3 challenges, choose one

If you don't read much: Try to start reading one book a month. Find an author or book you've always been interested in, and get cracking.

If you read a lot of books: Have you read an audiobook recently (or ever?). It can be quite an enjoyable experience that allows you to read while doing other things, or while you just shut your eyes and relax. You can sign up here and get a free audiobook

If you read the same type of thing all the time: Why not switch it up? Read a new genre. Or if you usually read fiction, read some non-fiction books. Here is a list of top books on personal development for inspiration. 

13. Give up sugar 

Can you conquer your cravings? If no, or if you're unsure, try giving up refined sugar for a time period, such as a month. Or if you're brave, cut it out completely. Naturally occuring sugars such as those found in fruits and vegetables can stay, as they provide you with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

Cutting out refined sugar can improve your skin, keep weight off, and reduce the risk of diabetes and other chronic health problems. Moreover, when you replace the sugar with foods high in protein and healthy fat instead, you'll find that you have a steadier stream of energy that lasts longer. 

14. Go from sitting to standing without moving your hands 

Scientific studies have looked into the sitting-rising challenge and proved that being able to sit down get back up again without moving your hands is an important skill for longevity

Can you pass the sit-down-stand-up test? 

Here's what you have to do: Just sit on the floor from a standing position without using your hands, arms, or knees to slow your descent. Then stand back up—without using your hands, arms, or knees to help boost you back up, if possible.

An alternate form of this challenge is the turtle test, where you lay down on your back and stand up without using your hands. 

15. Reach out to someone you haven't spoken to in 12+ months 

Here's a challenge: look through your phone contacts and identify someone who you haven't spoken to in the last 12 months. Why not reach out and check how that person's doing? After all, if you do want to remain friends or acquaintances, now's the time to make a move and connect. The longer you put it off, the more awkward it might get to start talking again. 

Can you take up the challenge of rekindling a friendship? It's an unfortunate fact of life that friends often drift away. But if you're really serious about challenging yourself, then this is something you should do. You don't have to tell them all the details of your life or talk for hours. Even sending just a brief note to say hello can go a long way. 

16. Take a Creative Photography Challenge 

Creative Photography Challenge

CreativeLive is the world's largest live streaming education platform, and it's the perfect place to challenge yourself creatively. You can join the Creative Photography Challenge, which is a series of free photography challenges designed to bust you out of your comfort zone.

When you enroll, you get access to a series of short videos that will help you discover and harness new photography techniques. You'll also be inspired by a community of fellow photographers that are participating in the challenge right along with you. 

The challenges are simple; Each video is under five minutes long, so they won't take forever to watch, and you can complete each challenge in just a few minutes or take an entire day to really hone in on your new skills. 

The following mini-challenges are included:

  • Motion Blur       
  • Sunset Bracketing       
  • Sandwich Bag Portraits
  • Water Droplets     
  • Holiday Light Bokeh   
  • Car Trails
  • Playing with Water       
  • Double Exposure       
  • Light Painting
  • Sunstars       
  • Tilt-Shift       
  • Panorama       
  • Backlit Portrait

You can join the free Creative Photography Challenge here.

17. Forgive someone who hurt you

This is probably the hardest challenge on the list. However, if you are able to do it, it will help you grow more than you could ever imagine. Letting go of the bitterness you feel toward people who have hurt you - even if they never apologized or if you'll never seen them again - is important for your own health and wellbeing. 

Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can bring many health benefits, including lowering the risk of heart attack, improving cholesterol levels and sleep, and well as lowering levels of stress and anxiety. 

Forgiving someone who hurt you takes bravery, but it is a worthwhile and rewarding challenge. 

Bonus YouTube Challenges 

But wait - there's more...

If there's any place where people are usually up for a challenge, it's YouTube. If you are looking for a fun challenge to do with your friends, here are some ideas: 

Whisper Challenge - In this challenge, a person wears headphones and listens to music so they can't hear anyone around them. The purpose of the game is to try and guess what another person is saying just by reading their lips. 

Try Not to Laugh Challenge - In this popular challenge, you have to sit and watch a funny video and try not to laugh while watching. If you laugh, you're out! This is a fun challenge to watch others do as well. 

7 Second Challenge - In this challenge, participants have to complete a task in second seconds. When you do this challenge with friends, it's an opportunity for you to get creative and think of interesting tasks that can be done quickly. 

Blindfolded Drawing Challenge - In this challenge, you wear a blindfold and try to draw something as accurately as possible. The other player then has to guess what your drawing is about, and you get points if they guess correctly. 

Final Thoughts 

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas on how to challenge yourself. In both big ways and small, we can stretch ourselves and expand our view of the world. 

When you consistently challenge yourself, you'll realize that you are more confident and less intimdated by unfamiliar situations. The lessons you learn from small challenges will transfer to bigger ones, which means that you will always have opportunities to learn and grow. 

Never forget the positive consequences of challenging yourself. Not only does it boost your personal development, it also inspires others, both and young, who observe your actions.

There will be people who see you push yourself, face your fears, and reach new heights, and who start believing they can too. 


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