Are you keen to keep on challenging yourself on a continuous basis? Would you get comfortable getting out of your comfort zone?
Just before 2017 arrived, I made a list of about 280 mini-challengesthat I can do and complete this year.
The main goal of these 280 activities was more for my personal goal to do something new or different, and also to explore and challenge myself in breaking my own limits or rather, my comfort zone so that my 2017 will be more enriching.
It’s February now.
One month has passed and although 2016 didn’t end well for me, I was able to persuade myself to get back into action and spend some time doing exploring new activities and at the same time, break away from my normal routine for a change.
✔ I learned to play a simple piece of ‘Fur Elise’ on the piano
✔ Saved up my $5 notes whenever possible
✔ Completed two courses online.
✔ Picked up the basics of Espanyol
✔ Organised my 2017, and updated my Bucket List.
✔ Started a Gratitude Journal (Email)
✔ Packed old clothes and shoes, and donated them.
✔ Re-organized my closet for CNY
✔ Learned to knit a baby’s hat and booties – and donated to hospital
✔ Completed reading an inspirational book ‘When Breath Becomes Air’
✔ Picked up a kitchen hack – Using baking soda to clean off grease and dirt
✔ Made myself a promise to spend more time with my family, and over Chinese New Year, I was able to spend a week at home and most of the time, prioritised on spending with my family.
And more recently,
✔ I signed up for a Muay Thai class and attended it.
It was a trial class but here’s what taking up the challenge to do something new taught me.
I have been contemplating taking up Muay Thai for some time now, but there was always a reason not to; I have my running regime, I was already exercising. I feel too old to start a new sport. I’m afraid I might get injured, or a broken bone. I have no company. And so on.
Then, I just thought to myself, if not now then when? I have all the time and freedom in the world to do what I want now.
So I emailed in and signed up for it.
Even right before the moment, I stepped into the gym, I was still hesitating with hundreds of reasons to turn back.
And then, I stepped into the gym.
The two-hour trial class starts. I told myself, if I don’t enjoy it, I could always tell the instructor, or I could choose not to come back.
During the lesson, I learned new steps to Muay Thai, how to punch, kick, defend and even sparred a little but above all, I discovered more about myself in that two hours than the time I spent thinking about who I am.
Here’s what I learned in that two-hour class.
I realised where I truly stand in the eyes of the reality.
I used to be part of the Dragonboat team and I often had the thought that I am still as physically strong and mentally resilient as before, when I was 17. Imagine being able to complete hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups, and running 2.4km in under 12 minutes for my fitness test.
When the workout started, it was when reality dawned on me that I am no longer as young and as fit as I was. I was struggling to keep up with the pace. In fact, my fitness has dropped considerably over the years, even though I had been working out regularly, plus the fact that I have been out of shape, and out of my regime for about two months now.
Sometimes, our mind plays a trick on us. We choose to remember the better version of who we are, or sometimes, we choose to stay in the past. Until we really experience the current situation, we might not notice how much things have changed over time, even within us.
Have you ever held beliefs or perceptions about who you are or who someone is until you realise that it’s no longer the same as the past?
We are all beginners at some point in our lives, even at 45 years old.
As I entered the gym full of younger adults, I was immediately self-conscious if I should turn back.
Perhaps I’m too old for this.
And then I countered my own thoughts. We are always a beginner at some stage in our lives. If we don’t start, how are we able to reach a certain level or be knowledgeable in certain topics? Furthermore, without trying, I’ll never know what Muay Thai feels like and it would always stay on my bucket list.
So, I stayed on.
There is no shame in being a beginner. It may feel awkward initially, but we’re only a newbie for a short time.
When you have no knowledge of a certain topic or in this case, combat sport, you are like a blank sheet of paper. What you absorb and fill on that sheet of paper is crucial. What matters is you learn the basics first and get the foundations right. Only then will you be on the right track to be the expert you want to be.
Many are eager to be experts and tend to skip the foundations. It often takes a long time to unlearn and re-learn again as compared to when you learn it right the first time.
I get to better understand who I am
As soon as the class started and the instructor taught us how to position ourselves and punch, I was quickly reminded of how uncoordinated I am.
I had to keep stopping to redo my posture as my right and left got confused after several tries.
I faced the same issue when I was learning dancing.
Some people have no issue with coordination at all. This is purely a personal matter, but one that I would not know if I had not tried out and understood for myself.
Nevertheless, it’s not something I cannot overcome, just need more practice.
What’s something you have yet to uncover about yourself? Are you as balanced, creative or humorous as you think?
You uncover new surprising realisations about yourself.
Muay Thai is different from Dragonboat which a team sport. In Dragonboat, I can rely on and work together within my team to build us up, as a team. We work out together, we push each other and we bond together.
In Muay Thai, you have to be self-reliant and depend on yourself when you are in the ring with your opponent. You don’t even necessarily train together, and you have to push yourself.
Having this thought scares me a little, to be honest, and it brought me back to the times when I was working. While I had progressed to a certain level within the organisation, I tend to fall back on superior support in certain situations.
It made me realise how much I am dependent on others in certain circumstances, and how vulnerable I am most times. At the same time, I also learned to think about what happens if I have to deal with situations alone and if I am in danger, alone.
It reminds me of who I am on the inside.
As the lesson progressed, I had the thought that perhaps it would be too late to start learning this self-defense sport at my age. Then again, even talent needs practice.
If I don’t give myself a chance, how would I know what would be the outcome?
When I joined Dragonboat, I had no idea what it could do to my life. I didn’t expect anything back then, but it made me realise I can achieve what I set my mind to. I learned that I am more disciplined, resilient and stronger than I think.
I know I can do this.
I believe in me, that’s all that matters.
Never doubt yourself.
Plus, your mindset is not determined by your age.
If you think you are too old to do anything or start anything, think again.
There are numerous examples of prominent figures who started late and achieved success, among them, include Vera Wang and KFC.
But on role models closer to me, my parents have always been my inspiration. At 50+, my parents were still thinking of ways to start and maintain their business, albeit a small one. My parents have always been in business, from billiards to setting up the store, but doing business then means having to earn money for us. But at this age, being in business often mean filling their days with more meaning. When I see my mum tending to her farm, I see a knowledgeable woman who is passionate and cares about her plants. I see the joy in her.
And here I am thinking I am too old to start anything worth pursuing.
Old is just a mindset.
And, we all need to keep learning to keep improving.
No one is perfect. Even if you are an expert in your field of expertise, you still need to keep learning and find new grounds otherwise you will get complacent.
But often times, the only factor holding us back is our own excuses.
Whenever we set a goal, we will almost immediately create resistance (excuses) to jeopardise our goals.
Think of the times when you want to lose weight, when you want to start a new project or business, or when you want to travel more or learn something new, the effort and time to learn more, do more or commit more seem to be too much to handle with whatever commitments you already have in hand.
The top salesperson doesn’t always use the same method to secure sales; they use a combination of tactics to provide better value to their customers, but what we don’t realise is that they are also observant and they are on the ball learning from their customers and market on regular basis.
If you want to start something, commit to it and go for it, forget about the right timing.
What breaking my own comfort zone really means to me.
Over the last two months, there were too many changes in my life.
I had lost my baby, and I lost my income when I decided to quit my job and stay with my family. While dealing with grief, I was also constantly battling with self-doubt on what I should be doing with my life, what I should have achieved by now, and what did I do wrong in my pregnancy.
Doing something new and different from my routine especially on a physical level helps me break the negative thoughts and puts a halt to dwelling on what’s not working.
When you push yourself to do things beyond your norm, you are telling yourself that whatever challenge you are facing now will only toughen you physically and strengthen you mentally.
It makes me feel more alive, keeps me going and knowing that the bad times are only temporary.
It’s not the end when you are still alive.
What can you challenge yourself to be more alive today?