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Pick a challenge, any challenge

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Committing to a 30-day challenge is a great way of getting you on course to meet a personal goal. It can help you form new habits.

Accepting a challenge changes your level of accountability, so instead of saying, “I’m gonna try to do _______________,” you make a more specific commitment.

For example:

I’m going to do 20 pushups or walk 20 sit-ups a day for 30 days.

Or I’m going to eat out no more than one meal a week for a month.

You can:

  • make it official and sign up for an online or in-person challenge
  • put your word or money on the line
  • tell friends and family
  • get a buddy to join you
  • or you can keep it to yourself

So what is something you want to accomplish?  Would you like to be more organized, dependable, kind, considerate, happy, relaxed, or frugal?

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Maybe you want to drink more water, eat healthier food, exercise, read more, or save money. 

Committing to a short-term challenge is a great place to start.

When I first started working out, I had a hard time being consistent. Life always seemed to get in the way.

Signing up for an event, like a 5k, 10k, half marathon, or obstacle course race, helped me stay more committed. And signing up and training with a friend really helped too.

If there’s something you want, something you struggle doing consistently, a short term challenge can help you improve your habits.


We are what we repeatedly do. ~ Aristotle


What will it be? A mental challenge? Physical? Financial?

Pick one. Then set yourself up to rise to the occasion.

Make it something you’re willing to work for.

(See What do you want an how bad do you want it? to help you decide what you want.)

Need some ideas? Click here for 100 30 day challenge ideas to turn your life around.

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I’ve signed up for a challenge: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

People from all over the world participate in this focused effort to write a novel of at least 50,000 words (a short novel, but still a novel.) in the month of November. That’s an average of 1,667 words a day.

That’s what I’m doing. 

I invite you to pick a challenge and post it in the comments.

It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be something you’re willing to focus on the change.

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What to do when you’re trying to figure out what’s next

You know that feeling when you’ve worked so hard for so long on something? It’s great to finish, to get to the end. Wonderful. Now you’ll have a chance to breathe. It’s a great feeling, but it can also be stressful.Photo courtesy of flickr.com published on strong-woman.com

Because…

Soon you start to wonder, “Now what?”

How will you fill your days? What will you plan for now?

Like when you’ve trained for an event (professional, athletic, personal) and you’re nervous and anxious, but then the day comes and you do it and then it’s over.

Or when you finish school or change jobs, or when your kids start growing up and you’re no longer the center of their world, or (yikes!) when they move out on their own and you have to let them go find their own way. (I know. It sounds wonderful, but when you’ve always been a mother bird, an empty nest can be a shock.)

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When a chapter in your life ends, you may find yourself asking, “Now what?”. While you’re figuring out your next move, stay positive. Stay hopeful.

Here are some suggestions to help you stay hopeful, happy and positive while you figure out your next move.

Listen to music.

There’s something about listening to upbeat, happy music that connects to your brain and helps you stay positive, even hopeful. (Click here to read a study about the link between music and happiness.)

For me it’s the music’s lyrics and beat, but also the artist and my emotional reaction to both.artwork courtesy of maxpixel accessed on google commons published on strong-woman.com

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. The incredibly talented Sharon Jones, who died last year of pancreatic cancer, was forty years old when she started her music career. Her story and her powerful voice remind me it’s never too late. Don’t give up.

Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” makes me want to dance. Music has the power to turn you inside out. Instead of sulking and worrying and wondering about all that’s wrong with the world it helps keep you going and know it’s going to be okay.

“Swim” by Jacks Mannequin is just encouraging. They may be talking to angst filled teenagers, but they’re also talking to me. Don’t quit. Keep going, no matter what.

Get outdoors.

Change your scenery. Something about being outdoors helps clear the mind. Is it the vitamin D, the fresh air, the change in scenery? Maybe it’s all those things. When you’re changing courses, are in between projects, or trying to figure out what’s next, take a few minutes to get outside.

Get moving.

The mind-body connection is real and there’s science to back it up. Exercise, even a brisk walk, gets your blood going which gets oxygen in your blood, raises endorphin (feel good hormone) levels, lowers cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and can improve your sense of well-being. Exercise is always important, but especially when you have a lot on your mind.

Journal.

When you’re not sure what you want to do, which direction to take, or how you feel about the changes in your life, journaling can help you clarify confusion. The simple act of writing it all out can be cleansing. It’s kind of like a mental dump. Journaling helps you see trends in thoughts and can help clear your head which in turn clears your path. The clearer you are, the more confidently you can move forward.photo courtesy of flickr.com accessed on google commons published on strong-woman.com

Guard your mind.

Photo courtesy of PxHere accessed on google commons published on strong-woman.comIt’s easy to get sucked in to the news and social media. Be selective. If you believe everything you hear, the world is a terrible place to be. It’s never been worse. That influence can make a person feel hopeless. Take a break, pull yourself away, and focus on what’s within your control (what you do) instead of what’s out of your control (everything else).

Moving forward

Things change. Life is a constant ebb and flow, up and down. That’s what keeps life interesting, don’t you think? I wish you more ups than downs. But when you’re stuck between things, I wish you the time and opportunity to choose thoughtfully about your next project, to have the courage to move in the direction of your dreams.

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Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do

Have you ever had a problem with a clerk at a store or a customer service representative who seems bent on not helping you?

When you tell her what you need, she responds, “Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t do that.”

“Well what about this other thing?” you ask.

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“No. I can’t do that either. I’m so sorry.”

You need help and she doesn’t seem to want to help you. It makes you want to pull your hair out and scream, “What can you do?”

If she really wanted to help you, she would tell you what she can do instead of what she can’t do. She would do what she can to help you, instead of quoting company policy to tell you why she can’t do anything to help you.

What could you and I accomplish if we shifted our focus to what we can do instead of focusing on what we can’t do?

Here are some things to keep in mind:

Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we can’t do it.

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Sometimes none of our choices are good and we have to make the best bad choice.

Focusing on what we can do opens up possibilities and keeps us from getting stuck.

As Henry Ford once said: Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

I wish I could do cool stuff.

There are a gazillion things I can’t do right now. Deep sea dive, pilot a plane, play the cello, and ride a unicycle, to name a few.

But wait….

Do I know anyone who rides a unicycle? Yes. Would he teach me? I’m sure he would. If my goal were to ride a unicycle, what’s my first step? I don’t know, but I could find out.

It turns out, considering all the potential challenges life presents, learning how to ride a unicycle would be pretty easy to figure out.

Yes, there’s a lot I can’t do, but there are also a gazillion thIngs I can do if I want it bad enough.

What does it take to focus on what you can do? (especially when you feel stuck)

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Courage to make tough choices. When you feel like you don’t have a choice, you can get stuck in that discouraging mindset. But if you look at what you can do, you may see that you do have a choice(s). It’s just that the choices may not be ideal. You may have to make the best bad choice.

Be okay with being uncomfortable. Taking action may cause you to be uncomfortable. Things may get worse before they get better. Hang in there. The only way to move forward is to take a step toward your end goal.

Start small and be patient. You can’t finish a marathon at the starting line. Do what you can, even if it doesn’t seem like much. Small actions over time add up. You’ll be amazed at your progress : )

Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do to keep yourself from getting mentally and emotionally stuck where you don’t want to be.

There’s a lot you can do. Decide where you’ll start.

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Why bother trying so hard when no one notices?

What’s the point in trying so hard when no one seems to notice?

It can be discouraging when it feels like your work and effort don’t seem to matter to anyone. When you make sacrifices and work hard, but no one seems to notice or care.

I tend to look for distractions. Facebook, Yahoo and CNN headlines, dog videos.Graphic courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org published on strong-woman.com

Why? Not for inspiration.

Distraction.

That is all. A quick fix of something other than focusing on what I’ve committed to do. No other reason.

Can’t I just skip it?

Who’ll notice if I don’t do it?

Will anyone care?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. What gets me back on track is to remember what I know.

What I know is:

There’s value in the process.Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

Getting dressed for a workout means I’m physically preparing to work out even when I don’t feel like it. Sitting down at my computer to write means I’m more likely to write. The value is in the practice, learning, experience.

Deadlines motivate. 

A deadline is a commitment. For me, meeting a deadline (even an arbitrary one) is a commitment I make to myself. If I blow off a deadline once, I’m more likely to blow it off next time and the time after that. It’s true with other things too, like exercise. 

It’s the law of physics: a body in motion tends to stay in motion while a body at rest tends to stay at rest.Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

Getting it done is its own reward. 

Getting my work done gives me the satisfaction of completing the task. I can check it off my list. When it’s done, it counts. The reward is a sense of accomplishment rather than regret or dread for not getting it done.

(Sometimes you need to rest and there’s no reason for guilt or remorse at having opted to “be lazy”.)

But if you always want to get out of it, you may need an attitude check. Remind yourself why you started. Stay motivated. Or it might be time for a change in direction. You may need to do something different.Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

External gratification can’t be the goal.

Decide that you don’t need anyone else to tell you what a good job you’re doing or how wonderful you are. Sure, it’s nice to hear positive comments from people, especially when you go out of your way to do something special for someone you love and they don’t acknowledge your effort. Do it because you want to, without expecting anything in return.

Once you’ve figured out what you want, (See “What do you want and how bad do you want it” if you’re having trouble figuring out what you want.) stay motivated to keep working toward your goals even when it feels like no one cares whether you do or not.

I have to remind myself of these things all the time.

 

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Are you getting what you expect?

The mind is powerful. Do your mental expectations determine how far you’ll go? If you “get it in your head” that you’re going to do something, does it mean you will?Downloaded from Pixabay published on strong-woman.com

I had an experience recently that got me thinking about this idea.

I’m training for a half-marathon and had a long run the other day. Seven miles. That’s further than I’ve run in a while.

I planned to go out 3.5 miles, then turn around and run back to where I started.

At the 3.25 mile marker, I thought, “I feel really good. I could go further.”

But when I got to the 3.5 mile marker, where I had expected to turn around, I was ready to turn around. In that last quarter mile, I went from feeling enthusiastic and energetic one minute to feeling ready to be done the next minute.

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How could my disposition and mindset have shifted so quickly? Almost from one minute to the next?

I had set myself up mentally. It was a 7 mile run. I go to the 3.5 mile marker. That’s it. It’s like my brain told my body, “It’s time to turn around. You’ve gone far enough. You need to head back.”

It got me thinking about the power of expectation, about how when you get something in your head, that’s where you’ll go.

How often do we limit ourselves by thinking small when we could go big? By setting the bar too low? 

In what areas of your life could you shoot higher?

In what areas are you doing (and getting) less because you expect less? Are you holding yourself back by limiting your expectations?

If there’s something to the idea that you get what you expect, why not expect bigger and better than you have before?

Set the bar high. Expect good things for yourself. Prep your mind to accomplish more than you think you can. Get it in your head that you’re going to go further. You’re going to do more.

Because you get what you expect.