“A test of one’s abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking”
How often do you intentionally challenge yourself? I know that I can get caught up in the day-to-day of career and life, and so time just seems to pass by. To stay really engaged and feel like there’s forward momentum in my life, I often look for ways to challenge myself, stretch myself.
One of those ways is to do month-long challenges or resolutions.
Almost 15 years ago (yes, I was in high school – seriously), as New Years Day approached I couldn’t make up my mind on what resolutions I wanted to make. It dawned on me that I didn’t need to decide – I could just make monthly resolutions. The one resolution I remember doing during this time is to give someone a sincere compliment every day. I remember it because it stuck – to this day I have a habit of complimenting people (don’t worry, it’s always sincere).
I don’t think I’ve ever gone a full year with a resolution each month, but that’s not really the point. The month-long challenge or resolution is a way to try on a new habit or break an old one, without the pressure of having to do it forever (or give something up forever).
And by the time I’ve done something for a month, it becomes habit and I often keep doing it even after the challenge is over. By having something to focus on each month, I stay more engaged in my life. Pushing myself mentally, physically, or emotionally makes me a stronger person, and gives me a sense of accomplishment.
I’m definitely not the first person to think of this style of resolution-making or challenge-setting. Gretchen Rubin wrote a whole book, The Happiness Project filled with month-long resolutions aiming to increase her happiness). She has some great tips for choosing and sticking with resolutions on her website.
This blog, although now out of date, was an inspiration a few years ago to stretch myself with my resolutions. It reframed them as an opportunity to try something new that I knew I didn’t want to do forever, just to see what it felt like. It’s written by a personal development specialist, so comes at it from a different perspective, and lists several interesting ideas for month-long challenges.
This is a great short TED talk by Matt Cutts, a software engineer at Google, about how 30 day challenges have made a positive impact in his life.
Here is a summary of some of his 30 day challenges.
I’ll write more about challenges I’ve done in the past and want to do in the future in a later post. For now, I’ll talk about this month’s current challenge…
I’m challenging myself to do yoga everyday for the month of August – Yogust. This is probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve done this – it usually ends up being twice in the year (February and the fall).
I chose this challenge because doing yoga every day requires discipline but yields great rewards in how I feel in my body, and how I approach life. I notice a big difference in my mental energy and sense of well-being when I’m regularly practicing yoga.
For me, doing yoga every day means that I either take a class in a studio, do a video/audio class at home, or just simply doing 5 sun salutations (my easy out option – it takes less than 5 minutes). I think it’s important to have an easy out to keep my momentum going on days when I feel like I don’t have time.
Here’s what the first half of Yogust looked like. I’ve linked to the online or podcast classes I took. For Yoga Download classes, I indicated the length of class I took (their 20 minute versions of classes are free on their website or in iTunes as podcasts, but you can pay for longer versions). I list more yoga resources on the Enlighten page.
8/1: 20 minutes of post-ride yoga in my spin class
8/2: Oops I forgot! I’m not perfect. I’ll make it up by doing two yoga sessions on another day.
8/3: Jam at Three Dog Yoga (Santa Rosa, CA) – a super fun and sweaty class where they play awesome music.
8/4: Flow at Three Dog Yoga – a good, solid flow class. I’m already starting to feel stronger.
8/5: Yoga Download Yoga Sculpt #2 (60 minutes) – This class is a struggle to keep my yogic tranquility, you work hard doing a flow practice with weights.
8/7: 5 sun salutations when I got home after work. Really felt awesome to stretch out my body. Wanted to do more, but had to make jam!
8/8: Oops! Missed a day, and I felt it.
8/9: 45 minutes of Yoga Download Forrest Yoga in the morning. Felt amazing after two days without a class.
8/10: Took a class with Ariel at Yoga Tree (San Francisco, CA). It had been ages, but I’ve been going to her classes for five years. She serendipitously mentioned a yoga retreat in October that I’m going to try to attend in Mexico.
8/11: Five sun salutations before bed. A good reminder that you only need five minutes to do yoga and feel good, de-kink before bed. I can feel a difference in the way I carry myself, like I’m being pulled up by a string.
8/12: Kept with my theme of decompression for the weekend by focusing on hips, where we store negative energy and stress. This 20 minute Hip Opening Flow #3 class from Yoga Download seemed simple (not a lot of flow and a slow pace), but really covered the bases.
8/13: 5 sun salutations. Noticing strength in my arms from all the chaturangas.
8/14: 45 minutes of Yoga Download HardCORE yoga. Ok flow, I think the 20 minute version might be better.
8/15: Tara Stiles Relaxing bedtime yoga – I left my house at 5:45am, and returned at 9:45pm with two flights in between. Rather than think of yoga as a burden, I was really looking forward to de-kinking after the long day and lots of time sitting in the office or on a plane. I did this routine, but it wasn’t quite enough – so did some extra twists and stretches. Felt great before bed.
I’ve never logged my daily activity when I’ve done a yoga challenge before, I just checked the day off on a list. I really like seeing how much I’m putting in, and what I’m getting out. I’ll let you know how the rest of the month goes!
Have you done a month-long challenge before, and what was it? Or what challenge do you want to try? Do you want to do one together in September? Let me know in the comments.