Every Challenge An Opportunity

In previous posts, I’ve discussed the grander goal(s) of my monthly challenges — developing a self-success framework and upgrading my operating system in doing so. This post will deal with the break down of the “how” question.

Each month, starting last month, continuing through this one and through the end of the year (minus a July reflection month), I’ll be taking on three monthly challenges. These are broken into three categories that mean a lot to me and my life (writing, health, and a happy lifestyle), but that’s not here nor there. In fact, the challenges themselves are not the end game. Though I’m working hard to pick challenges that I’ve wanted to do, take on, or have avoided in the past — the real end goal is the learning that comes from taking these on month after month.

Last month, for instance, I took on a squat challenge. I failed, BUT….

Already there have been learnings about myself:

I have a long way to go on squatting, but writing is easier. I do better with gratitude at night as my day is winding down and I’m reflecting than I do in the morning as my day is just beginning. I’m pretty good at sitting in my meditation — once I can get it going. Also, bachelor parties tend to kill daily habits — though I suppose that was to be assumed.

What’s certainly been one important learning: habits are important. Getting into a daily habit helps ensure these things get done.

But there’s also just been real learnings in how I can develop my framework:

Attach To-Do’s to Habits

This was a piece of advice given to me by a friend (I believe funneled through another friend). If you already have habits — say brushing your teeth — attach something else onto it to help make that a habit too. So, if for instance, I need to do my L-sits for the day, I may do so before I can brush my teeth. If I know I’m going to have to shower, I’ll write my journal entry before going in there. Not after. I tried that. All that does is delay what you need to do and open up the possibility of forgetting. Do it before. Then go into your habit — since you know that’s going to happen anyway.

Use the “Power” Framework

I’ve also used a reward system for my work on these challenges. For instance, right now I’m dying to go watch the next episode of The Jinx, but I won’t do it until I’ve written this post. That’s helped me stay align with my challenges. Rewards are part of the pattern that Charles Duhigg laid out in his book The Power of Habit as the kind of closing aspect to forming a habit. If you can reward yourself with this action, you’ll further your desire to habitualize, mostly unconsciously. So I’ve tried to use that to my advantage.

New Actions Come with Consequences

For instance, this month I’m doing an V-sit (or L-sit) challenge where I hoist myself up on my arms and hold my bodyweight up with my arms & core. The goal is doing this 5 minutes a day and it’s quite difficult. At first I had to break this up into 9 or 10 sessions (about 30 seconds each). I can now do it in about 7 sessions (6 is my record) of nearly a minute each, and sometimes over. It’s been great — my core has never felt stronger. But I’ve attached this onto my habit of being clean, namely showering and brushing my teeth, and those have often come at the end of my day. The consequence from this, in general, is some tightness in my wrists and my shoulders/upper back. Since I’m often doing this at the end of my day, I’m probably not taking the wind down time I should and I’ve noticed the tightness lingering. I haven’t slept as well as I usually do and I think that’s due to some of that upper back tightness disturbing my laying posture. So even though I’m doing well in the challenge (so far 21 days of 23), there are some side effects I hadn’t considered — in both the challenge itself and the habitualizaition.

Why A Framework?

This is the second post in my monthly challenge. The idea is to help explain what I’m doing with these monthly challenges by blogging about it — which is a monthly challenge in itself. Meta, yes. Confusing? Perhaps.

This blogpost will center around frameworks. Or, more specifically, one framework. One I seek to pull out of these monthly challenges by the end of 2015.

In layman’s speak, “framework” is defined simply as “an essential supporting structure of a building, or object”. In the programming world, where frameworks have become quite common, it gets a little more complex.

Here’s how one site explains a framework (again, in the scope of computer programming):

In the longer term, a framework ensures the longevity of your applications. If a development team works as they please, only that particular team will be able to maintain and upgrade the application with ease. The way that a publisher supports a proprietary solution.

On the other hand, the structure that a framework provides for the application makes it possible to avoid this pitfall altogether and it gives any developer – whether they participated in its development or not – the ability to easily “adopt” an application, to maintain it over time and to upgrade it both quickly and neatly, whenever necessary….

I’d like to take this idea and spin it into my life. In this quote, the author lays out the benefit of a framework. It’s a way to share something across the board without the pains of sharing, or the extreme pain of starting from scratch each time. I won’t necessarily be using it to help different people (or take my hands off and into the hands of someone else), but I will be using a framework across several disciplines. In this sense, I’m the new person coming in and trying to pick something up with ease. And, for that, a framework can be quite helpful.

The idea is I can pick up a goal, a large goal: write a novel, or squat 350lbs, and eventually achieve that goal. It’s a self-success framework — one that does not reinvent the process for achievement with each new goal, just adapting its parts to fit the application (and remember the metaphor of an application from my previous post). This is what I’m after.

What can I use, time after time, to ensure success? We’ve seen people do this. Accomplish goals across different disciplines, different plains of thought and different schools. My theory is that they, explicitly or unconsciously, have a self-success framework that empowers them to success. This can simply be: put your head down and work. That’s a self-success framework. A simple one, but it’s certainly a structure around which you can build, or achieve, or progress. What I seek might be as simple as that, but I won’t know until I find it.

You can think of a framework as an umbrella. It should encompass everything that fits under it. If something doesn’t fit under it, it’s either been misclassified, or the framework is limited. Or both. One framework that everyone knows is the scientific method. This framework fits into every unit of science — from geology to neurobiology — and allows scientists to use it as a structure to frame research. It provides consistency and, having been refined or just made amazingly, accomplishes what it sets out to do: either proving research hypotheses or disproving. Either way, no scientist can truly publish work without utilizing this framework – and this it retains its umbrella status.

I’ll save the whole “why” question for another blogpost — thought I kind of did answer it in this one. The truth is, I see this as being the safest road to self-success and self-advancement. Safe not in the opposite of danger, but safe in the sense of reliability. Maybe that’s the better way to say it: this is the most the reliable method.

And so, I seek a framework. One I can use in any challenge. How will I get this? Examining myself and my success through a series of monthly challenges — testing different facets and achievements. What is consistent across these int terms of success? What is a surefire trigger for failure? The collective understanding of these will help to build that framework.

Or at least that’s the idea.