Week 12: Off Course But Still Improving

At the start of the year I set a number of challenges for myself. Each challenge would last 1 month after which I would describe how I planned to sustain the improvements made throughout the challenge. Unfortunately, I have failed to hold up my end of the bargain – both with the challenges and the follow-up.

Fortunately, despite not 100% following the challenges I laid out at the beginning of the year, I have continued to improve myself. In January, my challenge was to close all 3 of my Apple Watch Activity Rings every day of the month – I accomplished this and have since closed all three rings everyday of 2019. Originally, I was supposed to earn my CAPM certificate in February, but failed to even start studying the PMBOK in any serious way.

This month, March, the original challenge was to not watch TV for the entire month. Well, technically, I haven’t watched TV per se but I have watched a lot of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on my iPad. Does that count as watching TV? I think it does therefore that challenge has been abandoned. In its place, I can fairly put the Bataan Memorial Death March attempt as a worthy challenge. Granted, I failed to complete the course, but it was definitely a challenge and one that I continue to strive to complete.

With three months of 2019 coming to a close, what’s next?

April 2019: The challenge I am laying down at my feet is studying the PMBOK to a point that I can take the CAPM exam in May. I have some blockers that could interfere with accomplishing this such as workload, household requirements, and fitness goals, but becoming a CAPM is vitally important to my long-term future thus needs to be prioritized. I think the timeframe is much more reasonable than the original challenge from February which lends itself to success.

May 2019: I’m not ready to announce my challenge for May quite yet. I anticipate I will settle on a fitness goal, but need to work through some preliminary preparation work to see at what level that goal will be. Being purposefully vague is not my usual approach, but in this case I feel it is necessary.

While I have new challenges to identify and focus my attention on, I will continue to close all my Activity Rings in an attempt to surpass my previous Move Streak of 192 days. I am 14 days away from getting my “500 Move Goals” award and recently got my first “Move Goal 400%” award for clearing 3,000 calories in a day. Keeping myself moving and avoiding the sedentary lifestyle that office jobs usually bring is an ongoing challenge that will always be in the background.

How are you doing with your goals/challenges for 2019? Knocking them out of the park or thinking about an in-flight reset? Share your experience in the comments! Don’t forget to like, follow, and share on Facebook and Twitter!

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2019 – A Year of Challenges

Since 2018 didn’t work out so well for me in regards to accomplishing measurable goals, I am taking a net new approach in 2019. I will need to remain motivated to overcome the barriers we all experience when trying to improve ourselves – I have confidence this can be done.

Borrowing from my professional life as an Implementation Manager (think project manager meets sales meets operations management) of software, I need a shorter, time bound approach to my personal improvement. Over the course of a year, motivation to accomplish a long list of goals bleeds out like so much juice from a squeezed lemon. It is untenable and ultimately self-defeating to watch as one goal after another slips through my fingers resulting in failure (reference: 2018).

Another inspiration for this new approach has been the random social media challenges people take up in order to get followers, friends, and other digital accolades. Yes, even the tide pod challenge has some influence in my thought process. Now, the difference between the social media muck challenges and what I am doing is I plan on long-term personal change based on short-term, high-impact behavior modification. My Challenges are not temporary nor are they just to see if I can do something – they are meaningful and will result in real life gains.

The Modular Approach to Change

How have I decided to approach 2019? It’s simple enough, each month is a Challenge (or goal) to overcome. Each Challenge facilitates rapid behavioral change which leads to positive habit formation or results in accredited documentation (such as a certification or hard-skill). At the end of each Challenge I will devise a means of continuing the positive changes in a way that is less disruptive to my day-to-day life.

By breaking the year down into more bite-sized chunks of time (wherein a quarter is a Module and a month is a Challenge), I can accomplish several things:

  1. Regular achievement of goals which fuel future success
  2. Short-term gains that lend themselves to long-term, positive changes
  3. An easily read scoreboard or tracking system

This is what it looks like:

To measure success in any particular Module the following criteria will be used:

  1. Success in 3 Challenges equals full success in the Module
  2. Success in 2 Challenges equals average success in the Module
  3. Success in 1 or fewer Challenges equals failure in the Module

Each Challenge will consist of a 30-day block of time (with the exception of February which will only be 28-days) dedicated to overcoming the designated Challenge. In the final days of each Challenge, I will devise a plan for continued moderation of the bad habit or expansion of the good habit past the Challenge end date. This final step to each challenge is the key to actual self-improvement over the long-term.

For example, in April 2019 I have slated a “No Added Sugar Challenge” for the month. This means I will cut all sugar not naturally produced by a food item from my diet – no sugar in my coffee, no creamer, no bread, no cold cereal, no soda, no syrup, etc. Throughout the month I will update this blog with my progress as well as any physiological effects I observe. It is likely that at the end of the month I will want to reintroduce certain sugars back into my diet, however, I don’t want to return to the same level of sugar intake I was at when the challenge began. Therefore, a moderation plan will be executed to allow me to enjoy sweetened coffee without turning to a gallon of soda everyday.

This approach to change allows me to stack my successes over shorter periods of time while maintaining long-term gains. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is using this approach, but I can’t seem to find a name for it. Maybe something along the lines of “Stacked Success” or “Stacked Progress” – obviously I am stuck on the work “Stack”, but I digress.

January 2019 Challenge

For January 2019, I have challenged myself to close all three Activity Rings on my Apple Watch. I chose this challenge because it is something I have done many times in the past (though inconsistently) and is a good stepping stone into the much more difficult Challenges later in the year.

To ensure this isn’t a cake walk, I have increased my “Move Goal” to 750 calories per day. In order to achieve this elevated calorie count I will be required to purposefully do things everyday to increase my overall activity. Relying on standard daily activity at my desk job will not close these rings.

I anticipate this Challenge will require conscious effort to achieve but won’t disrupt my daily life too badly. Though people will attest to “loving change” all to often sudden or rapid change results in relapsing into bad habits or substituting new bad habits for the old ones. Human beings are resistant to change because we find comfort in complacency and routine. However, this comfort leads to sedentary lives which do not produce anything new. I am tired of buying into this approach to life.

Though this first Challenge should be accomplished easily enough, it won’t be so easy as the months pass. The Husband and I gave up sugar for 3-days last year and the effects were good and bad. Our moods shifted and our energy levels dropped initially (it was absolutely miserable) but by the end of the third day we were feeling and sleeping better. Unfortunately, 3-days wasn’t enough time to break the habit. I expect this year will be very difficult but have very positive results.

I plan to update this blog regularly with updates on my progress throughout the month – this will include my triumphs and shortcomings. Check back often for details on my progress!

What approach are you taking in 2019 to improving yourself? Status quo or are you getting organized and systematically attacking your goals? Let us all know in the comments below!