June 24: Grand Design

The Task

Answer a question. The question is very materialistic in nature and not in the least productive, however, it is a question I find interesting.

If money was not an object, what would my house be like?


Why This Challenge?

I don’t know really. It is a common question asked, and it is fun to ponder. That is kind of it.


Execution.

I brainstormed what rooms I would like, such as a library, an office and a sauna. (I know, extravagant, but unlimited money plus health benefits blah blah blah). I then went into more detail, such as a walk-in pantry. I did not get into tiny details, such as colour and materials as preferences for them change seasonally. It was a fairly boring design, the main components being:

  • Surrounded by rainforest, or at the very least a lot of trees. However, still within 20 minutes’ drive from a major town.
  • Three floors total, the third of which consisting of only the bedroom and ensuite.
  • Completely self-reliant, off-grid and eco-friendly.
  • A personal sauna.
  • An edible and ideally beautiful garden.
  • Very open plan, with lots of glass outer walls.
  • Balconies.

What I’ve Learned.

I have learned that dreaming big is not only fun, but it sets an image into your mind for something to achieve and motivate you.

Also, in direct contrast to June 12th’s theme of anti-materialism, it is enjoyable to imagine yourself in a luxury house.


 

June 23: Disco Stu

The Task.

Dance, like no-one is watching, for 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter what it looks like and it does not matter what music, so long as I am in my body and moving in a way that feels right.


Why this challenge?

Dancing is great. It connects you with your body like almost nothing else can. I am someone that stays in his head 80% of the time so getting out of it is always a good idea. Besides, the things that go on in my head, no one would want to stay in here for long.

Additionally, I like to empathize with others and their experiences. Why is this important? Why, because my girlfriend is a dancer, and although 15 minutes is nowhere near the sometimes 40 hours a week she does, I hope I can get a picture of her passion.


Execution.

Put on some good music and dance baby.

The important thing is to not think about what movements you are doing. If you try to put on a show and attempt to look good (at least for me) it doesn’t go well. You have to let your body just go with it.


What I’ve Learned.

To stay out of my head a little more. Being in my body is energising and brings a certain contented joy that only comes from such an activity.

And finally, I think I now see why Natalie (my gf), enjoys dancing so much.


 

June 22: Hospital Corners

The Task.

The task was extremely simple in essence, being an activity that plenty of people do on a daily basis, although something I never, ever do. The task was: brush my teeth. I am joking, I do that twice a day, the task was to make my bed.

Not simply make my bed, but make it super well, with hospital corners.


Why this challenge?

Order is nice to have in your life. A cluttered room puts my mind in a cluttered state, and I get nothing done. The best way to get order in my room? Well, neaten the most front-and-centre thing: my bed.


Execution.

Woke up, made my bed. Hospital corners were easier to do than I had thought they’d be, however, I forgot to take a picture and so did it again the next day to do so.

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What I’ve Learned.

Making your bed is considerably less painful when you aren’t being told to do so from your parent. That is so with many things in my life however. I have despised something as a child, such as cooking or even cleaning, only to have later found within myself a legitimate interest in it, at my own pace.

An additional note is that when I make my bed, the successes and failures of the day are independent. I could have everything go wrong during the day, and still come home to that one little win. It is a success that I can ground myself in, preventing myself from losing hope in myself and no longer trying, which does happen from time to time.

It is interesting that one little activity can have such wide-reaching ripples, even if they are subtle.


 

June 21: The Stone Age, Sort Of

Day 21: No Tech.

Notice: I went through a spout of depression and complete absence of motivation, and so challenges 19 and 20 were not done. I apologize.


Why this Challenge?

Phones and laptops are terrible for you. Don’t get me wrong, they let us accomplish amazing things, but when they control us they destroy our attention spans, our motivation, our imagination and much more.

But they are also rather addictive, so scheduling in time without is kind of a necessity.


Execution.

I kind of cheated in the sense that I still had an alarm, however as soon as I stopped that, I turned off my phone and did not look at it again for the rest of the day. It was quite easy once I decided it actually.


What I’ve Learned.

My phone and my Laptop take up a ton of my day, and when I did not I have them I was forced to do other things. Granted, that was mainly just sleeping, but even with an extra five hours of nap time, I still got more done in the day than usual, which I think is just crazy. I shall do this more often.


 

June 18: Life Purpose

Day 18: Write a life image.


Why this challenge?

I have no idea what I want to do in life, and I hate it. My university course was a move of interest, and not something I wanted to pursue afterward. My work is simply a means to make money, even if I am learning a lot about alcohol and its culture. I have no idea what I want to do.

This challenge was set in the hopes that once I sat down my whole life’s purpose would come flooding out onto the paper.


Execution.

I was helping collect tickets at the door to a school dance concert, and between the two performances, I put pen to paper. I find writing such things by hand, rather than typing them, to be a much better idea. There is something intimate about it.


What I’ve Learned.

I still have no idea what I want to do in life. Perhaps there is no such thing as a life’s purpose, perhaps we have to make our own life’s purpose or perhaps it isn’t an issue at all. There is no physical future, much like there is no physical past, and maybe we have to keep that in mind with the topic of purpose. Do what you want to in your specific moment in time, and make the most of it.


I will be taking a day or two off of this blog, for personal reasons.

June 17: Tour De France

The challenge was simple: go for a bike ride. The execution was not simple.


Why this challenge?

I own a bike. I bought this bike a little over a year ago. I have probably ridden this bike less than ten times. That is why I chose the ‘challenge’.

The second reason for doing this is that I am the type of person who stays in his room. I will go to work, lectures, and be at home, that is all. But going outside is great, being around trees is amazing and simply being mobile is enjoyable. Staying inside is easy, however. Comfortable also.

I purchased my bike to ride to university, and the first time I did, a piece of glass punctured my tire. Being somewhat of an extraordinarily lazy person, I did not get around to fixing it until I moved, six months later. Since then, the main users of my bike have been the people I live with, which is great because if that wasn’t the case, it would probably have no users at all.


Execution.

As a direct result of my not using it, the bike was in disrepair. The joint between the handlebars and the rest of the frame was loose, making them not only wiggle but slide side to side. Add to that a semi-flat front tire as well as bad wheel alignment and you can imagine how difficult it was to ride. I could blame my housemate for not repairing the bike after he used it, but I could also blame myself for simply not using it at all. I choose option 2. The trip was only half an hour, around the immediate neighborhood, but it was pleasant, and the wind in my face actually improved my day.


What I’ve Learned.

Only buy things you will use. Like most, consumerism grips me to the core, urging me to always buy, buy, buy. Regardless of how much I scratch the itch, another object takes the pedestal of want. I make it sound like an addiction because it is, society is just built to see this addiction in a positive light.

Be honest with yourself for a moment, and ponder this:

Do you find yourself with no money at the end of every pay week? I do. I could work an extra couple of hours, or even get a better paying job, and I will always have no money. Because, much like a drug addiction, the moment supply goes up, demand does as well. Your wants swell to the size of your ability to acquire them. You get more money, and so you can buy better things.

Stopping yourself buying unnecessarily is easier said than done. Marketing is a billion-dollar business with the sole purpose of making you want. Businesses are in the business of making you desire their product, simple, and all the individuals in society perpetuate those desires. All of this is in the name of looking good. An average car might get the job done perfectly, but we want a Ferrari. I could wear an average t-shirt, but I want that branded logo. I could enjoy music from a cheaper speaker, but I want the one that is 50% more expensive, even if it is only 5% better. Why? Well, people will see it and think I am cool of course! I know it is stupid and yet it is so ingrained within society, human biology and my very self that it is incredibly hard to curb.

What is more, also in parallel with other addictions, your brain justifies it in any way possible. It will work much better, I will have it for a very long time so it is worth it, I got paid extra so I can afford it and plain impulsively purchasing with no regard are all tools the brain uses to reach its desired drug.

I bought my bike with full intention to use it but I did not. An ample amount of self-honesty and a dash of ‘I’ll be fine without it’ is essential to stop the addiction train in its tracks. Again, easier said than done.

I shall try.


 

June 16: Social Conformity

The task: Lie on the floor for 10 minutes in a busy area.


Why this challenge?

Anxiety sucks. I don’t have extreme anxiety or anything, just regular old social anxiety. When you think your shirt looks stupid and immediately assume everyone is looking at you, saying the same thing, or when you notice you are walking funny and start analyzing your walking which makes it worse and sets you into a downward spiral until you give up and sit down. That sort of stuff.

Heart thumping, adrenaline running through your veins and tunnel vision that accompany anxiety are all results from the fear response. You know, the thing that is supposed to prevent you from being eaten by a tiger. That fear response sucks but isn’t objectively a bad thing. What’s bad is when we let it affect our actions and stop us from doing the things we want to. So how do you prevent it from controlling you? Well, it is quite simple: become familiar and learn to be okay.

I first heard of this from a company called comfort zone crushers. Basically, they issue challenges that put you out of your comfort zone so you can grow as a person. Conquering fear and social anxiety sounds like a great thing to do to me, hence this challenge.


Execution.

I would first like to note that from the moment I got into my Uber, my heart was racing. I went to one of the major train stations in my city (Central Station) and asked the workers very politely, heart trying to tear out of its prison, if I would be allowed to. With thoroughly confused faces they declined. So, I rode the train to a lesser known station, in a sort of food court/shopping center and laid down, heart still thumping, just inside the entryway.

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A few seconds after I did so, the steady war drum in my chest died down to… a less intense war drum? (I didn’t know how to complete that metaphor) Why did it die down? Well, the fear was unwarranted. No one cared. The very worst thing I got were strange looks.

The majority of people either didn’t look or simply looked and kept walking without a second glance. A few people gave strange confused glances, and a lot more than I thought actually smiled at me. I was met with smart quips about stargazing and how it was a great place for a nap. At one point a child, hand in hand with his father, pointed at me, giggled and exclaimed: “look at that man Daddy!”. He was adorable and it made me beam. About halfway a girl, who I found out was named Lane, sat down beside me and shared a pleasant chat. After 6 minutes, I got up because I was already late for work and felt like I had conquered my fear.


What I’ve Learned.

One thing I have learned from studying psychology is that social conditioning is a tremendously powerful influence, drilled into us from the moment we are born. The reptilian brain, which all humans have, perceives social ridicule as a threat to your life and triggers the fear response in an attempt to save you. Your body treats any perceived threat, such as a tiger, starvation and you guessed it, social ridicule. We have the same response to an angry tiger as we do to the possibility of someone thinking we are weird.

Social anxiety is stupid. I mean, I understood that already, however now I know it to the core. Am I suddenly vanquished of all anxiety? Hell no, that wasn’t the point of the exercise. Am I better able to handle such things? Definitely. At least a little.


 

June 15: Human Heater and the Mind’s Limits

If you can learn how to use your mind, anything is possible. – Wim Hof

Day 15: Learn the ‘Wim Hof Method’.

Disclaimer: Don’t be stupid. Research stuff before you do it and learn how to do so safely. A good way to accomplish that is to google “downsides of ___” or “bad experience with ___”.


Why this challenge?

First of all, what is the Wim Hof Method? Well, it is basically a breathing technique for self-heating and handling the cold. Wim Hof holds a plethora of world records in regards to handling extreme cold and is nicknamed ‘The Iceman’. He sits in snow with nothing but shorts, swims in frigid arctic waters and once did a TED talk where he stood in a chamber filled to his neck with ice. It is safe to say that this man can withstand cold, and is an example of how much our physiology can do.

It has a few health benefits, which is appealing, but who doesn’t want to be able to feel warm in a t-shirt and shorts while everyone else is shivering? It is a useful skill. When I lend my girlfriend the jacket I was wearing, I want to be warm also.


Execution.

If you would like to know the specifics, you will have to research the method yourself. But in summary, it involves three things: controlled hyperventilation, exhale and hold, then inhale and hold.

I did it right before my shower, three times consecutively. I had my shower entirely on cold. Yes, entirely on cold.

Side note: Cold showers are actually super healthy and feel good too, research it if you are interested.

So how did it go? Well as the warmth of the breathing swept over me, I put my leg into the water aaaand turn the heat a little up. It is winter here in Australia, land of the kangaroo. That means that my water was extremely cold. I have had cold showers in the past, but mostly in the summer. Don’t worry, the shower was still way colder than most people, probably including myself, would have handled. Yet I did handle it.


What I’ve Learned.

Our bodies can do much, much more than we think they can. The sole purpose of the human brain is to keep itself alive, and the easiest way for it to do that is to stay away from the limits of the body. Why use 95% of your fuel when you can use 40% and still be okay? I think this is why you hear of people doing extreme things in extreme situations, because their brain is much more scared of something else than it is of overexerting the body. Like a 14-year-old girl that lifted a car which had fallen onto her dad while working on it, or individuals, stranded without water or food surviving much, much longer than they should have. Another example is Buddhist monks, who have silenced their brain’s concern, meditating without food and water for extended periods of time.

This challenge has helped me see that I have not been living within the limits of my body, but rather the limits of my mind.


 

June 14: Optional Starvation

This challenge was to have a 24 hour fast.


Why this challenge?

There are a ton of health benefits to fasting, such as ketosis, longer life spans and better overall health. (very scientific explanation, I know) There are also psychological benefits, such as resiliency and more control over hunger. The reason I wanted to do a fast is partly those benefits, and partly seeing if I could do it.


Execution.

Not eating is kind of self-explanatory…

The only thing I consumed during this 24-hour period (00:30 14/06/17 to 00:30 the next day) was water. I woke up at 1 pm (which is cheating, but it wasn’t a planned thing) and immediately found myself going to the kitchen for food. I had to stop myself many times during the day. The shop’s food court was hell, but hunger pains kind of didn’t happen to me during this fast.

Was it hard? Not really, no. I had the expectation that it was going to be much harder. I think, however, that because I just agreed and accepted it, it made it much less of a challenge.

As soon as the 24-hour mark ended, I cooked one of the biggest meals I have had in a while. Seasoned chicken with broccoli and sautéed onion and mushroom. Top it with some quinoa and a rasher of bacon and I was in heaven:

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It doesn’t look pretty, but it was delicious.

What I’ve Learned.

I have learned how unnecessary the mental panic you get when you are hungry is. Think about this: whenever you are hungry, it takes up most of your brain power and pretty much controls you until you eat. Well, that is until you accept it. If you start having a conversation with someone, and ‘forget’ about the hunger, you aren’t forgetting it, you are subconsciously accepting that you will be hungry for the time being, and that allows you to focus on the conversation. The hunger is there, but the mental panic isn’t.

The other thing I learned about myself is just how much of what I do is on autopilot. I came to this realization when I blocked YouTube and still found myself searching for it. Basically, throughout the day I would get up and walk to the kitchen because I was hungry, even though I wasn’t going to eat. This act was only realized when I got halfway down the hallway and questioned what I was doing.

I compare this to the model of habit that goes as follows: cue, response, reward. In this example cue is hunger, the response is going to the kitchen and get food, and the reward is eating the food and the dopamine release that goes with it. It really showed me just how unconscious habits are.