The way I see it, there are pretty much two states in life through which we all flow in and out. You always hear that its about ups and downs, and I think that’s pretty much true, but at the same time we don’t hear about it when we’re living in good times. We don’t like hearing that our current state of ease and contentment will have an expiration date. We just want to hear that things will get better when life sucks. So I’ve developed a sort of idiom through which I try to constantly improve my state.
First things first, the times that you’re happy are the times to make changes. When your life is easy, you’re not trying hard enough. That is the perfect time to start challenging yourself to make improvements. Going to the gym, getting more sleep, practicing more piano, that sort of thing. When your life is going the way you want it to, you need to start building yourself up. If you’re in school, don’t spend the summer relaxing and watching Netflix every day. You don’t have to get a job (unless you do, of course) but there are things you can do that don’t cost anything. You don’t need a gym membership to get fit.
Start by telling yourself you’ll go on an hour long run three days a week. Give yourself manageable goals, but ideally you want to push yourself. I honestly don’t think I could run for an hour straight, so if that’s what I felt needed improving, that is where I’d start: something I’m not quite sure I can do.
The best part about that is that you’ll learn really quick what you can or can’t do. If you want to practice more on whatever instrument you play, just start by devoting time to it. Look at what you’re bad at and then challenge yourself to stop being bad at it.
But on the other side of that coin, maybe your life is already stressful enough. Personally, I don’t have a whole lot of free time right now, and I feel like if I tried to push myself any further I would snap. During these times, I would strongly recommend staying away from those personal challenges unless that’s what you need to do to relieve that stress. If anything you want to change would add on to your daily stress, don’t do it if you can’t handle it. It’s okay to relax if that’s what you need. You’re probably challenging yourself enough by not slamming your head against the pillow when you get home every day.
The hardest part about this advice is that sometimes it can be hard to know whether you’re really capable of a challenge. The ups and downs aren’t always clear cut. So I’d say the best way to gauge what you’re ready for is to think about how you would start improving yourself and thinking about how much stress (or exhaustion) it would really add to your daily life. It’s always good to push yourself, but don’t try to tackle things if you’ve already got a lot on your plate.