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How Can Self Imposed Challenges Help You?

Originally Posted March 28, 2011

As you may know, if you’ve been reading our website or watching our videos, we’ve been doing a new challenge every 30 days.  It’s been a great experience and given us a lot of insight.  The last 2 months challenges for me were 30 days with no stimulants and 30 days of getting up at the same time every morning.  The stimulants I gave up included all forms of caffeine including that found in chocolate.  Today I want to share with you some of what I’ve learned from these challenges and how they’ve benefited my life; and can benefit yours too.  I will also share my new 30 day challenges; I’m doing more than one this month.

So what did I learn from getting up at the same time every morning and getting out of bed immediately?  To answer this question let’s look at where I was at before.  Everyday I would wake up, whenever I felt like I had slept long enough, or felt too guilty to stay in bed any longer.  I usually tried to get at least 8 hours of sleep.  It should be known, I would stay up late doing things I thought were important, and I didn’t have any limit on how late I would go to bed; or how early in the morning.  When the time came to get up in the morning I would lie in bed for awhile thinking about what I needed to do first.  The longer I laid there the more confused I became about what my priorities were.  This is part of the reason I knew I needed to change something.

I set my alarm for the same time every morning, which happened to be considerably earlier than my average wake up “times.”  I made the commitment to jump out of bed immediately upon hearing the alarm and get on with my day.  I completed the challenge, even with a time change in the middle of it.  This was the daylight savings time change, so it pushed my commitment to an hour earlier than my original commitment.  Yeah, I know, everyone does this, so no big deal right?

Getting up without hesitation was one of the greatest benefits for me.  It wasn’t easy at first, but mentally it put me light years ahead of where I was.  Magically, I’m not dwelling on what to do in the morning anymore.  I’m up, my blood starts to flow and before long, I’m doing the things I need to; and doing considerably more with an improved outlook and confidence.

The confidence is one of the greatest benefits of challenges in general.  Once you’ve kept you word to yourself and made it through a couple of challenges you’re entire character transforms.  In addition you realize how much you can change, even by taking  things on one at a time.  I personally find myself taking a lot more stuff on “in the moment” as opposed to procrastinating.

Getting up at the same time has also put more order in my life.  It’s not surprising, it’s easier to know how much I can accomplish, as I see how the day unfolds from a more consistent perspective.  Seeing these positive changes is exciting and gets me thinking about what else I’ve wanted to change and haven’t.

A new perspective has taken over since getting up consistently at the same time.  My overall attitude is plain better.  Yes, I still stay up too late sometimes and feel a little under rested, but that’s adjusting as well.  I’m not hung up on the 8 hours of sleep idea anymore; I still think 8 or more hours of sleep is a good idea, but it feels good to know I’m not a slave to it.

Getting up at the same time has lead me right into one of my next 30 day challenges, which is to get up an hour earlier than I have been.  I’ve already started it, and after 3 days it’s doesn’t even seem like a challenge anymore; It feels more like a gift to myself.  I like the idea of trading those extra hours I stayed up at night for morning hours.  From the experience up to this point it seems the morning hours, although different, are better spent.  I find myself meditating and stretching first thing most mornings, which seems to be contributing to more clarity and better decisions throughout the day.

I’m going to fill you in on the other new challenges in a minute, but first I want to give a little more insight into challenges.  I have gained insight from 2 different people on ways of doing and perceiving these kinds of challenges.  The first way is to view a habit as taking 21 days to make or break.  With this method you can start or stop any habit at the beginning of each month.  After 3 weeks you’ve set the new habit in motion and you have a week to think about your next one.  Doing this method, you can expect to have 12 solid new habits in 1 year.

The second method of doing these kinds of challenges is the one I prefer.  You commit to doing or not doing something for 30 days and follow through with it.  At the end of 30 days you can keep it or trash it depending on whether you find it beneficial or not.  I personally think the psychology of this way is very effective for some people, because it’s not forever.  Having a way out can make it a lot more fun.  You can always keep it going if you want, but you have the freedom to decide; This is empowerment.

Here’s an example of what I did after my first 30 day challenge and where I’m taking that now.  I started out with giving up stimulants for 30 days, as mentioned in the beginning of this article.  After the challenge was over I didn’t have any caffeine immediately but did after a few days or so.  The first was green tea in the form of yerba mate.  I did it in a binge and stopped.  The next was coffee which I had twice for 2 or 3 day periods at a time.

I’ve noticed the coffee has more negative effects on me than other stimulants.  I’m not sure what it feels like to be exposed to nuclear fallout, but I’m pretty sure it feels the same as I feel after drinking 3 cups of coffee for 3 days in a row. Ha ha!  My nerves were fried and tense and I could almost feel my hair turning gray.  I know it’s not the same for everyone so don’t let me disturb you and your coffee habit.  I can definitely relate to it’s appeal.  That’s why I’m making a new challenge with it as well.

I won’t be drinking any coffee for one whole year; The year began on March 26, 2011.  The great thing is, my first 2 “30 day challenges” gave me the confidence to do this and I’m even exited about it.  I said I was doing challenges this month.  The first was getting up an hour earlier every day, the second is the coffee for one whole year, and the third is to make a new recipe every day for the next 30 days.  I’m going to turn the recipe challenge into a new book.  How’s that for motivating?

What’s your challenge going to be?  I bet you have something you’ve been wanting to do that you haven’t begun yet.  Here’s your permission to go and do it.

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