Expanding Your Capacity: How to Choose a Challenge to Take

A few weeks ago I wrote about expanding your personal capacity. You need to constantly move out of your comfort zone and take new challenges. Otherwise you will just stay where you are as years go by.
One question you might have is: what challenge should I take?
This is an important question to answer. Why? Because working on a challenge could take months or even years. Nobody wants to spend years working on the wrong thing, so you should choose your challenge wisely.
I’ll share with you how to choose a challenge, but before we start, you may want to list all your possible challenges first. Look at your dreams and desires. Look at the possibilities in front of you. Just write whatever comes into your mind.
Now, having known the options you have, the first step is to filter them to get only the most promising ones. To do that, ask yourself this question for each option:
Is it something I love doing?
Here is another way to ask the question:
Suppose I didn’t have to worry about money, would I gladly spend my time doing it?
Think about it for a moment. You don’t need to worry about money. You can do whatever you want. In such a situation, will you gladly do it? Or perhaps you will never do it if you don’t need the money?
Looking back, all my fruitful effort has this question answered with a clear “yes.” Take blogging, for example. I started this blog simply because I love writing about personal development. I didn’t start this blog to make money. Suppose I didn’t have to worry about money, I would still blog.
This question helps you see your true motivation. Having the right motivation is important because working on a challenge isn’t easy (it’s a challenge, after all). If you aren’t passionate about it, it will be difficult for you to stay motivated in the long term. You will stop before you achieve success. This is especially true if the motivation is money. These people, when they can’t see financial results in relatively short time, become discouraged and stop working on the challenge.
There is another reason why having a “yes” here is important: Don’t just try to reach the destination; you should enjoy the journey as well. Why should you torture yourself along the way if you can do something you enjoy?
So look at your list and cross the items that don’t pass the filter.
Now, for those things that are left, you need to choose one of them to work and focus on. How? Here is a question I’ve found useful for this purpose:
Which one would give me the most regret if I didn’t do it?
This is what Jeff Bezos called “regret-minimization framework”. I also wrote a post related to it. The idea is, you should choose a challenge that helps you avoid as much potential regret as possible.
To answer this second question, imagine yourself years from now. Imagine yourself looking back at the possibilities in your life that you didn’t take. Which one would make you regret the most?
That’s the challenge you should take.
Photo by Nina Matthews Photography

13 Comments

  1. This is what Jeff Bezos called “regret-minimization framework”. I also wrote a post related to it. The idea is, you should choose a challenge that helps you avoid as much potential regret as possible.
    To answer this second question, imagine yourself years from now. Imagine yourself looking back at the possibilities in your life that you didn’t take. Which one would make you regret the most?
    That’s the challenge you should take

    What I like is that we are to “get out of our Comfort zones.” Thanks

  2. Jackie,
    That’s also an idea I like and I’m working on these days.

  3. Dude, Donald – great stuff in this post. the key part for me was “Suppose I didn’t have to worry about money, would I gladly spend my time doing it?”
    I think that should be the question we ask ourselves with pretty much everything we do. If money is your motivator, you’ve probably taken a wrong step or two.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. I found this very insightful. I love the question you bring up, Suppose I didn’t have to worry about money, would I gladly spend my time doing it?
    I don’t think enough people can answer that with a yes. For the longest time I know I couldn’t.
    I think one additional step in identifying a challenge to pursue is to ask your self “In the last year have I progressed further than the last”
    I ask myself that every week and if I feel like I’m not getting where I want to I come up with some ideas that will provide the progress I’m seeking.

  5. Your articles are really inspiring.. But I have a problem considering those challenge in life. I’m a dentist but unfortunately I don’t enjoy my time doing my practice. I do have other passion. But, considering about many years and money I’ve spent for dentistry school… What should I do, if U were me? Thank U

  6. Mike,
    That’s an important question for me too. I need to ask myself that question from time to time.
    Bryce,
    There were also times when I couldn’t answer “yes” to the question. By the way, I like your idea of watching our progress. That’s a good way to see whether or not we’ve challenged ourselves enough.
    Lyliana,
    If I were you, I would start a side project on my passion. I would allocate time to work on it regularly while still working as a dentist. Over time, that side project could become a side business and eventually a primary business. At that time, I could leave my profession as a dentist.

  7. Donald: Great post and recommendation. It is great advice for us to get out of our comfort zones and to take on a challenge. I really appreciated the question you posed which just gets to the heart of what you really want to do and what your challenge should be. When you remove the normal things that may hold you back (i.e. being practical, the need for money, etc.) and just focus on what you really want and what really drives you, you can end up discovering some of the best things that are really important to you. Thanks for the great direction and question.

  8. Sibyl,
    I agree with you. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Things you have mentioned are really true and I believe doing what u love doing bring mental satisfaction. But at times there are circumstances that doesn’t allow you to follow the path you love to. I am working with an IT firm and things are professionally gud for me. Although I never wanted to be in this kind of job and always wanted to do something creative. Sometimes when i think of leaving my current job and try newer opportunities , I get afraid by the fear of failure..! I am sure and confident that if follow that path I can really put in my best but still some fear….! What to do..?

  10. I really like the idea of forcing yourself to take on a challenge that is personally meaningful. I often find myself on the cusp of doing things I’d really like to do, but maybe I’m “too busy” or “tired” from my other responsibilities. It’s not easy to take that leap, but I have the feeling that, more often than not, I won’t regret doing it.

  11. Prashant,
    What about creating a side project for the thing you’re passionate about? That’s what I recommend. Please see my reply to Lyliana’s comment above.
    Josh,
    I think so; you won’t regret doing it. Perhaps you could start by allocating a small amount of time to it regularly. Doing small things consistently can make a big difference in the long run.

  12. I enjoyed reading the blogs.
    I become pessimistic but when I read the blogs it really helps me out to through pessimism away.
    Regards Nagib.

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