Recently I’ve been thinking about the difference made by a 30 day challenge. It’s something I’ve tried several times and found works well for me. Maybe it’s about holding myself to account, writing things down (yes blogging, but also I do still use old-fashioned paper and pen for this – there’s nothing quite like a good list), the relatively short time frame that’s long enough to give a feel of what ‘doing it’ feels like but short enough not to feel too much of a burden.
I’ve set myself several 30 day challenges this year, and they’ve each made a difference and helped me make change in my life (or helped me recognise that I wasn’t [yet?] ready for that particular change).
There was the poetry challenge, which got me back into reading and thinking about poetry, and spotting it in everyday life. Whilst I haven’t continued reading a poem a day, I have sustained my interest in and enjoyment of poetry, and am the richer for it.
There have been other 30 day challenges I haven’t kept up with – (daily Italian and German practice….). But I will revisit them some time (probably). One of the things about setting this kind of challenge for yourself is that it helps you recognise how much you do or don’t want to achieve the results. I’ve found that there are some things I want enough to really prioritise them. There are other things that I let slide in favour of other more pressing priorities or external/internal demands.
Recently I set myself a daily activity challenge. Nothing too burdensome, just a commitment to do something active every single day, for at least 30 minutes each day. I’m 28 days into this one, and feeling good about it. I’ve only missed on one day so far, and even then I still managed to fit in a brief walk of 15 minutes when I arrived a bit early for a work appointment.
Mostly I’ve done it by fitting in brisk walking around everything else – choosing to walk places rather than use a car; getting off the bus or train early or walking between connections instead of going by bus or tube. Sometimes I’ve used vigorous everyday exercise as my daily activity (primarily moving that muck heap! – an ongoing project).
Only twice have I done something different just for the sake of ‘exercise’ – two half hour stints on a rowing machine.
I’ve really enjoyed the results. I enjoy walking anyway, so the days when I fit in a walk have been enhanced as a result. I’ve seen places I wouldn’t otherwise have seen (a walk from Wellingborough Station to the school I was visiting took me through a pleasant residential area and a quiet park; similarly a walk from Salisbury Station to a school even though along busy roads allowed me to notice large areas of allotments along a river valley that I had never spotted before; I always enjoy a walk in London).
One important thing about this challenge is that it did not involve spending any money. At all. In fact I spent less money, by reducing car use and public transport use.
Full disclosure: I’ve uses some things I already have – a small clip-on simple pedometer that I’d had for years (I think it cost about £5 when I bought it); comfortable shoes for walking that I bought in a sale a couple of years ago; a rowing machine at home that I bought a couple of years ago. Oh, and a hula hoop. Believe me, I’m a whizz with that, though I’ve never been able to stick at it for more than 10 minutes at at time. Just tooooo boring (even with added R4).
Of these, only the comfortable walking shoes are essential.
What I’ve found is that above all it’s changed my mind set. Now it’s not a question of whether I feel like doing something or can fit it in, it’s just a question of what I’ll do and when I will fit it in.
Ironically what started me off on this latest 30 day challenge was suggesting to someone else that they should try to fit in a daily walk, and then wondering why I wasn’t doing it myself. Why indeed? So now I am.
The two days when I rowed were exceptional. On both I was feeling quite low before I started and really had to force myself, but afterwards I felt just great.
So I reckon I’ll stick with setting myself 30 day challenges, and certainly this 30 minutes daily activity is now a fixture. There are more in the pipeline (one already started…)
If you’re interested in setting yourself a 30 day challenge, you might like to watch this online Ted Talk by Matt Cutts.