What you call your “life” is a series of accumulated habits and rituals. We are hopeless, ritualistic creatures of habits. And for some of us, hopeless romantics as well but I digress. That’s a conversation for another day.
So many of us don’t notice many of our habits as we don’t even realize when we do them. We’re stuck in this subconscious autopilot mode in operating among our day-to-day lives. It could be brushing your teeth in the morning or checking the notifications on your phone the minute you open your eyes or putting your pants on with your right foot first. We all have these things, these rituals subconsciously day in and day out. Either way, it’s the sum of all these things we do or don’t do, which make up what we call our “life” as we know it today.
“The life you have today is the accumulation of choices you made in the past. Your life tomorrow will be determined by what you chose to do starting today and on.” – Ranti Akande
Yes, yes, we all know this on some level changes, which can create significant and positive impacts in our lives. However, the fear of change honestly seems so overwhelming, daunting, stressful or so large that we don’t even bother to start. Instead, we continue to follow our routines in hopes that our “fairy godmother” turns our pumpkins and rags into a Bentley and Gucci.
What changes have I made? For the past two years, I’ve developed the habit of working out six days a week and part of that workout includes a 30-minute session of cardio four to five times a week.
I am an elliptical girl through and through especially since my right knee has had its “moments.” I don’t mess with the treadmill as it’s too harsh on my knees. I don’t feel like I get an effective enough cardio session on a stationary bike and no I don’t have it in me to be my Soul Cycle instructor. However, when I look at the cardio machines they make me feel “some way,” and yes, there is the coveted StairMaster. I despise that machine. No, it isn’t harsh on my knees, but in the past, I always found myself winded trying to keep up and not fall flat on my face on the revolving steps. However, that machine, I feel, is the secret sauce! All my serious competitive bodybuilding friends swear by it, and it is their go to the cardio source. Now, I don’t plan to rock the stage anytime soon. However, I would like to get better cardio burn for my 30 minutes.
With that said, a few weeks ago I said “Ranti!” You are going to go on the Stairmaster for 30 minutes each day this week, and you will post about it to keep yourself honest as people will naturally ask and you about your progress and you hate having to explain yourself especially why you didn’t do something you said you would” (side note – I’ve learned how to use my vices in my favor, i.e., fear of public humiliation…you should try it).
I did the Stairmaster for 30 minutes on Monday, almost died but I didn’t. Then Tuesday came along, and I was ready with an awesome playlist to keep me motivated and dripping with sweat. I often wondered, “why are people always sweating buckets on this machine?” Well, I was one of them and was too concerned with not falling to care about my buckets of sweat. Then after my Wednesday session I had an epiphany, “what if I challenge myself for increments of five days at a time this summer on a variety of things I despise doing but knew deep down in my heart would significantly improve the quality of my life and overall experience? Imagine what my life would look like at the end of the summer?” At that moment I knew I was onto something a paradigm shift. Five days, most likely M-F, is enough time for me to build a routine around something and not too long where I’m mentally defeated by the thought of having to do this “thing” for an extended period of three months. Also, I decided to change the thing I challenged myself with each week, add variety, so I don’t get bored with the same goal and fall off. I knew I had something and knew it was going to be a fantastic summer if I stuck to the challenge. And thus, the 5 Day Summer Challenge was born.
On the surface, it seems like I’m doing a series of unrelated things each week. However, below the surface, what’s happening is the strengthening of what I would call the “focus and discipline” muscle. When you exercise this muscle consistently, it becomes stronger and can lift heavier “weights” or goals over time. An intense focus and discipline muscle is required for anything worth having in life, especially the “good life.” Like most of us, I want the good life, but it’s not going to show up at my front door even with an Amazon Prime membership.
Before starting this challenge, it is critical to assess yourself. Come up with a list of things you despise or have difficulty performing but you know, if you did them, would create significant and positive impacts on your life immediately and over time. They can be large or small goals. Don’t worry, just write them down. You won’t start with the heavy lifting your first week, but the large goals can also be broken down into micro goals, five-day increments at a time. These goals don’t have to be health and fitness related either. They can cover all areas of your life. Mix it up for a total life makeover!
Possible challenge ideas include but are not limited to:
- Going to bed or waking up by a particular time
- Drinking a gallon of water a day
- Dedicating an hour a day or completing a chapter/ module of a personal/professional development course
- Fitness related (working out for a given moment, performing a particular activity for five days, etc.)
- Health/nutrition related (tracking your daily consumption, sticking to a particular diet, including certain health supplements, eating more often, limiting your eating, plant-based, no processed food, etc.)
- Financial related (not exceeding a certain spending limit, financial fast, cash only, no spending, etc.)
- Spiritual related (praying, meditating, reading, etc.)
- Philanthropic or charity related (give away at least a dollar a day etc.)
- Relationship related (speaking kind words to loved ones, doing something for loved ones, reaching out to old friends, writing notes of appreciation to coworkers)
- Personal Empowerment (dressing up every day, reciting affirmations, etc.)
These are just a few areas to consider, but the options are limitless.
I’ve completed about five challenges and noticed something fascinating. None of these challenges completely stopped the problems I had the week before. Some problems have become a way of life while some I practice on a more consistent basis compared to not at all before the challenge. I feel that focusing my willpower on any particular thing for five days straight was enough time to jump-start these positive lifestyle changes. Perfection was never the goal of life has a way of throwing monkey wrenches into the mix. The point is to be flexible, give yourself grace when needed and most importantly be kind to yourself. I’ve learned to practice flexibility, grace, and self-kindness more often especially while conducting these challenges. It’s amazing looking back at all the subtle changes I’ve been able to blend into my lifestyle in only five weeks along with the tangible things I can point to that I’ve done thanks to the 5 Day Summer Challenges. It’s an amazing feeling, a sense of accomplishment and a reinforcement that we are more than capable of having the “Good Life” one five-day challenge at a time.