Challenge Yourself to an Exciting Life

This post is part of an ongoing series titled Things That Have Improved Your Life.

In this series, I welcome readers of this blog to share an improvement they’ve made in their life. This improvement could be anything – from a new diet or exercise plan to a certain place visited or person they’ve met.

I then ask questions as to how their life has improved, and whether they would recommend others try to make this same thing possible in their own lives.

Reader Interviews: Challenge Yourself to an Exciting Life

Today’s interview takes place with Erika Zheng.

Erika tells us how her life started to improve when she made the decision to challenge her internal fears. She decided to do the things that were scaring her, instead of hiding away from them.

Introduce Yourself

Hi! My name is Erika Zheng and I was born in a tiny village (think twenty people) in the north of Sweden.

I currently live in Virginia with my boyfriend, two dogs, and a cat, working on realizing my dream of making a living from home with proofreading and writing.

I also love dancing, reading, hiking, and game nights!

A picture of Erika Zheng

What Improvement Have You Made to Your Life?

I was always very shy and scared of embarrassing myself, which meant that I missed out on a lot. So I started challenging myself to do things anyway.

You know when you see something you’d like to do, but it scares you? Like skydiving or asking someone out. You get an equal mix of fear and excitement in your stomach. Learn to love that feeling, because it’s telling you that you need to do it!

When I felt that lurch in my stomach I wouldn’t stop myself by thinking about it, imagining what it would be like to do it, and worrying about what would happen if I did — I just went for it.

Have you seen the movie We Bought a Zoo? I started living this way long before the movie came out, but it says it all:

Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery

How Has Your Life Improved Since – Can You Give an Example?

It has given me so many amazing experiences and memories. Instead of regretting not doing things, I can now look back and remember things like:

  • Living in five different countries
  • Quitting my job to start my own business
  • Riding a camel at the pyramids in Egypt
  • Studying massage therapy in Brazil
  • Swimming with piranhas in the Amazon river
  • Befriending very cool people
  • Doing seven obstacle races (learn how to do your first one here!)
  • Riding the tallest water slide in the world

And believe me, it was not easy being brave enough to do some of these things! But life is to be lived, and as long as you don’t put your life in danger, who is it going to hurt? Only yourself when you’re wasting time regretting missed opportunities.

A picture of Erika Zheng when doing white water rafting
This is when I went white water rafting in Sweden a few years ago. You can’t tell from the picture, but I was absolutely terrified!

Would You Recommend Other People Give This a Go? If So, How Should They Start?


If you want your life to be more than what it is, YOU need to make a change! Things don’t just happen because you want them to. (Believe me, I’ve tried that approach.) It sounds amazing when you list things like that, and it was. But all those things happened because I started very small.

I complimented a stranger on her dress, I befriended the new exchange student in our class, and I signed up for a winter triathlon in our school. Not to win, but just to do it.

The “bravery muscle” is like any muscle — you can train it to be stronger. After years of travelling booking a plane ticket doesn’t take weeks of consideration, and I talk to new people with no problem.

But I still have to exercise it to do stuff like pitching myself to a prospective client and daring to dream big for my business. We are all on different levels, so you work on where you are. The only thing standing in your way is you.

Did you always want to try swing dancing, but you’re afraid you’ll embarrass yourself? Sign up for a class.

Have you toyed with the idea to travel to Paris? Book a ticket.

Do you look with envy at the girls lifting heavy weights at the gym, because you don’t think you could ever be that strong? Ask one of the trainers to show you how to do it, or research it online. Nerd Fitness is my bible, and lifting weights is one of the best ways to gain self-confidence!

Where Can We Find out More About You?

My website!

I think (as you probably have gathered by now) that life is about actually living it and experiencing amazing things. This can be so hard though if you struggle with things like anxiety and depression or just can’t seem to break out of your shell.

So my approach is two-fold:

Learn to take chances, and take care of your mental and physical health so you’re able to do so.

And this is what I write about. 🙂

Anything Else You’d like to Share?

But Erika, you say. I don’t have time or money to do any of these things.

Don’t I know the feeling! But you know what you do?

You make time.

You save money.

Just like it takes time to be able to run a 10k or squat 100 lbs, dreams can take some time to accomplish. But it will take even longer if you never start!

Make a plan and take time off work, save money from every paycheck (even if it’s just $20), and prepare in whatever way is necessary.

In the meantime, train your bravery muscle by completing smaller challenges. You never know what adventures you can have in your everyday life unless you give them a chance to find you!

I’d like to say a big thanks to Erika Zheng for sharing her life improvement story with us today.

My takeaway points:

  • Learn to love that feeling of fear/excitement that you get in your gut.
  • It’s true, sometimes all you need is literally 20 seconds of bravery for something good to come of it.
  • Things don’t just happen because you want them to. You have to make a change first. Start small, and build it from there.

Have you made an improvement to your life that you would like to share? Check out this post and get involved. Your story could end up being featured in this series.

You can find the rest of the reader interviews in the series here…

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