Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Go Ahead, Challenge Yourself!

I’m somewhat of a competitive person in nature, which is, most of the time, a real liability. But last weekend this quality of mine came in handy.
I checked my work e-mail bright and early Saturday morning, and one had the potential of ruining my weekend, because it reminded me of the letter of “constructive criticism” my friends Angela and Karen handed me in the fourth grade. (You’d think I’d be over it by now.)
I obsessed about this e-mail for an hour, and then I decided to do the unthinkable: shut down the computer.
Eric and I loaded the double stroller with towels, sunscreen, Little Mermaid surf boards, and Ariel water wings, and headed to the pool, where we met a few of our friends.
“Hey, John,” I said to the ex-marine we hang out with, “you’re a good swimmer, right? Let’s race!”
He shook his head no.
“But,” he said, “I challenge you to swim underwater to the other side of the pool without taking a breath.”
I looked at the one side, and then the other side, and thought it was at least 25 yards, maybe 25 meters. And there were tons of kids that I’d have to swim around–so the path would be longer than 25 years (or meters).
“Okay, I’ll do it!” I said. Because I didn’t want the ex-marine thinking I was a wuss.


Now I didn’t have goggles and I couldn’t see all that well under water. I thought I was going to pass out halfway through, but the thought of failing at this mission killed me, so I figured somebody would eventually see me at the bottom of the pool if I did, really, run out of air or had brain damage.
Finally I saw the wall! My hands felt the way up to the surface, and voila! There I was at the other side! Situated, mind you, in between two guys drinking some beers in a conversation that I was embarrassed to have interrupted.
At that moment I thought about how my work sometimes takes over my life, and how the opinions of people–especially those readers who like to trash and run (anonymously)–still have way too much power in my head.
So I challenged myself, yet again!
I bet you can’t go a whole day without checking your e-mail, I baited myself.
I bet I can! The competitive voice responded.
I envisioned this challenge just like swimming under water without taking a breath. And you know what? I didn’t make it.
BUT I did much better this time (SIX hours!) than I have in a very long time, and I think that is because I approached it just like the swimming competition: as a contest with myself.
I have, since then, been giving myself mini-challenges throughout the day.
For example, I’ve been feeling badly about all the TV my kids watch, so I made a rule that between 3 and 4 in the afternoon, there are no electronics in our household. And that also applies to me! This is my technology time-out, as well.
Every time I’m tempted to sneak a peek at my e-mail, or break the rule, I see the face of my ex-marine friend … with a wide smile as I surface from the water before making it to the end of the pool (he would have won the bet). And that keeps me going another fifteen minutes of no e-mail.
So I’m here to challenge you to do that thing in your life that you want to do, but that’s hard. Treat it like a contest with a good friend (your alter ego). And even if it takes a few trial sessions, I bet you’ll get closer to the goal than you think.
To read more Beyond Blue, go to, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.

  • Sharon Fawcett

    An hour without technology sounds daunting, but you can do it…and more!! I’ve worked up to a whole day. Sundays are truly my day of rest; I reject the temptation to turn on the computer or to work. It’s challenging because as a writer I work from home, so slipping into the office would be really easy. What helps me resist the urge? I know how refreshed and reconnected (to God and myself) I will feel at the end of the day if I spend my time on activities that renew, rather than deplete, me. I opt for napping, lounging in the shade on my lawn, observing nature, riding my bike, and reading for pleasure. It’s amazing how much more productive I can be the other six days of the week if I take one day for rest. Do you suppose God knew that when He made taking a day of rest a commandment?

  • Chinamom

    Your post is just what the doctor ordered today. Thanks, T, I needed that.

  • Valerie

    I loved this post and the last one about the seven different ways to achieve goals. It’s not an “all or nothing” thinking that I so often get myself entrenched in. It’s a “little by little, step by step” kind of approach.
    I understand the whole email thing and computer thing. I work at home and for some reason, I have a hard time “shutting things off” and taking a break. It becomes obsessive the way I have to check my email, etc.
    Oh and as far as those readers who like to trash and run anonymously–ball-less, completely and utterly no spine or that other appendage! At least sign your name so Therese knows whom to address when she sends you a trashy email back! haha
    You Rock, Therese. Keep up the great work. Love Valerie

  • Melzoom

    When I was training for a half-marathon, the idea of 13 miles…overwhelming. But from my house to Peter Hoover Rd was a half-mile. So, when on my longer 8+ mile runs, I’d want to give up. So, I’d tell myself “You can quit after one more Peter Hoover.” Sometimes I’d have to do that four or five times to finish a run. =) After knee surgery, I found myself half-way up the stairs in an office building and in so much pain, I wanted to sit down. Guess what? “One more Peter Hoover.” Became ‘One more stair’. Lying to myself? Challenging myself? Maybe a bit of both.
    Thanks for this Therese. Everyday I get new reminders of things to work on.

  • Peg

    Therese, thanks again for a post that helps me in my struggles with addictions. Peg

  • Debbie S

    Thank you for some new ideas on how to get more out of my life! Peace to you and yours everyday!
    Deb S

  • ctstara2

    You make my day, you are always right on!!!!!

  • TomsMom

    Thanks, this really spoke to me.
    Son and I have just started Tae Kwon Do family classes.
    Last week, second class, we broke a board with our hands.
    OK so they are trying to keep our interest and renewals up, but hey.
    This week it was choosing in our minds at the beginning of the class what to accomplish in class, and at the end, meditate on what we had done and what we wanted to do.
    Focus, focus, focus.

  • blanche

    My thoughts and prayers are out there for all of you, especially Peg.
    blanche :)

  • Susana Skaugset Wren

    Focus and ‘self-discipline’ , both very hard.. These are two things that most of us, (including myself on a daily basis struggle) with.. Thanks for an interesting article..Suzi Wren

  • Anonymous


  • Peg

    Thanks, Blanche. I really appreciate you taking the time to post.

  • Annamarie

    Hello, First off I want to Thank You!
    I’m so grateful for all your messages sent to my email..
    They bright up my days and nights…
    I’m learning to open up my feelings more..more good then bad…
    Thank you so much A.

  • maybei’lldoittomorrow

    Swimming was the one thing that gave me focus and discipline as a little girl. It actually carried me through toxemia 30 years ago when
    I used my underwater breathing techniques to focus during 13 1/2 hours of labor.
    Thanks to your email, I will try today to employ my competitive swimming techniques to overcoming a sout of depression I’ve been battling for 3 years,almost 4.

  • Anonymous

    i can use any push/motivation i can get…i’m a little overweight and now i walk too try to help lose some of it…some days i need that extra oomph to keep it up!!!

  • George Thompson

    You mention a very good way to discipline oneself. I, too, am an email “nut” and usually spend the entire day between writing and checking my email the minute it comes across. I will try to follow your suggestions and see where they lead me. Thanks so much.

  • Tracey

    Its funny that I should read this today,because im going to go back to school and today i must finish the paper work. I have tried school many times before and never finished,but this time it will be different i will finish.I will challenge myself,when it gets hard i will press on to the end.Your story helped thanks.

  • pd

    thank you i was trying o find something to motivate me my husband bought me my dream car a vw beetle it’s a stick and i am not getting it like i thought i should and i felt like selling but you inspired me to see the finish line and learn to drive my dream thank you again

  • Linda

    Thanks a lot. I needed to read this. I have been, well lagging on a lot of things. It just got to be too hard, so last week I did all the things I was not supposed to do. I did not look at my computer at all, because it would have reminded me to stay on track. I need something different to challenge myself is the best I’ve heard in a long time. So when I can no longer be strong enough I will think of the “challenge”. Thanks again, God bless.

  • moi

    WOW! What a message to inspire me forward through a very tough time in my life! I have many many lemons and am focusing intently on making lemonade with them despite the odds. That which is NOT in my control cannot control me and my future in the meantime! I have decided to take this opportunity to plunge into the vocation I have been contemplating for two years now….let me explain:
    My employer gave me a terrible job review last week (3 months following a tremendous April job review- go figure…I have checked myself and this is simply a budget cut. I saw the budget issues company letter post-dated, left in the copier bin from the President just two weeks ago. Meant to disguise itself in mean-spirited personal blame for things which I didn’t do, I was called on the carpet for things ranging from obtaining a correct address due to returned mail to taking the iniative by asking for IT to incorporate scanning into the company copier that has these features available. I was told that I tied operations by asking for this assistance from my manager in order to make my tasks more efficient.
    This employee review has been my catalyst for taking the plunge and what a great time to do so. What a refreshing perspective on my life and where it will lead with the appropriate training, and in surrounding myself with like-minded individuals in the field I have chosen, what a therapeutic embodiment of work to engage in, way beyond my former career, which has been unfulfilling for years now.
    To prepare myself for this venture, I researched over the past two years, all of the credentials required to make this a go in my career path, in my state and region, and in my community. I have researched the financial means to get there and am already approved and in process of completing the final paperwork. I have defined the location (a former business’ building) that I have in mind for the business start-up in my neighborhood, so zoning is not an issue. I have the part time attendance option at school, so no child care will be required of me during my school attendance. The school I have chosen is fully accredited and very reputable in my home state and the region in which I live – nothing can become an obstacle unless one makes it so. Thank you for inspiring me further today!

  • Carol

    Yes. I am looking for parts of inspiration and road signs in this point of my life. I am changing careers and lifestyles (divorce) I have read many comments on this site. They are always educational and these today have struck me to the core. Nothing can be an obstacle unless we let it be one. So, I guess when we put the goal out there, and then everyday, everystep we fight to make it so… That should be enough. Maybe, but I think God sometimes just has to step on and say OK…I will help will this.

  • Jasmine

    I have come across a couple of confident people in my life and the one thing i find common among them is the WILL to DREAM and ACHIEVE. Most of us face ‘phobia’ in our lives, some frivolous and some srious. However, most of these are mental hurdles that we create as ‘excuses’ to not move out of our “comfort zone”.
    It really inspires to know that few bravehearts do challenge their limits to make a diffrence to themselves and others around.

  • Yvonne

    I, too, have recently changed jobs. As I search for my next calling, I am reminded that obstacles or problems are just “opportunities” to be seized. Good luck to us all!

  • Pat Cregg

    I recently lost my job, I am having a really tuff time right now. As I have a disabled husband to care for, I am the bread winner of the family. I lost my job of my own doing I guess. Since raising my family, I was a stay at home mom, my blessing. I went out into the work force about 15yrs ago, I started low, and worked my way up to a great position, in the business world. Not on my own mind you I had help every step of the way. Well now here I am again at the bottom, I am not sure where to go from here. I have had a couple of interviews but, 1-I wasn[‘t qualified enough, 2- Was perfect but only part time no benefits, then there was 3- you know that 3 stricks and your out, well I am out. (over qualified for this one). So I need insperations like this story. Thank you

  • Nancy A.K.A. Sixlittlekitties

    Talk about perfect timing getting around to reading my mail.
    My b/f just signed him, his daughter and myself up for the YMCA.
    Mind you I am not a biker, walker, jogger, swimmer or anything. I go about my life and take care of house and work business and that is it.
    Well yesterday was my “first day” in this water excercise class and it kicked my butt. I don’t want to go back, I don’t want to excercise, I have every excuse under the sun not to go to the Y.
    Guess what? I am going back today. Like that bet you took with the ex-marine….that attitude of “oh you think I can’t?”? The honey basically gave me a dare and I refuse to let him win.
    If that is what it takes to motivate me well then God just keep on giving me small “dares” and I will take the challenge.
    Nan aka sixlittlekitties

  • Carol

    Thank you for writing about this bit of competition for yourself. This gave, no inspired me to do the same when I feel myself wanting that ice cream cone or bit of chocolate. I am going to be 50 this year and I wanted to loose at least 20 pounds before my birthday (September). Now, seeing your article, it has definitely helped and I think, no I know that I will be pushing myself to loose that weight. THANK YOU THANK YOU. You are an inspiration. Carol Carroll.

  • Kathy Katee.

    Thank you:
    This helps inspire me.
    God bless you.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know where to begin…The last 8 and almost 9 months have been a tremendous season of loss, grieving, working on rebuilding my life and much spiritual growth.
    My daughter went to heaven…my other children and family disowned me…I am in a strange city with no friends…have not been able to fully find a church that is spirit filled, positive , bible based, and practical except one. It is too far time wise and too costly fuel wise.
    I am seeking God’s purpose for my life and with His help and making headway. He left me here for a reason…I truly want to fulfill the purpose He has for me.
    I can only offer this advice from my experience these last months:
    1) Stay focused on Jesus
    2) Don’t get distracted by the world
    3) Never, ever, ever give up
    I pray this prayer daily and sometimes more than once. Enjoy. Hope this helps:
    “Father, put your desires in my heart, because I don’t know anything. I only want to be in your perfect will in every area of my life, every day of my life.” “Your will and not mine. I humbly and totally surrender my life and my will to you. Here I am Lord, wherever, whenever.”
    I am excited about all of the healing that has taken place and is still working. He is revealing His will for me almost daily. The bottom line for me…He loves me so very much…is in complete control of all of me…is healing me throughout. I came into this world alone and will go out alone…just me and Him. I experienced it with my daughter.
    The best is yet to come! Blessings. My prayers are with you!=))

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