How Challenging Yourself at Work and Leisure Can Give You a Sense of Purpose

Woman sitting overlooking moraine lake and mountains

I have walked alongside hundreds of children and adults struggling to find themselves and show up fully in the world.

Throughout this process, it has become strikingly clear that without challenge, you can never find your true sense of purpose. Challenge quickly and effectively brings self-discovery and growth to the surface, which is the main driver of discovering purpose.

Accepting challenges and trying new things has been researched in depth. Experts agree that challenging yourself is one of the best ways to cultivate pure joy and increase your happiness. These challenges form a lifestyle that everyone you know is seeking out, whether they say it or not.

The challenges we offer up in this article are helpful for discovering purpose and cultivating happiness every day. They push you to:

Ways to Push Yourself Personally

There are countless ways to push yourself in your personal life to help give you a sense of purpose. These are only a few fantastic and easy places to start.

From there, plenty of other challenges will arise, and you’ll already have the resilience and strength to take those on.

Do a Digital Detox

Today it’s almost impossible to catch a deep breath away from some kind of screen or other technology. Technology advancements are massively helpful to our world, but sometimes we must get away from it all. Research shows that our connection to our screens actually devalues the way we see our real lives.

The thing is, we were never designed to be connected to screens. Social media and other forms of mindless scrolling can be detrimental to us rather than productive. Too much exposure to screens ruins your sleep quality, damages your self-image, and can skew your work-life balance in the wrong way.

This is where a digital detox can come into play, giving you time to relax and regain your perspective.

A digital detox is about setting aside the time to reduce your screen use, possibly even getting rid of it entirely. A short time away from your screens can benefit you in surprising ways, such as:

  • Improving mental and physical health
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Decreasing stress
  • Increasing connection to others

Globally, people spend an average of seven hours in front of a screen every day, which is only increasing. A digital detox provides you with the time to try new hobbies that may have been swallowed up by mindless scrolling.

Study a Second Language

When I started learning Greek at 29 years old, I believed I could never fully master it. Learning a new language can feel like an utterly unreachable goal, which is why it’s such an extraordinary challenge to put on your list.

It was only with time, commitment, and constant repetition that I started to believe it was possible and not seem like such a foreigner in a Greek village.

It’s obvious how learning a second language can allow you to travel, connect to other cultures, and meet new people. What goes unnoticed is how learning a second language improves memory, and problem-solving skills, boosts concentration, increases listening skills, and improves brain health.

This challenge can be hard, but it also is rewarding. Allow yourself to start slowly with an app like Duolingo or Babbel to help get those reminders to practice bit by bit every day. More importantly, plan a trip to get yourself excited about the opportunity to try out the new language!

Learn a New Outdoor Hobby

Woman looking through binoculars sitting while turkey hunting

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the world took to the outdoors. Everyone was trapped inside and needed a space to get out and challenge themselves. Outdoor recreation has a wealth of benefits, including increased physical and mental health, decreased stress, and an overall improvement in general mood.

As a beginner, outdoor hobbies like backpacking, hunting, or rock climbing can be intimidating. Trying these activities with a partner is one of the best ways to challenge yourself while staying safe. A partnership lets you push the other while they push you through the tough challenges that many people face in the outdoors.

There’s something for everyone in the outdoors. You can start by learning simple skills like basic rock climbing, stalking a deer, or even just going for a walk. The Japanese practice of forest bathing took off as one of the best things to do to improve mental health.

One of the things I like the most about discovering challenges in the outdoors is being able to bring others along, including kids. Teaching kids to find challenges in the outdoors creates growth unparalleled by everyday life.

Volunteer in Your Community

Personally, volunteering in my community is a huge challenge. Too many questions pop up, like, where do I start volunteering? How can I be helpful in my community? How do I find the time to volunteer?

The value of volunteering and helping others is something that any volunteer can attest to. There are dramatic increases in discovering your purpose when helping others. New perspectives become clearer each time you help another person out. Volunteering has even been found to decrease anxiety, depression, and levels of anger.

Starting can be easy if you want it to be. A quick Google search will bring back hundreds of local areas looking for volunteers. Find a volunteer opportunity that excites you and draws on your specific passions and skill sets. Some quick ideas for volunteering include:

  • Dog shelters
  • Retirement homes
  • Soup kitchens
  • Community development
  • Local youth centers

Teach What You Know

If you’ve been through the process of learning a skill to the point of mastery, you may understand the impact that a good teacher can have on your growth in that area. A teacher that can be understanding, encouraging, and push you to your limits is hard to find.

When you take on the challenge of teaching someone, you take on the challenge of learning how to balance those three skills.

Children are the best place to start when teaching a skill. They’re forgiving, always excited to learn something new, and never shy about trying it out. Whether or not you have kids, you can always find programs like Big Brother or Big Sister that give you an excellent opportunity to take a kid out on their first fishing trip or start learning a new hobby.

There’s something different about teaching that brings in some of the best rewards you can imagine. Who knows, it may lead you directly to your unknown purpose in life.

Ways to Push Yourself Professionally

Take your challenges into the work sphere to grow in personal and professional ways. These challenges are designed to help you move up the ladder, try out new positions, or even just make your work day more exciting.

Woman showing man how to do something on a computer screen

Take a Professional Development Course

Continued learning after working the same job for a while can refresh your professional life in a way few things can. Professional development courses are one of those things that employers often look at when thinking about promotions or shifting someone to a new position.

If you’re hoping to advance your career, this is a great place to start.

A new skill that can be applied to your daily work can bring creative solutions to problems that you’re working on. A simple day-long course can help you look at your work from a new angle and increase your productivity or enjoyment of the work you do.

Applying new education or training to an old job can significantly enhance how satisfied you are professionally.

Ask for More Responsibility

While showing up to work and getting home fast is tempting, challenging yourself at work will let you find joy in what you do. One of the best ways to do this is to ask for more responsibility.

More responsibility doesn’t always mean more work. It can be a shift to leadership roles rather than being a smaller cog in the machine.

Taking on more responsibility at work can help advance your career. It’s a great chance to display, or develop, your leadership skills and show improved performance to management.

Start by engaging in extracurriculars at the office. A softball team is a great place to network and show your coworkers that you want to be a part of the team. From here, you can talk more with your boss about ways to have more responsibility.

This will also give you insight into the parts of your coworkers’ jobs they struggle with. It may be that you can work together to tackle functions of the job that you both enjoy, rather than each struggling with different tasks.

When your supervisors see that you’re coming up with creative ways to solve work issues, you’ll be the first in line for an upcoming promotion.

Become a Mentor

Being a mentor at work is like being a teacher in your personal life. The great thing here is work and personal life isn’t always that different. Work still requires a lot of the same skills that even something like hunting does.

Think about it. If you can teach someone to wait patiently in a blind as a deer moves slowly in, you can transfer those skills to teach a coworker how to take their time and be deliberate with the work that they’re doing.

These two areas of life are only different because we push them apart. Being a mentor will challenge you to grow in all of them.

Not only can this challenge you and help you grow professionally, but it will show how willing you are to lead others in your job.

It demonstrates your ability to coach others through tasks, listen to your coworkers, and solve problems creatively. These are all things that any boss wants to see from an employee looking for a promotion or a raise.