On August 2, I announced that I was going to participate in the 30 Day Challenge. For thirty days, I would spend 5 minutes doing nothing, spend 30 minutes being creative, and then identify one thing about the day that had been awesome. I would love to report that I found inner stillness, unleashed boundless creativity, and achieved new levels of appreciation for my life.
Unfortunately, that would be a lie. I started off strong – for the first few days of the month I stuck to my goal and felt great. But then I went on vacation, and that change in routine was enough to send a wrecking ball through my budding new habits. I really believed that these new practices would be easy to bring along for the trip, and I think that they would have been had they already been ingrained, but with only four days of practice they were not strong enough to withstand the change.
I would also love to be able to say that when I got home from vacation I rallied my strength, picked up where I left off, and put those plans right back into practice! But, again, that would be a lie. When I got home, I allowed myself to be seduced by the lizard whispers of failure and shame, those well-meaning inner voices that try to kep us safe by keeping us small. “You’re a life coach,” they whispered, “you should know how to stick to a goal. You should have done better, tried harder, and what will people think?” And then they grew sneaky, and added in the refrain “You know better than to listen to these kinds of thoughts. You should be strong enough, determined enough, wise enough to break through this resistance or to work around it or to find some way. That’s your job!” To my embarrassment, I was unable to rise to the challenge.
A week after my return home I decided to try to at least do the 5 minutes of nothing and to identify one awesome thing about each day. But with the lizards whispering in my ear, I forgot to set aside five minutes, and could never find paper to write on in order to record whatever was awesome that day. Of course I can see now that those are the flimsiest of excuses, but at the time, they seemed insurmountable.
It would be easy for me to look at this month and conclude that I failed. That I am weak. But I choose to look at it differently, as a learning experience. Here are a few of the lessons I have decided to take from this.
1. Choose my time wisely.
Trying to set a new habit when I knew that my routine was going to be disrupted almost immediately was a bad idea. Creating a habit is hard work, and making it harder on myself was a mistake. As appealing as it was to jump into the 30 Day Challenge, I should have respected my own time table.
2. Don’t bite off more than I can chew.
Every item on my list – setting a daily practice of doing nothing, spending more time being creative, and reflecting positively on my day – was something I have been struggling to remember to add into my life for a long time. As tempting as it was to try to do all of that at once, I would have been better off picking one thing and sticking to it. I could always add something else in later, thus building on one success.
3. Try again.
I’m not going to let this deter me. Having reflected on what went wrong, I have formulated a new plan, one which I believe has a better chance of success. I think that the doing nothing is the most important part of the original list, so I am going to start there. If, after a week, I feel very solid in that practice, I will add in identifying one thing about each day that was awesome. If I do not feel that the habit is fully set after a week, then I will wait longer. I will get there eventually – there is no need to rush.
When we don’t succeed at something we planned, it can be so tempting to blame ourselves and give up. But we’ve only ever truly failed if we stop trying. As long as we keep picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and giving it another try, then we are still on the path to success. And if you find that you need some recovery time between attempts? That’s ok, too. The most important thing is to accept what happened without judgement (and if you do start to judge it, don’t judge yourself for judging – accept that, too), and decide what to do next. This isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is the best option for long-term happiness. If you need any help figuring out how to let for of the negative self judgements in order to move forward, don’t hesitate to ask me for help!