When and How to Challenge Yourself8 min read
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A lot of what I write at Productive Mommies is meant to challenge you to better yourself, and what you do with the life you have been gifted. I enjoy the concept of iron sharpening iron and am honored that you allow me to have this type of impact on your life.
Although, it is important that you understand that I don’t wish to direct the order which you do things. Nor do I suggest that you try to do everything at once. It is incredibly important that YOU are the one who decides what, when, and how you work on you.
I also don’t ever want to make you feel bad about yourself if you are reading something about an area of life that you have chosen not to focus on right now. Please understand that I create most of my content for those who are ready to be challenged in a given area.
There are a number of concepts that are beneficial to utilize when determining when and how to challenge yourself.
Know Where You’re At and Where You’ve Come From
First and foremost, I believe it is essential to have a realistic picture of where you are at in life. Be realistic with yourself and understand that as humans, change often takes time.
You have spent some decades working yourself into some not so great habits. You’re not going to be able to work your way out of them in just a day, and especially not all of them at once.
Also, remember to take into account what you have going on in your life right now. Maybe you are in a period of healing or mourning. Or perhaps you have so much going on that you don’t have the energy to even think about doing anything other than surviving through the day. If this is you, I strongly suggest that the only thing you focus on is rest and cutting things out of your day to day life. (read my story on having adrenal fatigue here for some tips on how to lessen your load)
It is almost equally important to remember where you have come from. It is so easy to get bogged down in the moment and often feel hopeless when you look at how far you still have to go. When you can look back on a record of how much you have accomplished, this can help continue to drive you forward. It also helps improve your mindset overall and prevent destructive feelings such as hopelessness.
For this reason, I strongly suggest performing a regular assessment of the different aspects of your life. I do this on a daily, weekly, and quarterly basis. This way, not only do I have something to look back on, but I also am able to get continual feedback on what is working and whats not. My assessment also keeps me in check and reminds me of everything that I have strategically decided is important right now.
This is About You
Stop comparing yourself to others. This is so important that I’m going to repeat it – Stop comparing yourself to others. You were created to be who you are. There is no one else on this planet that has lived or ever will live that is you.
You are the only one that can truly know who, what, and how God wants you to be. There is a best version of you that He had in mind, and comparing yourself to your neighbor, your best friend, your sister, or that woman in the magazine will not help get you there.
Keep a List
As you come across ideas or areas of your life that you would like to improve, write them down. Keep a list of habits you would like to develop, goals you would like to accomplish, areas of your relationships that you would like to improve, character traits that you would like to refine, and more.
Don’t look at this list as a mountain that you need to climb, but more as a path to follow strategically to work your way towards the very best you. When we try to climb the mountain without the right training, experience, and strength, we end up not only failing but often hurting ourselves in the process.
Don’t make decisions on where to put your focus hastily. Spend time in prayer, meditation, and conversation to determine where you should be making efforts. Consult God, your heart, and your husband and hopefully everything lines up. If it doesn’t, dig deeper and try to figure out why not.
Do your best to make these decisions based on where you are at and where you would like to be with your life. Try not to let external influences impede on this process. Be intentional with these decisions.
Keep your focus on the big picture – if something seems urgent right now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is important. Don’t let the “urgent” rule your life. Consider what the consequences would be if some of the urgent items were discarded. At times, they may truly be essential, but many other times, they are mere distractions.
Keep Intentional Balance
Although balance in itself may be overrated, having an “intentional balance” can make an enormous impact on how your life plays out. It is foolish to think that we can or even should live in such a way where we are equally devoting the same amount of resources to each area of our life.
Not only should different areas of our life receive more attention than others, overall, but there are also seasons we all go through where that balance needs to shift.
Keep in mind what needs additional resources in your life right now. Is it your kids? Or possibly your marriage? Does your health suffer and you need to spend some extra care on yourself? Maybe you are starting a business, and that needs some extra time.
It is okay to focus on something intensely for a small amount of time. Just make sure that the other areas of your life are not getting completely neglected. It is also a good idea to be up front with your family so that they understand what is going on.
Don’t Kill Yourself
Trying to power through life is bound to get you nowhere overall. Remember the mountain mentioned above? As moms, we have a LOT of responsibility weighing on us. Lots of hats to wear and lots of other hearts to be concerned about their well-being.
We are all working with limited resources (time, energy, and money) and last time I checked, none of us are Super Woman. Understand what resources you truly do have available and work within those means – leaving plenty of margin along the way.
Our society is so overloaded with debt, but I believe this is more than a financial crisis. We load ourselves up with commitments and responsibilities that are impossible uphold. Our time is indebted to activities and causes that run us ragged.
Be responsible with your time – don’t try to burn the candle at both ends and end up hurting yourself in the process.
In Everything Else, Give Yourself Grace
Once you know where you are, where you want to go, and how you are going to get there, give yourself grace, both in this process, but most importantly in everything else.
If you have decided to let the house go for a couple of weeks to put forth some extra time to the relationships in your life, don’t be distracted when a friend shares a book she has been reading and tells you how she de-cluttered her whole house in just one week.
When you and your husband have decided to focus on your kids, don’t feel guilty that you and hubby are not able to take advantage of the marriage retreat that you just heard was coming to town.
If you have a work project that requires a bit more of your time for a couple of weeks, don’t stress out about the projects that need to be completed around the house.
There will always be a plethora of things pulling us in many directions. In order to get anywhere regarding who we are and how we live, we must remain firm in the focus and goals we set for ourselves.
Remember that these goals were set with the big picture in mind. They were strategically thought out, and you should take confidence that this is where you need to put your time. Everything else extra can wait.
You can do most of what you want to do… just not the way you’ve been trying to do it. Try focusing on one thing at a time, and now you will start getting somewhere.
So when and how is the best way to challenge yourself?
- When you know where you are at in life and what resources you have available.
- Without comparing yourself to others.
- Keep a list of habits, goals, etc. that you would like to work on.
- Seek direction from God, your husband, and your heart.
- Keep intentional balance and don’t let other areas of your life get too far out of whack.
- Work at a reasonable pace.
- Remain firm in the focus and goals you set and give yourself grace in everything else.
If you happen to be reading a blog post written by me or anyone else and feel any uneasy guilt or anxiety, I will encourage you to either dismiss the idea altogether or add it to your list mentioned above.
On the other hand, if you feel a genuine conviction, you may want to add it to your list for now. Pray about it, and talk to your husband about how you are feeling. Maybe this is something that needs to be bumped to the top of your priority list, or maybe it can wait a little longer.