Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I want to live each day, each week, each month and each year the way I lived this past semester.  Because what I did with this 12 week challenge was absolutely necessary to my wellbeing.  
Allow me to explain.
Coming into this semester, I was a nervous wreck.  As a senior, all I could focus on was the fact that time was running out.  But two weeks into my semester came my senior seminar project and everything changed. 
At the time I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I felt inspired to do something significant and important, I wanted to be intentional about my senior year and this project was the perfect way to do it.  So I came up with the guidelines to this 12 week challenge.  
And with each passing week I became more grounded in the present.  Earlier in the semester I was so focused on the end that I wasn’t allowing myself to enjoy the present. I found that I was happier and less anxious when I took life day by day, week by week, challenge by challenge.  I was reflective and thoughtful and honest. I set goals for myself that I never thought I would do and never thought that I had the time to do.  
Along the way I learned quite a bit.  I learned that there’s always time, always re-prioritizing that can be done in order to do what you want to do. I learned the beauty and power of living a life without limits.  I learned about the person I am and found a little bit more of myself in each week.  So needless to say, the past 12 weeks have been an incredible experience.       
I stumbled across this quote the other day and I fell in love:
"Our personas convince us that there is nothing that we don't know about ourselves --that we are in fact the person we see in the mirror and believe ourselves to be.  But the issue with this is that once we have brought into the story of 'this is who I am,' we shut the door on any other possibility and deny ourselves access to all of who we can be. We lose our ability to choose, because we can't do anything outside the confines of the character we're playing. The predictable persona we've constructed is now in control. We become blind to the immense possibilities for our life."
-Debbie Ford (The Shadow Effect) 
If there’s one thing that I’ve enjoyed learning the most, it’s that there are immense possibilities for our life. 
It just requires a little soul searching, taking opportunities as they come and allowing yourself to be uncomfortable every now and then.
The truth is, it’s easy to be comfortable.  It doesn’t require much energy to go into autopilot and follow routines and do what everyone else is doing.  So for what it’s worth, my advise to you is simple: challenge yourself. 
Be self aware and courageous in your own self-discovery, ask the hard questions and don’t be afraid of the answers you find.  Be adventurous, seek out new experiences and do things that startle you.  Take opportunities as they come and focus on what you can do in the moment.  Strive to be a better person in each passing day, week or year.  Better yourself.  Understand the person you are.  Seek out opportunities to learn and step outside of your comfort zone.  The possibilities that you are capable of are endless.
And just in case you were wondering, my blog doesn’t end here.  Tomorrow I will be jumping out of a plane and free falling for 45 seconds, which will mark the first of many encores.  In theory I should be scared but I’m too excited to be afraid now.  This project has made me brave.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Week 12 challenge: no texting, no facebook, no personal email

I’ll be honest, I went into this week with preconceived notions.

I thought that eliminating all forms of social media and texting would make my week with the people in my life more meaningful.  Face to face communication would be uninterrupted by text messages buzzing in my purse.  Calling people on the phone and actually hearing their voice would be more quality than four hour long text message conversations that could be accomplished in a four-minute conversation of the phone.  I thought that at the end of the week I would write this amazing blog about how virtual communication is bad and how we need to go back to the way things used to be: simple, personal and quality.

But that is not how my week went.

I felt disconnected, literally and figuratively.  I realized half way through my first day that a week without texting was going to be a week with an inactive phone, because it turns out I text way more than I thought.  I also realized that a week without facebook the week before finals made procrastination a lot less fun.  I only talked to a handful of people on the phone and when we did talk the conversations never lasted long.  When I got a text I forced myself to delete it before I was tempted to read it.  So needless to say, my week was very quiet.

The funny thing about this challenge was how unaware I was of the struggles I would face without texting or facebook.  I mindlessly log onto facebook or send out a text with out even thinking about it.  More than once this week I opened my computer and began logging onto facebook only to quickly realize I wasn’t supposed to be on it.  The same thing happened with texting, I would begin typing out a message and I’d have to stop myself.  I even had a bad dream that I forgot about my challenge.

I had absolutely no idea how much I depend on texting and facebook as a means for connection.  And admitting that I rely on impersonal forms of communication to connect with my friends, loved ones and family scares me.  A lot.

It scares me because I love people, I want to connect in genuine and meaningful ways.  I want to keep in touch and reassure the people I love that I do, in fact, love them.  A text message or facebook wall post just doesn’t seem to be enough.

On the other side of this texting and facebook are convenient.  It’s quick, it gets to the point and it can be done on your own time.

So now I’m stuck in this tension.  On one hand I believe that emails, texting and social media like facebook take an important element away from creating and nurturing relationships.  On the other I believe that texting and facebook are so integrated into how we function as a society that they’ve become very useful and efficient forms of communication.

So where do I go from here? 

I think that the challenges where something that I depend on is taken away, like food (well… good food: vegan week), drinking, my car, and makeup are very important personal challenges because they make me aware.  I’m getting to something, but I’m not quiet sure what yet.  So, like so many of these blogs end: I’m working on figuring this out.

And I’m satisfied with that because it will lead me to more opportunities to learn.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Week 11 challenge: break a bad habit (in my case: complaining)

This past week I attempted to go without complaining.  I intentionally did this challenge on the busiest week of my academic school year, so I knew that it was going to be tough.  I also am very aware that I have an issue filtering what I say out loud, it’s like word vomit and it’s a problem.  So I attempted to stop. 

I’m pretty sure I failed.

I mean… I know I failed.  I complained throughout the week.

I talked about how cold I was, how tired I was, how much homework I had.  Every time I slipped up I realized what I had done and vowed to stop.  But then I would say something again without even thinking about it and the cycle continued. 

Other times I was very conscious of what I was doing, like Tuesday for example, I had a terrible attitude in my morning class.  It may have had something to do with the lack of caffeine in my system that morning but probably more to do with my thoughts and anxiety level regarding a last minute 100-point project.  That morning I knew I was complaining but didn’t feel like exerting the energy it would have taken to stop myself.  I felt guilty for breaking my challenge so early in the week and tried being more intentional after that. 

And I was intentional. I became very aware of my habit. 

I also tried to understand the affects my complaining had on others.  Monday night was one of our last nights in my senior seminar class and we all went around giving advice to one another.  One of my classmates said something so insightful I made a scene as I shuffled through my backpack to find a scrap piece of paper to write down what she was saying.  It applied to my week perfectly.

She talked about energy, and how you can contribute either good or bad energy into the world by the words you choose to say.  Her advice was to be thoughtful and careful of the words you choose and to think about how they affect others.  She also said, “be conscious of the bad stuff you put in the world.”

I put bad stuff into the world when I complain.  It’s a waste of energy.  So I’m working on it.  And as I look back on my week, I realize that just because I didn’t correct a bad habit doesn’t actually mean I failed this week.

Because an important lesson I’m beginning to understand is that the process of bettering myself is about the progress, not the perfection.

This week was about the progress.  Becoming aware, attempting to correct myself, keeping myself accountable.  The point was to break a bad habit, and the first step in breaking a habit is becoming aware of that habit. 

And it turns out that even as I write this, a few days after my challenge ended I still catch myself thinking twice before I say something negative.  Which is funny because half way through the week I seriously considered putting a rubber band around my wrist and snapping it every time I complained or thought of complaining, so that I would associate the habit with the pain and eventually it would stop: classical conditioning (thank you very much freshman year psych class).  The reason I mention this is because I wasn’t getting results right away and I wanted to resort to (somewhat) drastic measures to stop my bad habit.

I realize now that I didn’t need that rubber band, because something significant enough took place over the past week that stuck with me.  I created a new habit, of being aware of my bad habit, and that was enough to change my mindset.

So I’m working on it, and that’s enough for me.  Because it’s about progress, life is about progress.