Lessons Learned While Preparing For The Next Challenge

The days are clicking by, summer is coming to a close and there are only two days left until the next 8 Weeks to a Better You! challenge begins.

As you might guess, I’ve been mulling it all over in my mind as to how I’m going to approach this challenge.  How can I learn from the last challenge and prepare myself for this challenge with my new perspective?

Now, as corny as this may sound, as I’ve been preparing for the new challenge, I keep thinking of the book,  “Eat, Pray, Love:One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I first read this book a few years ago, and while it may not be the deepest of books, Elizabeth’s reactions to the experiences she had throughout her journeys made me laugh out loud because I could envision myself having the same reaction in the situations she encountered.

The specific portion of the memoir that I keep thinking about is Elizabeth’s trip to India.  As I near the Day 1 of the challenge, and keep hearing the voice in the back of my mind telling me I can’t do it, I keep recalling the part of the book that Elizabeth first attempted meditation.  She had to remain still and silent for an extended period of time.  She had a hard time focusing, struggled to stay still, her mind wandered.  She wrote about her thoughts, her frustrations, the thought that went through her mind, the thoughts questioning the thoughts that went through her mind… The way she wrote it was both humorous and painful in that “experiencing something new” kind of way.  I keep telling myself that if she could travel to India by herself, sit in complete silence for hours on end and overcome her challenges then surely I can do the same at home.  (Although I do question whether it might be easier to practice without distractions.)

As I prepare myself for the next challenge I’m anticipating there will be struggles.  Even though I’ve done two 4-week challenges before, this feels like an entirely different challenge.  It seems bigger, I’m doubting myself less and feel more excitement about what I will learn.  I feel like I’m embarking on a new adventure.  The tools ( rules regarding journaling, reading, exercise, eating, sleeping, etc.) are not new, but by changing my perspective on the challenge I feel like I’ve just been given the first paragraph of the instruction manual on how to properly use them!  (The rest of the book is filled with blank pages, mind you, but right now that doesn’t bother me because I feel like I at least know how to get started.)

The mental preparation for this hasn’t been easy though.  In addition to excitement, I have also found myself getting anxious, questioning whether I’m doing the right thing by doing another challenge and broadcasting it to my blog readers (I didn’t do well on the last challenge and this one is twice as long).  I’ve been trying to figure out ways to make it better, more successful.

As part of this process I started thinking about a post that Bhavna Hinduja wrote about simplifying cooking on her blog a couple of weeks ago, step 2 was a wake-up call for me.

Set the mood before you begin: When you get home from a long day at work, take 5 to 10 minutes to settle down before throwing on that apron and grabbing the knife as if you were on a kill. Pour yourself a refreshing beverage – wine, iced tea, or just water – and keep hydrated. Get changed and play some music. I’d stay away from turning the television on to reduce distractions. Remember this is supposed to be therapeutic and enjoyable so try to be in the element as much as you can.

I can’t tell you how often I buzz from one activity to another throughout the day thinking, “Okay, that’s done.  What’s next?”  Then I start that activity without even taking a breath.  That’s the key.  Stopping.  Taking a breath between jobs, tasks and activities.  Pausing and thinking about what it is that you’re about to do.  Essentially, taking step 1 to doing that activity mindfully.  That’s when I realized… It’s not so much about what you do as how you do it.   In other words, stop focusing on “making dinner” and instead focus on how I’m making dinner.  Am I thinking about the food, where it came from and what it does for my body?  Am I thinking about what I’m doing as I prepare the food or am I just chopping and letting my mind wander?  Am I just chugging water to get my 8 glasses in a day or am I thinking about hydrating my body, thinking about the water, its source, being thankful that we have it so readily available and being mindful not to waste it?

So my personal goal for this challenge is to practice checking back.  When I find myself getting lost in the competition, lost in the points, what I’ve done or not done, I will try to remind myself of the reason I’m doing that particular part of the challenge.  Sleeping 7 hours (making sure I get enough rest).  Not eating sugar, white flour and junk food (making sure I’m giving my body the nutrients it needs each day).  Practice living mindfully.

Until next time,

Kate

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