As a kid, I had a bad habit of ripping off my fingernails. I would start with a hangnail but usually I would work on a jagged edge until I could get a hold on it and then just rip it off. It was a nervous habit. I was always picking at my nails and my parents repeatedly told me to quit. Why did I develop this habit? I don’t know and would probably have to go through psychoanalysis to find out. Not worth it. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I challenged myself to quit. And I did. At some point, I challenged myself with minor goals. I thought that if I could accomplish these goals, I could do anything.
After I conquered the nail-ripping-habit, I knew I could quit smoking. It was 1973. I had smoked since I was a sophomore in high school, and smoked at least a pack a day. It was a nasty habit. I would wake in the middle of the night just to have a cigarette, and that’s the first thing I would grab upon awakening each morning. Smoking affected my weight… at that time, I was a mere 120 pounds. Once I accepted my self-imposed challenge, I quit “cold turkey.” Actually, I have to admit that I did not have even one quarter to buy a pack. I had to quit, and it was not easy. But I persevered. I developed restless leg syndrome and my legs ached painfully. You know how people say, “Oh, food tasted differently?” I don’t remember experiencing that. During that first year of snuffing out that last butt, I gained about forty pounds. A nice benefit. After some time, I smoked a cigarette and my reaction was “What did I ever see in this?”
Now, I was ready to tackle the World. I had been an unhappy teacher for some time. I was only earning $13,000 annually after having taught for thirteen years. I could see a bleak future. I had always wanted to be a professional singer. That’s another story, but I had to try. From there, I applied with a major transportation company. To be hired for a ground-level administrative position, I had to pass a typing and shorthand test. Typing was a breeze, but shorthand? I had two weeks to learn it and had to pass a test at 90 words per minute. I made it. I applied myself and advanced from a clerk, to a secretary and then to a management position. In the final years of my career, I had a nine-state territory. I flew somewhere almost every week.
Wait! I had some intermediary challenges. I was forced to give presentations within the company as well as to the public. I was a horrid public speaker, but I joined Toastmasters and not only became a proficient speaker but also an accomplished trainer. Having overcome my weaknesses was very satisfying.
Fast forward to 2006. I suffered two heart attacks and two strokes. The nature of my challenges changed. I was dizzy 24/7 from August until December. I walked with a cane during that time and when I did I was taking baby steps. I took physical therapy and speech therapy. The most difficult challenge was overcoming depression. My youngest son encouraged me to “take up my brushes and once again paint.” I did, and I have been painting over ten years now and consider myself a professional painter.
Have I completed all of my challenges? I hope not. Recently, I had open-heart surgery and all the resulting challenges. My latest is writing this blog and also writing a newsletter. I want to build my email list Studio News. I go to the gym six days a week. The list of challenges gets longer.
The take away for you… it’s in the title of this post. “If I Can, You Can.” Start with a small challenge. It will give you confidence to move on to a more difficult one. You will eventually become the person you were always meant to be.