By Leo Babauta
In the middle of last month, I set myself a 45-day discipline challenge, just to see what my mind would do.
I like the idea of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and so I decided to take on 12 things at once, which is against my usual advice!
The challenge isnâ€™t over yet, but Iâ€™d like to share some of my findings so far.
So my challenge for 45 days was to follow these 12 things each day:
- Wake early (between 5-6am, which is early for me these days)
- Meditate first thing
- Plan my Most Important Tasks (MITs)
- Do my first MIT early
- Cold shower
- Fast until mid-afternoon
- Study in the late afternoon
- Walk in the late afternoon
- Exercise (weights, only 3 days a week)
- Meditate in the evening
- No alcohol
I should note that none of these is individually that hard for me, and Iâ€™ve done them all before at different time. Even putting them all together isnâ€™t crazy hard â€” the challenge is sticking to them for 45 days to see what happens in my mind.
And it turns out, a lot happens in my mind!
The First Week
The first few days were actually a lot of fun. I get excited at the start of a new challenge, and I seem to relish taking on hard things.
I started waking at 6am, with the intention to slowly move it earlier. That was a little bit challenging, as Iâ€™d been waking at 7am before that, but I really enjoy the quiet morning time, and getting more of that was nice for me.
I became much more consistent with morning and afternoon meditation, even though I often saw my mind coming up with excuses why I should skip them. I saw the excuses, and just did them.
Cold showers were not new to me, but I hadnâ€™t been doing them in awhile. I definitely donâ€™t enjoy them, but theyâ€™re not the worst things. I was able to embrace them and use them as a meditation. (Note: I only do the cold part for a couple minutes at the end of a shower.)
Fasting was also not new to me, but it was still challenging. Iâ€™d been eating my first meal between 11am – 12pm, so I pushed it until 2-3pm, and found myself really wanting to eat by noon. Hunger is hard for me, not because itâ€™s painful but because my mind really tries to find a way around it.
No alcohol was also not new, and honestly Iâ€™ve been drinking way less this year â€” not every day, and often only sips of my wifeâ€™s wine. That said, I saw myself often tempted to sip her wine when it was right in front of me.
The rest of the stuff was easy â€” I enjoyed the walks, and reading and studying and doing my focus work was all lovely.
The Harder Stuff
The first week wasnâ€™t too tough, but after that, I found a few things particularly hard, and it was interesting watching my mind:
- I found myself less excited about the challenge. I was still committed to doing it, but it was no longer fun. Turns out, I only get excited about the beginning of things.
- I didnâ€™t really adjust to the fasting. I still havenâ€™t. And I broke the fasting a couple times, for no good reason other than I wasnâ€™t really thinking about it and I let my mind trick me.
- Waking early was a little tough, mostly because of staying up with the family the night before. I tried to go to bed earlier, but some nights I didnâ€™t succeed, and it really made getting up early a big challenge.
- I found myself wanting to skip reading a lot, especially when I had a lot of work to get to. In fact, I ended up pushing reading to later in the day rather than right after meditation.
- Alcohol has been one of the tougher ones â€” I donâ€™t miss alcohol, and donâ€™t care at all about the effects of it (I donâ€™t get drunk or even buzzed, and donâ€™t need it to relax). But when Eva has a glass of wine and itâ€™s right in front of me, I find myself tempted several times a night to take a sip, just for the taste. I havenâ€™t given in yet, but almost did multiple times.
Thatâ€™s what I faced the 2nd and 3rd weeks. The 4th week was not a success â€¦ read on to hear about it.
Some Inconsistencies Lately
I did not do as well the 4th week. I became focused on other things, and it turns out itâ€™s hard to focus on many things at once. Who knew? :)
Iâ€™ve still been very consistent with a few things â€” no alcohol, studying, exercise, doing my first MIT early. Iâ€™ve missed a few walks lately, though, for social reasons. I was super consistent with meditation twice a day until this week, again for social reasons. Iâ€™ve slept later than usual a few days in the last week, because of visitors and travel. Iâ€™ve missed a few cold showers because Iâ€™ve earlier been in a rush or I forgot.
Overall, Iâ€™ve been less focused and consistent. Itâ€™s interesting because my mind is so less interested and excited in this challenge now, and in some ways wants to just give up and forget about it. I havenâ€™t been reporting to anyone, which has probably been a mistake, because if I was reporting it, Iâ€™d probably be much more motivated to remember.
Iâ€™m not feeling shame about the lack of consistency lately â€” thatâ€™s not what this challenge is about. Itâ€™s about learning about my mind, and Iâ€™ve definitely done that. I think if I only had one thing to focus on each day in this challenge, Iâ€™d be much more focused. So itâ€™s interesting to see myself try to manage 12 things at once.
A Return to Focus
Writing this post has been good, because it has returned my focus. With that in mind, I think having a journaling habit helps a lot because you reflect on how things are going and can re-commit and re-focus yourself. I havenâ€™t been journaling lately, but if I do it at least once a week, I think it might be almost as good as having some accountability (which really is the best, in my experience).
So Iâ€™m committed to returning to my challenge (as much as Iâ€™m able, given that we are going to have half a dozen visitors this week).
I really do love most of the things Iâ€™ve challenged myself to do. Most of them are what Iâ€™d like myself to do when Iâ€™m in my most open, wise state of mind â€” which is when you want to decide these things, not when youâ€™re facing the discomfort.
Weâ€™ll see how many of them I decide to keep when the month is over, but I think at least half are keepers! Iâ€™ll let you know in a couple of weeks.