21 Day Challenge, Day 11

Momentum is a key element in maintaining an environment of change, especially in the early stages of a new mission. At the halfway point of the 21 day challenge I semi-intentionally took a break on one of my goals. I had a double motive. Firstly, I had a short trip planned and I knew it would be a little tough to keep up. (Honestly, that is generally not a really good excuse.) And my second reason was as an experiment. I wanted to intentionally experience the effects of sloughing off and then trying to regain my momentum.

The results were as I expected. Initially I was grateful for the little mini-vacation while I remained certain that I would pick back up in a day or so. Quickly a day became three. And feelings of disappointment began to filter in as I contemplated just hanging it up all together; thus the danger of breaking the momentum of your mission. And that is often why people set goals and don’t reach them. I’m sure you’ve experienced that at some point in your life.

When you break your routine you get out of the habit. You begin to coast, and eventually come to a standstill. You then make room for the old patterns and agreements to resurface, and before you know it, you’ve lost all resolve to continue. It’s the yo-yo syndrome.

The best advice I can offer is, don’t stop. Don’t break your cycle of forward progress. Make a commitment to see it through all the way to the end, no matter what. And if you find a break unavoidable, keep reminding yourself that the pause is temporary and make a sincere commitment to resume as soon as possible. There’s always time for intermissions in life’s projects, but completing each stage all the way through is vital to reaching any lasting personal life goal.

21 Day Challenge, Day 10

I was setting around in a group chatting last night about random topics when the subject of weight loss came up. I guess we were all feeling a little insecure as we each boasted about the various plans and routines we were investigating. As we compared notes each of us probably felt a bit guarded about ours being the better choice. One of the guys finally commented on how difficult it is to stay committed to any plan. That line of conversation continued for a while when another chimed in; “why don’t we just all agree to encourage each other in this common pursuit.”

Good plan! “And the word we’re looking for,” I suggested, “is accountability.” Of course that word can evoke both negative and positive emotions – but for the sake of our conversation it was an appropriate term. In this case, we’re not accountable to, but accountable with; as a means of positive encouragement with a buddy or group of people who are simultaneously pursuing a similar goal.

Let’s face it, alone is tough. Sure, smaller goals like fix-it-ups, or balancing your checkbook are easily completed by yourself. But when you set out to tackle something that requires significant physical effort or inner strength, it’s always helpful to team up with someone, (or a group) who will help you stay focused and positive minded during the process. You can encourage each other when you get down, and praise each other when you reach certain milestones. The likelihood of giving up is reduced as well when there is someone committed to helping you succeed.

Are you going it alone? Consider inviting someone to be your partner on this journey. Even if they aren’t pursuing a particular goal, ask if they will allow you to report to them, and invite them to help you stay focused.

21 Day Challenge, Day 9

In 1952 Norman Vincent Peale wrote a book that would become the foundation of what we know as the positive thinking movement. The principals in The Power Of Positive Thinking are so counter intuitive to the way most of our culture lives and thinks today. Peale vehemently challenged that often negative, pessimistic attitude so prevalent in society.

His principals are just as viable today, and probably more needed than ever. Below I have paraphrased some ideas from the first few pages of the book. Peale says there are “simple, workable rules for overcoming inadequacy attitudes …” Here’s my spin on them.

1)     Visualize yourself succeeding at your goals – burn that image in your mind, make it as real (as if) to your subconscious mind.

2)     When negative thoughts or images come to mind, don’t let them linger. Replace them with the opposite (positive) picture or thought immediately.

3)     See obstacles for what they are; just obstacles. Don’t give them any power beyond that.

4)     Don’t be overly impressed or intimidated by other people. You’re just as capable. And they struggle too.

5)     Don’t be afraid to ask for help – either from a trusted friend or a trusted professional.

6)     Honestly evaluate your ability to succeed, then up it 10%. Push yourself to get out of your comfort zone.

7)     Don’t be afraid to trust your creator. We often miss the key ingredient of faith. You were designed to succeed at being you – and God wants to participate in that success.

8)     Do the thing you fear. Emerson wrote, “They conquer who believe they can.” After you’ve done it once, you defeat the fear of the unknown.

9)     Remind yourself often, daily, that you can and will achieve your goals. Peale said, “Feelings of confidence depend upon the type of thoughts that habitually occupy your mind.”

10)  Change requires effort, but it’s better to have changed than to live with regret.

I hope these tidbits from the master positive thinker give you a boost today. Treat your mind like a close friend and it will take you where you want to go in life.

21 Day Challenge, Day 8

Perspective is an amazing thing. I’m sure you’ve heard some variation of this statement; “you don’t have to look too hard to find someone with more difficult circumstances than you.” And it’s true. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of self pity. Thoughts like, “I just can’t do this,” “it’s too hard,” “it doesn’t matter anyway,” “I’ll never change,” can flood our conscious mind and stall or even halt the process.

I watched a video clip on YouTube recently about a guy named Nick Vujicic – his mission statement is “no arms, no legs, no problem.” If you haven’t seen him, you should – his story will inspire you. He literally was born with no arms and no legs, but what he has accomplished in life is amazing. I felt convicted of my edgy attitude some mornings after watching Nick’s story. And if that wasn’t enough – I have one friend facing cancer, and another facing possible jail time. What do I have to complain about? I think you get the picture.

So, give yourself the opportunity to gain some new insight into your surroundings. Take a moment to look at your life from some different perspectives. Invite an outside opinion. Read the obituaries. Ride a public bus. Stand on a chair and look around the room. What are you missing? It’s so easy to get caught up in our own little world and think it’s all about me. Maybe the result of the things you are trying to change about yourself will actually benefit others too.

21 Day Challenge, Day 7

Congratulations! It’s day seven. You are 1/3 the way through your 21 Day Challenge! How does it feel? I have two thoughts for you; if you’ve been successful, made some progress – celebrate! Seriously. Reward is important. You’ve been working hard. Acknowledge your results.

And, if you’ve been struggling, finding it hard to progress – don’t get discouraged! We’re not measuring perfection, we’re seeking personal advance. Realize that a) you have two whole weeks left in this specific challenge, b) the only failure is quitting – and “quit” is not a word we are allowing to be a part of this, c) you can do this! Just the fact that you are trying to stay on board with this is encouraging. So be encouraged! Every day is a new day, and a new opportunity to begin, continue, and to win.

Keep this in mind too – if you’ve been at this from the beginning it’s possible the euphoria of the early stages is waning. Maybe you’re tired of oatmeal every morning for breakfast or frustrated by the slowing of progress. It’s okay. That’s part of the process. It’s almost like withdrawals. Your body has gotten used to a particular pattern, and now you’re upsetting the old routine. When the alarm goes off an hour earlier than it used to so that you can make it to the gym, your body reacts and your mind says, “what are you doing? We still have another hour.” But your subconscious is trainable, and that is the reason for the 21 days of repetitive effort. So, while we are seeking a specific goal that is measurable, we are also retraining the subconscious mind to interact with life differently. It just takes time.

We are ultimately on the path to creating lasting change, not just short term results. And that you can be proud of.

21 Day Challenge, Day 6

Often times, pursuing our goals requires us to get outside of our comfort zones. I have two goals that I’m personally working on; losing 10 pounds, and writing 21 articles in 21 days. Both of those goals are challenging my comfort zones. It’s easier to keep eating the way I always have – I like late night snacks … and it’s easier to wait until the last minute and write all of the articles at once – I’ve trained myself well in those habits. So I have to push outside of those old habits and form new ones if I’m going to reach my goals.

Writer Bob Gass puts it this way; “Think of your comfort zone as a prison you live in – a largely self created prison. It consists of cants, musts, must nots, and other unfounded beliefs formed from all the negative thoughts and decisions you have accumulated and reinforced during your lifetime. Every fear is like a bar in that prison.”

In order to break free from the prison of our comfort zone, we have to break out and find a way to neutralize the belief system that holds us there. Can you identify some shackling beliefs that hold you captive? Write them down on one side of a piece of paper. On the other side, write the opposite – in this case it will be the positive interpretation of the current negative belief. Now, tear the sheet down the middle and throw away the negative side. The positive side can now be used as daily affirmations.

Challenge yourself to get outside of your comfort zones. In the movie Shaw Shank Redemption there is this great line – “get busy living or get busy dying.” Getting stuck in our comfort zones keeps us from much of life’s possibilities. Don’t allow them to rule you any longer. You’ve got a lot more living to do.

21 Day Challenge, Day 5

I have a question for you?

What are the unintended results of not setting a goal and following through?

When we set a goal, you know well that it takes intentional effort to follow through. If you’ve been keeping up with us on the 21 Day Challenge you also know that it takes real effort to make this work. But think for a minute about what happens in the future if you choose not to proceed.

For the one who decides it’s just too hard to lose weight; high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes could be an unintended result. What if you give up pursuing that dream job? How many folks won’t get to experience your passion and gift because you decided it was too difficult to achieve? The smoker could end up with lung cancer …

Those are extreme examples, I know. But every choice, even the small ones, come with a consequence – even the choice to not persist into a desired change in your life. The late Zig Ziglar wrote, “Every choice you make has an end result.” And I love this line from the band Rush and their song, “Free Will,” “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” That decision still produces results.

So, what are the unintended results being produced in your life right now? Maybe they’re not centered around your immediate goals, but there’s something else that needs to be addressed. Jot it down in your journal and take a few moments today to consider the future results.

21 Day Challenge, Day 4

So the question comes; “why am I having such a hard time getting out of the gate? Why is this so difficult?” The answer could be any number of things, and we’ll take a look at some of them over the next few days.

The first and probably most important is our mindset; how we look at a given situation. Sadly, we’ve been trained over our lifetime to look at things from a mostly negative perspective. Some studies suggest that nearly 80% of our thoughts are negative. Why? Well, consider what you encounter on a daily basis as visual and audible input. Newspaper, talk radio, cranky boss or co-workers, evening news … get the picture?

Add to that our experiences growing up. Our mentors passed along perspectives, unintentionally of course, that shape how we respond to life now. As author and motivational speaker Jack Canfield points out in his book, Success Principals; messages like these below plant mental disabilities within us that will last a lifetime if we allow them.

“Don’t touch that!
Stay away from there.
Keep your hands off that.
Eat everything on your plate whether you like it or not!
You don’t really feel that way.
You don’t really want that.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
Stop crying. Don’t be such a baby.”

Any of those sound familiar? I bet you can add a few of your own too. (I know I can.)

What messages are replaying in your mind as you work towards your 21 day goal? Write them down. It could be they have been disrupting your life for a long time and you didn’t even know it. Awareness is the first step to transformation. Once you realize there are thought patterns hampering the process, you can begin to understand how to replace them with positive, productive thinking.

21 Day Challenge, Day 3

Day 3

As we move into day three, I want to take a moment to encourage you in this journey.  Ernest Hemingway wrote, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Remember to have fun, and don’t get frustrated by the details. It’s really not as much about the goal as it is about who you become on your way there.

Write It Down

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start tracking your progress. Somewhere, hopefully, you’ve written down your goal. (Remember, we talked about putting it on a note card and taping it to the bathroom mirror.) One of the best ways to keep track of this journey is to start a log book, or journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can spend a dollar or a hundred dollars – the key is having a designated book where you can write down your experience.

Your story matters. And this 21 day leg of it is an integral part. When you write down your experience it gives you a benchmark to gauge your progress. Tomorrow you might remember you lost a pound, or walked a quarter mile further, but in two weeks it is unlikely those details will be that fresh. When you jot them down you can go back and remind yourself how things were, and you can see how far you’ve come.  French author and journal writer Anaïs Nin wrote “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

Start recording your journey. Nothing fancy – and don’t worry about the grammar. “I’m not a writer” is not an excuse. Start by writing a sentence a day. It’s not about the quality of the content; it’s the exercise of recording your story that will matter in the end.

21 Day Challenge, Day 2

We’re two days into our 21 day challenge – how are you feeling? Off to a solid start? Awesome! Keep at it. A little tough getting the engine fired up? It’s okay. Stalls and setbacks are part of the process. Today is a new day with a fresh set of 24 hours. Refresh, reload, and restart.

I’m supposed to be working on losing 10 pounds but I went to a high school ball game and ate two hotdogs and a bag of popcorn – not the best diet food. But I’m not going to feel guilty either. I have come to the realization that I don’t need a diet – I need a new attitude about food. So, I’m also re-educating myself about proper food choices. And tomorrow I’ll improve. I’ve planned to eat differently.

Much of what we need is the willingness to be in this for the long hall and the courage to do what’s necessary, in spite of the difficulties, stalls, and set-backs. Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Yes, we want to reach our goals. But what we’re really after is a mind shift. Prove to yourself that you are willing to hang in there and accomplish your goal. That teaches your mind that change really is possible.