The 2014 Superhero Challenge

Resolutions? Ick.January is a time for resolutions. I've always hated resolutions, but not because they aren't a challenge or they don't make your life better or they aren't fun. Resolutions just seem to  have such negative connotations for most people. Making a commitment at the beginning of the year to make your life better in one small way could be such a good idea but most people never follow through.  Most resolution talk 1 month into a new year inevitably ends up with "I've already broken mine" or "I'm doomed to fail. Why start?"I've always set resolutions but I've never made a solid commitment to them all year long, until now, I've never made resolutions that were actually doable and I actually really wanted. They are fun for a bit and then it's back to normal, comfortable life.I read a great blog post on resolution tips for entrepreneurs recently and this fits in well with one of the tips: Get uncomfortable.My resolutions this year are going to be uncomfortable. Let's get into it.

What is the Superhero Challenge?

I'm a firm believer in hormesis which is the idea that when you push your body it will adapt to what small stresses you put on it. Lots of stress every day is definitely bad and leads to me freaking out and doing absolutely nothing for a few days while I recover. Little stresses here and there, lead to better adaptation and systems to handle them.All of the things in the challenge I've been working on in one way or another, and this is just a concerted push to the next level for each of them. They aren't brand new to me. Why not do them all at the same time?Time is the huge limiter, but when you want to do something and you don't have enough time, you hack it down to make it fit, right? I like living the multipotentialite or autodidact life and doing a lot of different things so I've come to the conclusion that I'm just going to have to learn how to work faster, not do less.Every part of this challenge is about getting healthier and working more on things I love. Instead of dragging on a slow shift in my life to doing more of what I love, I'd rather just upend the entire system of my life and reset things. What better time to do that than at the beginning of a new year. 

How this Challenge is going to work

All my past resolutions have failed because I forgot about them. They were were never integrated into my life in any way. There were no reminders. There was no incentives to keep going. There were no stakes if I failed. There was no measurement. All the things you are supposed to do to keep proper goals over a long term, I did none of them. No none of them lasted longer than a few weeks.Journaling has changed all that. I've never journaled before in my life but writing almost every day in 2013 changed that completely. I didn't get to journal every single day but I made it to 270 entries. I have a notebook in Evernote that all the entries go into, one for each day, and I can add to it over the day from any device I'm on. This completely changed journaling for me. I regularly write over 2000 words.For this challenge, I keep a list of what I'm measuring on my goals at the top of each journal entry. I add to them over the day when I complete something. Keeping this list in front of my face all day every day is the only way it's all going to get done. Best part of all is that I write down all my ideas for making it work better the next day right there in my journal. I'm bringing out my implementation intentions in force.All the goals have measurements. Each day will have measurements.  Each day I have a number I want to hit for something, or zero for something I'm stopping. I'm trying hard to not make any judgements when I miss a day on something, just write the number for the day and move on. I used to beat myself up for not getting something perfect the first time. Now I realize that's a ridiculous expectation, especially for something this hard. Measuring progress is very important for motivation. If I don't see any numbers, I'd probably stop within a few days. Counting down the days until I'm finished is a huge pull for me.Here's what's in the challenge. 

The List: What's in this crazy challenge?

Daily JournalingThis is the foundation of the challenge. Not only is it strengthening my journaling habit, it's also how I keep track and remember everything I'm doing each day. The challenge activities aren't hugely time consuming but there are a lot of them.  Without looking at my journal every day, I don't think any of this would happen. This is one of the year long goals. I'm aiming for over 300 journal entries this year.Daily WritingJournaling and writing are a big part of this challenge. Some of it will be in my journal, some will be for sections of one of the websites. I'll be working on at least one article every day. I had the grand vision of publishing an article a day but with my limited amount of time, that's not going to happen. Every few days, I'll be able to put out an article or section of a new Epic Guide I'm working on. This exercise is to help keep organized, get my thoughts out of my head and down on paper, and create digital products and blog post for PureOutside. This will most likely continue at some level all year.Daily MeditationMeditation has slowly grown into something I'm seeing everywhere but haven't had the patience to really put into practice myself. By some accounts, it's the wonder drug, and solves many different problems (usually ones that are mostly in your head). Like all things, the benefits come after regular practice so that's what this will start. This is another goal that will continue all year.Daily ExerciseI'm pretty good at exercising regularly but it can get tough with so much going on sometimes. I stretch and do a basic workout in the mornings and then head to CrossFit after work 2 times a week. I'm at least walking the dog after work most days but sometimes it's a run. A few years back I got sick of doing a ton of exercising over the summer, only to lose it all in the winter plus 10 pounds. I told myself I'd never do that again, and that winter was for continuing my exercise and working out, not reversing it. My goal is to be ahead of where I was last year before summer starts so that I can progress even further.Strict PaleoStrict paleo for 2 months. No gluten, no dairy. Some sweet potatoes to keep up the carbs for working out. My goal is to stay off the rice as well but we'll see how my workouts go. If I'm tanking every workout then I'll have to work something back in. I did a strict paleo challege for 6 weeks last year and it was fantastic... after the first week. Once we got our process and recipes sorted it worked well.No coffeeThis is going to be the hardest thing on the list. I sit in front of a computer all day around a bunch of coffee drinkers. It's excruciating sometimes keeping myself away from it. The caffeine draw goes away but the rest of the habits that go along with coffee drinking are pretty fierce. That combined with every story I read comes from some freelancer or entrepreneur in a coffee shop somewhere with their Macbook Pro, moleskin note book and, you guessed it, a coffee. Apparently the writing world runs on coffee.8 hours sleepGetting up at 5am is great if you can get to bed early enough. Last year I started getting up at 5am but was still up late. That definitely doesn't work. To shift your wake up time you have to shift your bed time. The coffee was making it more difficult so now that that's out, it's much easier to get to sleep at a decent hour. This one takes constant vigilance. If I stop thinking about it, I'm instantly back in my old routine.No procrastinationProcrastination is evil and it can creep into everything stalling projects, killing momentum and preventing anything from moving forward. If you can nip procrastination in the bud and push through before it even can come up, then you're well on your way to getting a ton of stuff done. I'm trying out the Getting Things Done method of doing something right away if it's going to take less than two minutes.Planning the next dayPart of each days journal is a section about the plan for the next day. This helps find problems before they happen and smooth the way for each of the things I'm trying to do in the challenge. When you pre-organize everything, you run into far fewer problems. The times when you're in a rush and things just aren't working are when you are going to say screw it and toss those resolutions in the trash. If you can organize everything before-hand your day will go more smoothly.Book ReadingI read like crazy already, blog posts, books, magazines, anything I can get my hands on. Good ideas have to have a good base and books are the best. I used to think blog posts would take over the world but after trying to seriously learn complex new skills and ideas by blog post I tossed that idea. Blog posts are fragmented ideas. They are great when they are organized into something bigger showing the whole picture but so few people do that. Books are whole ideas. They show the whole picture. They give you the background, all the steps, all the information. The problem with books is they take so long to read. My goal for the challenge is to actually finish a bunch of the books I've started.Slowing down and relaxingRushing all the time doesn't mean you'll be more productive. It really just means you'll be more stressed. I'm learning that now. Moving slowly and intentionally is far better than flailing. You probably get more done in the long run too because you're not redoing all the things you flailed through. Even typing and walking slower than usual reminds me of this idea. I write out stories of times during the day where I catch myself rushing and slowing down in my journal.January CrossFit Challenge2014 pullups, pushups and dips. That's the challenge for January at the CrossFit Nanaimo gym. Our combined total for the month of pullups, puhups and dips should be over 2,014 reps. This is about 70 per day minus a few. I'm front-loading them when I can because I know I'll miss a few here and there. The challenge with this is one is doing them throughout the day. 70 pushups all at once is tough. And when you miss a day you have to do 140 in a day. Even harder. It's totally doable though. 5 here, 5 there. Another great use for implementation intentions. For example, when I get up to get a glass of water, do 5 pushups. When I go to the bathroom, do 5 dips on the bathtub. 

Why is it going to be hard?

Resolutions are a tough cookie to crack. They often get forgotten and missed as the year goes on. What was once a fiery, intense, save-the-world kind of idea and resolution becomes "I'll do it later" 2 months in. I wanted to make sure that didn't happen with mine.So many things to rememberOne of the cardinal rules with resolutions and behaviour change is one thing at a time. Only do one thing at a time, they say. It makes sense. The more things you have on your plate, the less you can focus on each. Changing behaviour requires an enormous amount of thought and willpower and at the end of the a long day the motivation to do that new workout drops sharply. I'm going to use my journal to keep a checklist for each day front and centre. I look at my journal at least 3 times a day writing ideas and completing my checklist. This has worked so far with smaller lists but this one is much larger.PlanningDoing new things requires more planning than those old routines. Routines and habits don't take much thought at all, they just happen. You don't need to think much about them. New activities require a ton of thinking, remembering, reminding, scheduling and figuring out what works and what doesn't for you each day. It would be great if there was one perfect schedule that fit everything fit nicely but there definitely isn't. Journalling helps with all things. Thinking through what went well (or not so well) with today's plans and how to best tackle tomorrow's plans is a perfect thing to jot down in your journal over the course of the day.TimeSome days there's just not enough time to do everything. Making whole Paleo food every day is time-consuming. I'm thankful there is at least one raw food restaurant in town that we can eat while we're doing strict Paleo if we need to. Having enough time for everything is part planning and part shoving other things out of the way for now and saying no. I'm getting better at saying no to new commitments but I'm still finding myself excited about some new commitment only to realize I've said yes to another time consuming activity. Doh. 

What's going to happen after March 1?

The challenge ends March 1. Things will definitely relax but I'll continue some things until the end of 2014 and then reassess.PaleoPaleo eating is going to continue at about 70-80%. I love eating paleo and it's getting easier with every challenge and new recipe we learn but it's fairly expensive and it's nice to branch out for variety once in a while. I don't like being that person in a group of friends that's always the difficult one because of their diet so I'll let it slide sometimes. The more I read about what all these new-fangled foods are doing to our bodies and minds though, I'm letting it slide less and less.CrossFitCrossFit will continue for the rest of my life. Well, maybe not that long but I can't get enough of it lately so it's going to continue at least 2 days a week for the rest of the year. The Open competition is starting in March so that's a big goal for me right now. I'd love to get through the first round of the Open to Regionals but I'm not sure I have the time to devote to training this year to get me to Regionals. I'm going to give it my best shot with the limited time I have but it's not my #1 priority.WritingAs with CrossFit journaling will continue until the end of time. It's proven to be so incredibly helpful for, well, everything. Training in CrossFit, making plans and keeping them, coming up with new ideas, making old ideas stick, "wandering around" ideas I'm thinking of, keeping resolutions, measuring my performance in anything I do. It just has so many uses.Also with all the writing, the more I do, the more products I'll create for PureOutside.com. Essentially, the more I write, the more money I'll make with digital products. That sounds like a good trade-off to me.CoffeeCoffee Rules: 1 bulletproof coffee in the morning and 1 at coffeshops with friends before 2pm. None at work. Sleep is just so essential to performing at a high level and too much coffee screws with my sleep right away.  I like the idea of sitting down with a cup of coffee and writing so I'll keep it around for now but might be turning to a green smoothie or something of that sort soon.

Wrap-Up

The best part about these challenges is the break after. You've pushed so hard through the challenge, not having to think about all the details and track every single thing once it's done is so freeing. Not everything goes back to normal after the challenges. The focus and things you learn to finish the challenge and get through every day sticks around for a while. Not everything disappears completely. All those habits you build up in the month or 2 of the challenge tend to stay after and help you out, maybe not to the same level as the challenge but better than things were before. I find myself eating much better for long after challenges are done. I've worked so hard to get to that point, it's hard to give it up. I won't be so strict and it feels good to relax but there's no reason to dive into burgers and cake right after a good, clean Challenge.I'll be writing more about how the challenge is going in the coming weeks and what I'm learning. Stay tuned.Comments? Questions?What are you doing for your resolution? How do you remind yourself and track your progress?