Another Year of 30 Day Challenges in the Books

Happy 2017 everyone!

I’m excited about new year and have big plans, but before I launch into my January challenge, I thought I’d take a look back at the 30 day challenges of 2016. It’s always good to take stock of the the previous year so that we can understand where we faltered, where we thrived and what we learned.

A year in review

– In January, I gave up gluten, dairy, sugar and grains for a month and was diligent about my diet. I lost 4 pounds of baby weight and gained a lot of energy. I wasn’t so strict the rest of the year.

– In February, in an effort to improve my negotiation skills, every day I had to ask – for the discount, lower price, better rate, freebie etc. I embarrassed myself a few times (“can I get a discount, um, just for fun?”) and received dozens of rejections, but I had some great wins too. Since then, I’ve become an asker.

– In March, I set off to complete a draft of my kids’ novel, Lila’s Wand, that I’d been tinkering with for well over a year. The month began with much promise and enthusiasm; I wrote every day with no shortage of ideas, words and clever sentences. Then, I fell apart. I lost my motivation and with it went my creativity. I never finished the draft of the book that month (I netted out at a respectable 20,000 words) and I haven’t sat down to work on it since.

– I spent the month of April binge reading about a topic that has long interested me – the stock market. It wasn’t the most engaging subject to blog about, but I love reading and I loved my month of learning. Here are my 10 most important takeaways.

– I dedicated May and June to learning conversational Italian in anticipation of my two week Tuscan vacation. I made flashcards and cheat sheets, practiced on the Duolingo app, took lessons online, and found someone to converse with. Then I got on a plane. Unfortunately, my command of the language fell short of expectations and I couldn’t hold a conversation for more than a minute. That said, when I attempted to communicate (which was often), I was mostly understood. Words of Italian spoken since my return: zero.

– In July, I decided to train my 9 year old Maltese, who had acquired a terrible barking habit. As I began working with him, I realized that his barking problem stemmed from something more serious, and it wasn’t something that a 30 day challenge could fix. In doing so, I learned a powerful lesson in acceptance. My dog suffers from severe anxiety, but instead of accepting it, I kept looking at him and his nonstop barking as an annoying problem that needed to be fixed. You can read my thoughts on finding acceptance here.

– I took on a running challenge in August and it was a disaster. For the first time in my 2+ years of 30 day challenges, I quit. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have picked an activity I despised, but I thought I’d be able to power through. I’d done harder things before. No such luck – I finished the month angry and disappointed.

– I spent September and October following the 10 week Wim Hof Method, a mindfulness program that incorporates deep breathing, stretching, meditation, and gradual exposure to the cold (via cold showers and eventually, ice baths – yikes) to enhance over all health, energy and well being. I didn’t advance through all 10 weeks. I repeated several weeks, and never made it past week 5, but for 10 weeks I stayed consistent and diligent, even when I was tired, lazy and resentful of the program. I continue to take cold showers and do a few rounds of breathing and stretching before bed. And I am grateful to have these tools to help me wind down, cope with low energy, and work through a stressful day.

– I took the month of November off. I began the month hell bent on learning Beyonce’s Single Ladies dance.  I started practicing with YouTube video tutorials and taking hip hop classes at a local studio, and it was fun, but it was also a lot of work and I found myself completely oversubscribed, overwhelmed and overtired. So, I gave myself permission to rest and regroup.

– I kept things simple for December.  I took on a love challenge where I began each morning asking myself what I could do to be a good wife, friend and partner – just for that day. Before bed, I wrote down something positive or inspiring that my husband did or said. The challenge made me more aware of the small interactions my husband and I have every day – like my natural tendency to nag, criticize and blame. I feel like I’m behaving with more patience and kindness, and less negativity. 

Learning from the past to plan for the future

In the end, I didn’t finish my challenges to levels I’d intended. I didn’t tackle them with the same energy and enthusiasm I once had. Many of the challenges fell flat because I lacked the habits and willpower to carry me through the hard days.

Having a baby will do that to you.

The year began with me caring for a newborn, drained by the sleepless nights and harried days of life with 3 little kids, so I cut myself some slack and did what I needed to do to get by.

As a result, it didn’t take much to derail me and I began to make a series of poor choices. I’d choose to get off the treadmill early. Choose to skip a week of writing or a round of deep breathing. Do I want a cupcake? Of course I do! The sum of these small but slightly worse choices added up to a less motivated, focused and energized me.

That said, I still took on challenges. I still tried, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. In the end, I actually did quite a bit. I:

  • took on 9 challenges and completed 8
  • wrote 35 blog posts
  • helped my 6 year old successfully complete a 30 day no sugar challenge, and my husband design a “no news” challenge
  • stopped running errands and started batching them (i.e. I only run errands on Fridays)
  • went on a smart phone detox
  • wrote my second kids book – just for fun.

And… I got a book deal. Hooray!

That’s right – this year, yours truly will become a published author. Which means I’ve got a lot of writing to do. More 30 day challenges to take on and blog posts to write.

I’m dubbing 2017 a year of discipline because in order to accomplish these things (and do them well) I’ll need a lot of it. I look forward to exploring this theme as it applies to diet, fitness, sleep, stuff, money and time, and I’ll be sharing the first 30 day challenge of the new year (no shopping!) later on this week.

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