Why do I like challenges? Several reasons. Number one reason is that it’s highly motivating. At least a couple of times this past week (this morning included), I would not have gone to a yoga class if I had not committed to the challenge. It gets me out the door.
It’s especially motivating when I’ve told others I’m doing it. It might be a little ego-driven, but we all like to follow through when we’ve announced a new commitment. More motivating still is doing the challenge with others.
Another reason for challenges like this is that, at least for me, they sit differently with me psychologically than goals. A challenge is easier to manage, achieve, and track. If it’s to do something each day over a period of time, I can just focus on the day at hand and know that I am meeting the challenge. At the yoga studio, they have a big board posted where people can sign up and track their progress with stickers throughout the month. This provides a visual record of progress. I did the same thing with my NaNoWriMo log, tracking word count and time spent writing each day.
I think of goals as more end-state oriented than challenges (e.g. my goal to have 25% body fat by my 49th birthday–as an aside: I realize I shortened this timeline in a recent post but that was a mistake). A challenge is like part of the path towards a goal, not a goal in itself (though I suppose you can set a successful challenge up as a goal).
A challenge is short-term. I can commit to 12 (or even 30) days of hot yoga, but I wouldn’t realistically commit to daily yoga for the whole year, or forever. It focuses me for a period of time and the very fact that it is time-limited helps me to stick with it. I can return to my regular routine with a sense of accomplishment. And then the regular routine feels totally manageable.
The other thing about challenges that I like is the way they intensify and deepen my relationship to something, whether it be yoga, writing, running–I’m sure it applies to almost anything. When I do yoga daily, I develop a better yoga sense than when I do it just a few times a week. When I threw myself into writing 5000 words a day in early November, I became much more immersed in the project than I would have if I’d only written a little bit each day, or not attended to it every day.
There’s no way I can sustain a pace like that forever. When the challenge is over, I can back off the pace a little. But the lessons I learned from deepening my practice for a period of time stick.
I’m sure lots of us find motivation and gain insight by setting up and achieving specific, time-limited challenges. What are some examples of challenges you’ve undertaken?
[image credit goes to The Healthy Diva]