February began my year of monthly challenges (January was a planning month). I set three goals for myself: meditate for 30 minutes per day, increase my flat-footed squat hold time to 5 minutes, and write (and post) a short story.
Below are the results of my challenges, followed by an analysis of these result and what I’ve learned from the experience.
Meditation [Lifestyle Goal]
Goal: 30 minutes per day, everyday
Result: 21 days (70%) of +30 minutes of meditation (699 total minutes (11+ hours) of meditation)
To help track this goal, I used an app called Sattva. It’s a very basic app that times your meditations, offers some guided versions, and keeps a timeline (and location tracker) of past sessions. It was good for its purpose, though it did fail to track two (2) meditations that I did while I was offline (not on internet or data). So those went untracked though I know how that really went. Both days were timed at 30 minutes. Here are screenshots of the tracked times that I did.
70% is not bad but it’s certainly not hitting my goal. Some examination is needed on why I did not hit this goal, of course. The reason is simply just dedication. There were a few days in the middle of the month where I was traveling and some where I had a fever and stomach cramps. On these days, I did not meditate. Other missed days were because of simple exhaustion.
I had a good system going of meditating first thing in the morning but travel, the AGPA conference I attended, and other facots didn’t allow for this. Some days I was relegated to a late-night meditation, but other times this was lost. To succeed here, I would need a dedicated system that cements the need for this.
The good news? The meditation was a great help in centering myself this month. It was a great challenge and a helpful one at best. Perhaps the best result from this is that on days following “missed” days I could feel something “off” or missing about my disposition that was due to breaking out of this semi-formed habit.
This will certainly be a behavior I continue to do, though probably not daily.
Squat [Health Goal]
Goal: Hold a flat-footed squat for 5 minutes
Result: Held a flat-footed squat for 2 minutes 15 seconds unassisted, and three minutes with assistance
This was a goal I failed quite spectacularly on — not even getting to 50% of my goal. The goal, of course, was arbitrarily set so it’s not such a let down — and I realized as soon as I got started just how hard 5 minutes is….for anyone. For me, I started the month barely able to squat. I had to work on form first (still not great) and then do exercises to increase my ability to hold the pose. None of this was easy. I had to deal with locked-up ankles, knees, and a groin area without must stretch to it. To hit 5 minutes would probably take a routine of several months.
And that also speaks to another point here — similar to the meditation challenge above. I simply did not prepare myself enough with a routine to accomplish what I set out to do. I should have had a regimen, and instead I had stretch breaks, sporadic practice, and an inconsistent approach (holding on to legs of chairs/tables, lifting the back of my foot up and squatting that way). I did this unassisted by a professional and, though I did watch my body, I did not have an approach that would guarantee success by any means. Next time, I’ll need this.
Short Story [Writing Goal]
Goal: Write & post one short story
Result: Wrote and posted two short stories (La Entrada (Jorge’s Story) and Proposing At A Funeral Isn’t The LEAST Romantic Thing You Can Do).
Well, it’s nice to hit one of my goals. And even nicer to have doubled it.
Writing is probably what comes easiest to me and completing this challenge meant mostly just sitting down and DOING it. Well, a funny thing happened as I sat down to write a story — I thought of another one. Jorge’s Story was born at the beginningof the month from my few days spent in the real La Entrada and I thought of the proposal story while exploring Cuenca with a friend and trying to find a coffee shop. Somehow it just HIT me. I wrote the first draft of that one (proposal story) in 40 minutes sitting at Cafe Austria in Cuenca, Ecuador. Did some light editing on it but left it mostly as it was then. Funny how those things work: )
The La Entrada story took me longer and has a much great depth to it. With more time I would have edited it over (and over and over) again, but hey you gotta ship, right?
This is the first month of what’s going to be longer project and even these results are exciting to me. When I set out on the path of making there challenges and working within them, I told myself it would matter less that I completed the challenges (though effort and desire were paramount), than that I understand why I failed or succeeded. So this analysis is just as important as the one above, and certainly this one will careen into future months and challenges, as I attempt to build my own framework of self-success.
Let’s start with writing — my one completed challenge. This one came easy because it’s been a process I’ve undertaken several times over the last ten years. And the process is usually the same:
- Mulling over an idea,
- Putting something on paper with notes on later plot, character, or other details,
- Filling those missing parts in
- Reading through draft 1
- Editing and inserting notes
- Writing draft 2
It’s been quite simple and the process goes on further as time goes (no doubt next time I look at these stories I’ll have an intense desire to write a whole new draft.
This was the process, throughout the month, on Jorge’s story and the process in a much shorter timeframe for the Proposal story. Since this is such a reliable system, it was easy to call upon to hit a deadline (the month’s end).
The squat and meditation challenges were new — both in their goals and in the systems I can now see were needed to complete them. For meditation, the element was simple: dedication. I needed to, on a day to day basis, make a conscious decision to set aside 30 minutes to meditate. Most days I did this. On days I did not I could either not will myself to do this, or it did not come up as a conscious priority (on one or two occasions it did occur to me but I was not in a place where I could complete the challenge). This will be important because many upcoming challenges will rely on this same need of dedication to succeed — and my lifestyle of constantly traveling and not having a homebase will throw elements and curveballs in constantly. I need to make sure I am setting aside time that is unencumbered and cannot be moved to complete my challenges. Most days, the best time for this is first thing in the morning.
For the squat practice, dedication was certainly an element, but so was systemization, which I did not have. This will have to be something I take with me going forward — especially on challenges looking for iterative (or advanced) improvements. Unless I know what I should focus on day by day, I’m relegated to blindly practicing in hopes of advancing. I could have followed a squat regimen to keep me in line of my goals but I chose to simply just practice and stretch each day (which turned into just most days).
So, my learnings from this month:
1. What will be needed more and more is the discipline to sit down each day and accomplish my goal — whether it’s accomplished in that one day (like the meditation) or part of a process for the month (like the squats)
2. The earlier a system can be put into place, the greater chance of success (writing goal vs the others).
and one last one:
3. In a life of varied opportunity, these challenges have to be my focus to be successful. As much as I’d love to read for two hours each night, I need to prioritize these first.
That’s all for February. It was a fun month of growth and I’m inspired to keep going on new challenges with my takeaways!