Tag Archives: challenges

Day 26: that time I got rid of over 20 DVDs

Today my pastor preached about living abundantly, freely giving of ourselves and our resources, living with open hands. If we live with open hands, we are open to giving as well as receiving. If our hands are closed, we take and take and take and keep our fists wrapped around our things. Open your hands, he said. Give and receive freely.

And with that, I decided to start purging my belongings.

It’s an attempt to simplify, to live happily with less. The things that truly bring me joy – my books, my running shoes, my kitchen supplies – are the things I should cherish. The things that suck my time – my DVDs, my clothes that I never wear – should be pared down to the few that truly make me happy and purged of the ones that draw me away from a simple, thankful life.

Today was step one. I bought a pack of jewel CD cases on the way home from church so I had everything I needed to get started. I went through my CD wallet and shelf of DVDs, pulling out everything that I rarely watched or didn’t enjoy or – get this – had never watched. I actually owned DVDs that I had never even seen! What waste!

As I went through, I thought, do I really enjoy this? Do I watch it? Do I like the story or is it merely a distraction? If it doesn’t bring me joy, all it’s doing is distracting me from the things that do, from things that would better serve God. So why should I keep it?

The movies I kept were favorites that I watched regularly, enjoyed, found value in. They’re kept as treats, occasional indulgences in something I really like. My smaller collection has a pleasant variety to it, but it also represents me better. I can’t explain it, but… that’s what it feels like.

I think I could (and will) go through my collection again in a few months and get rid of even more, but I wound up culling 26 movies and six TV seasons! I think that’s a good start!

I’m making a little list in my head of other places where I can simplify. Next up: my closet! It’ll be a challenge, but it will bring me closer to God.

Where have you simplified? More challenging: where should you simplify?

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Day 23: assessment.

So I’m over halfway through the lenten blogging challenge. I’ve made some observations over the last three weeks or so, and I’m assessing my thoughts about this blog and its future post-lent.

1. Blogging is an absolute chore on busy days. I didn’t set up the challenge in a way that allows for advanced posting or using an editorial calendar, so I have to write every single day. If I get busy or forget until the last minute, it costs me sleep! Once the challenge is over, I doubt I’ll write daily, and I’ll definitely plan around my schedule.

2. At this point, the focus of this blog has been Christianity and my own thoughts on faith. It fits with the theme of the challenge, but I definitely want to expand more into topics such as veganism, recipes, running, and more.

3. I regularly get ideas for posts that I want to spend a little more time on, like recipes or lists or advice posts. I hope to use an editorial calendar once the challenge is over so I can plan posts more carefully. Also, it means I can write several at a time and schedule them to post over the course of the week.

4. Writing about God so often has definitely forced me to think about him as well. I’ll start with a sentence and wind up with a whole post full of thoughts I didn’t even know I had. It’s a blessing and has brought me closer to him.

5. Also: I don’t have many readers… but they’re cool :)

6. All in all, this blog has fulfilled its purpose of making me write. It’s like Anne Lamott’s idea of the shitty first draft: just get it out. Write it down. Get your fingers used to stringing words together. Who cares if it isn’t good? You’re still writing. Crawling is still forward motion. So even when I’m tired, busy, stressed, or what have you, I’m writing. I’m building the habit. And every post I write, I think afterward, “I’m glad I wrote that.”

So that’s where I’m at, folks. Building the habit of writing. Come Easter Monday, the real fun will begin. But for now, I’m just a woman with a computer, stringing words together one at a time, following God one baby step at a time.

Day six: the first day of forced blogging

I’ll be honest: I’m really not sure what to write about today. But here I am, stringing words together to form coherent sentences. That’s the whole point, though, right? To regiment myself. To force myself to write every day, to build the habit of generating text, prose, something (hopefully) worth reading.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has been writing a lot recently about developing a habit. He places a major emphasis on “tiny habits” as a method to build a steadier, more substantial habit. Run five minutes a day, eat one vegetable a day, put away one dish a day, and soon you’ll be running a marathon and enjoying a daily salad in your immaculate kitchen. It’s a gradual process in his eyes. Trying to bite off too much at once will result in failure.

I agree with this to a point, but I also know myself and know that I do better with brute force challenges. In late August of 2012, I realized my running was not up to snuff and decided to set myself a challenge: run 100 miles over the month of September. This would require me to run an average of three miles per day, every day, in order to meet my goal. I’ve written before that I embraced the challenge head-on and broke 100 with a week to go. Save for a surgery-induced hiatus, I’ve been a strong, regular runner ever since and am gearing up for my first marathon in April.

Had I decided on a Babauta-style challenge, I doubt I would’ve stuck with it. “Why,” I would’ve said, “would I go to the trouble of changing into workout clothes and stuffing my crazy hair into a ponytail and lacing up my running shoes for the sake of running for three minutes? Why bother?” I would’ve found no answer, and I would not have bothered. My running would’ve remained stagnant.

Instead, I decided to go big or go home. And that worked for me.

I do believe Babauta’s theory is absolutely sound, but I recognize that it does not universally apply to all people, all challenges, all habits. My running and, apparently, my blogging require a leap off a higher diving board.

One thing I will strongly and universally support, however, is Babauta’s claim: “The only thing you need to do is start.” I procrastinated this blog post until now because I didn’t know what to write about and thus didn’t know how to start. And now here I am, nearly done writing, having honed my craft and created a half-decent blog post in one fell swoop. Because I took the plunge. Because I just sat down and started.

I think that last paragraph deserves its own post in the future. But for now, I’ll sign off with a silent fist pump: my first day of forced blogging has been a success.

Day two: the nature of rules

When I look back on my accomplishments (or lack thereof), I see a pattern.

“I’m going to start running more.” I didn’t.
vs.
“I’m going to run 100 miles in the month of September.” Hit 100 with a week to go.

“I will be 100% vegan at home but occasionally indulge at restaurants.” I ordered cheese at every restaurant, sampled every butter-laden treat my colleagues brought to work, and justified every non-vegan item I ate at a friend’s house.
vs.
“I am 100% vegan.” Haven’t touched an animal product since.

“I’m going to get in better shape.” Lifted weights once. And they were not heavy weights.
vs.
“I’m going to race Tough Mudder.” Thrice-weekly strength training, ran every other day, crossed the finish line in the best shape of my life.

If I make a generalized promise with no framework and loose rules, I fail. If I challenge myself with a hard-and-fast goal and hard-and-fast rules, I succeed.

So if I take this:

“I’m going to start a blog.”

And turn it into this:

“I’m going to start a blog and write a post every single day of Lent. With God in mind.”

I predict success.

Gretchen Rubin of Happiness Project fame writes a lot about abstainers versus moderators. In her words:

“You’re a moderator if you…
– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something

You’re an abstainer if you…
– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits”

(from this post)

Based on what I demonstrated above, I am very obviously an abstainer.

I do well with limits and rules. If I impose them, I follow them. As a result, I have the power to set myself up for success. I set a goal, make a plan, list the rules, and get it done. Once I start, I don’t stop.

I also can set myself up for failure. If I buy a box of maple leaf cookies from Trader Joe’s – a favorite of mine – and tell myself I’ll ration them over a week or two, I find myself wandering back for “just one more” until they’re gone – usually in 48 hours. Moderation is not my gift. So I don’t buy them. If I don’t buy unhealthy food, I don’t eat unhealthy food. Simple as that. I don’t think about it, I don’t miss it, I don’t eat it.

And then I don’t feel guilty on the rare occasion that I bake cookies and eat seven of them straight off the pan. Because it’s not a habit.

(Another helpful trick is to make cookies and bring them to work or bible study so everyone else eats them instead of you.)

This Lenten season, the hard-and-fast rule is to write a blog post every single day. No loose structure, no flexible schedule, no room for quitting. Just get ‘er done.

Moral of the story: know thyself. And get stuff done.