30 Day Challenge
Are you feeling lost? If you are looking for a way to find your direction, this might be the article for you. Ultimately, this might be the challenge for you. It certainly was for me.
Author’s note: I originally wrote this as a blog post several months ago, but until now it has remained unpublished both on and off Medium. Regardless, I wanted to share this journey anyway because it change my life.
It All Started with a Podcast
Cathy Heller’s podcast “Don’t Keep Your Day Job” has had a huge impact on my life. At the beginning of every episode she says that her podcast is for people who “don’t just want to go to work, [they] want to do [their] life’s work” — and that’s me. I feel a deep sense of connection every time I hear her say those words.
Though I recognize how discontented I have been lately with my career choices, I am experiencing another issue that Cathy talks about a lot as I begin to explore other options — I have a lot of talents and passions. I enjoy art, and singing, and creating, and writing. How do I begin to choose one, or know where to start?
There are many answers to this question, but one that has resonated with me is action. I just had to start. Getting out of my head and taking action on one of the options — perhaps the one that excites me the most — is the thing to do.
I was recently listening to Cathy’s episode where she interviews Alex Banayan, author of “The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers.” In brief, the book is about Banayan’s decision to drop out of college to instead travel the world learning about success from those considered the most successful in their careers. While Cathy’s interview with Banayan offered listeners vast amounts of wisdom on a variety of topics, something really stuck with me. Cathy asked Banayan at the very end of the interview if there was one thing that he could recommend for listeners to do to find direction, what would it be?
This is where things get interesting.
Banayan responded that he would recommend that listeners go out, purchase a notebook and write “30-day challenge” on the front of the notebook. It needs to be a fresh notebook so that there are no positive or negative associations with the notebook — it’s completely fresh and new. Then, every day for 30 days, without skipping a day, answer 3 questions: 1) what excited me today? 2) what depleted me of energy today? 3) What did I learn about myself? You are to answer these questions at the same time each day, as well.
I had never heard someone provide such concrete advice on this topic before.
I had heard vague refrains about making lists, meditating, getting quiet, becoming introspective, but nothing so detailed and specific. Banayan promised that at the end of the 30 days, if you followed his instructions, listeners would know something new about themselves. I couldn’t resist his call to action.
At the time of writing this post, I am now exactly half way through the challenge — day 15. I took a moment to look back through my entries so far, and I am really surprised by what I read. And it’s only been 15 days!
I Started the Challenge
First, it must be said that I love buying new school supplies. If you don’t love the feeling of opening a fresh notebook, we’re not from the same planet. There is nothing like the smell of a bouquet of freshly-sharpened pencils. …I can’t take credit for that, it’s straight out of You’ve Got Mail…
Day 1 went by without a hitch. I decided to write in my journal right before going to bed each night, and kept the notebook by my bed. I wrote:
What excited me today?
-Don’t Keep Your Day Job zoom call
-Finishing a blog post
What drained me of energy today?
-Preparing to work out (mentally)
What did I learn about myself today?
-I’m so much happier on the weekends
Not particularly insightful, but not terrible, either. Writing is challenging when you’re out of practice, and working out is difficult when you’re lazy — pretty standard. Everyone is happier on the weekends — that’s sort of a given.
On day 2, however, I made a significant observation: I had been unaware of my thoughts, even though I allowed them to take control of me, my feelings, and my actions. I felt for the first time like I was observing myself being rail-roaded by my thoughts, worries, and concerns, without even really retaining them, or being aware of them. I was simply passively experiencing them as emotions — and they were typically coming out as anger and dissatisfaction.
As the days continued on, I found myself thinking about how I planned to answer these three questions throughout the day — just by doing this challenge I have become so much more aware of things that are going on in my mind. I’m already starting to become more aware of my thoughts, which feels like the first step in being able to regain a sense of control — but that’s a real challenge.
On day 3, I realized that throughout the day I was often saying and thinking to myself “I’ve had enough.” I did some research and discovered that “I’ve had enough” is actually the feeling between “I’m not enough” and “I am enough.”
For me, I have lived in a state of “I’m not enough” for year and years. I’m not enough so I need more school and more degrees. I’m not enough so I deserve to be treated poorly by the people around me. I’m not enough so I will never be able to succeed on my own and should stay in a career that is safe even though I’m unhappy.
Now whenever I think “I’ve had enough,” I try to replace that thought with “I am enough,” and take action from there. I ask myself, what will it take to get from “I’ve had enough” to “I am enough” in this moment? Sometimes I have the answer, and sometimes I don’t, but it’s a good place to start.
Banayan warned that around day 5, things may start to feel repetitive. Though I did not have that experience while I was writing, it’s clear looking back over my notes that there are more patterns after the 5th or 6th entry. If I were to make some generalizations, though, many of the things that deplete me of energy have to do with my job, and many of the things that energize me have to do with my side hustles, and my jewelry and art business, in particular.
I have learned so much about myself, and have continued to learn something new every day. It’s difficult, but I really feel that putting in the work will be beneficial to me in the long run. I look forward to sharing with you all that I’ve learned from completing this challenge in the next few weeks.
What do you think? Would you ever do this challenge? Have you ever done a challenge like this before? Let me know in the comments.
Author’s note: This story is Part 1 of 2. If you have enjoyed this, I plan to post Part 2 next week. I think I’m going to do a little #wellnesswednesday theme for the next 2 weeks.
Thank you for reading, and I hope this helps you as much as it helped me. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me below. Particularly if you’re considering doing this challenge yourself, I welcome any questions you have.