competition · motivation · training

Why I Like “Challenges”

Moksha Yoga London, one of the two yoga studios I frequent, is having a “30-day Challenge” for the month of November.  The challenge is to try to attend a class a day for the month. I love these kinds of challenges. Even though I have been away for most of the month, I jumped into it last week with my own “12-day Challenge,” committing to a daily hot yoga class for the rest of the month.

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]

11 thoughts on “Why I Like “Challenges”

  1. Great post. Love challenges. I’m doing Jennifer’s 30 day nutrition challenge starting Dec 1,

    I also love that they are behavior focused rather than results-focused, And that actually ties in with my post today about exercising and weight loss. Here’s a quote from a blog that I linked to that talks about focusing on behaviors changed rather than pounds lost:

    “Let’s forget weight for a moment though. No matter what your size, everyone can make changes to our lifestyles in pursuit of better health right now. I promote eating healthy and nutritious food for everyone. You can choose vegetables or fruit instead of cake or chips right now. I promote fitness through moving your body for everyone. You can get up out of your chair and go for a walk right now. I promote getting a proper amount of sleep. You can choose to turn off the TV and go to bed earlier today. I promote reducing stress in your life. You can start being kinder to yourself today.

    You can have instant gratification when you change your focus from weight to actions. You can control your actions immediately. You only need to make the choice. And if you did any of the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph, that is worth celebrating no matter what your size. You should be proud. Give yourself a pat on your back! And do it again tomorrow.”

  2. “Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” I’ve given this topic some thought since you spoke of goals, smaller or mini-goals, and now challenges. What you’ve said so far has really helped me. I think I’m beginning to understand that you need to dream big to motivate yourself in the first place, but you also need to set smaller challenges along the way to keep yourself focused. This is really something you hear all the time but which you just don’t give much consideration, like when you see hockey players being interviewed, who obviously want to make the playoffs or win the Cup, but who say they’re working on a lot of things but they’re staying focused by taking it a game at a time. This is a line they are most likely coached to repeat at interviews, just like: “And God willing, hopefully I can help the team”. Nevertheless, I think I am beginning now to get the actual point of it.

  3. Glad you’re finding it helpful. I don’t know what motivates hockey players, but I wouldn’t get anywhere if I only operated with the BIG DREAM goals!

  4. Yep, the pressure you put on yourself by trying to centre on big goals only is just too much. It makes you so single-mided that you really have no time or at least very little time for anything or anyone else in your life. Not balanced, and certainly not healthy!

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