June 30: A Month Well Lived

The Task.

Look back on my month of challenges and give myself some critiques, notes and thoughts.


Why This Challenge?

Well, what is the point of doing something to improve yourself if you don’t actually look at what you have done and the lessons you have learned? It is hoped that doing this will not only uncover additional lessons that encompass the entire month but solidify all of the teachings I have come across.


Execution.

Writing this post, and skimming back through all of my old ones.


What I have Learned.

During June I had 30 challenges and missed five of them. These five are reading the Quran, going camping, learning a song on the guitar, speaking to a stranger and investing in the stock market. Only one of these challenges – investing in the stock market – was due to not being able to, on account of the minimum stock purchase being $500. The others? Well, the two days that encompassed reading the Quran and going camping I had a patch of depression and laziness, which spilt over to the other challenges I missed.

This is a problem that has followed me constantly. I will have a week or two of good productiveness whereupon I shall accomplish many things. Immediately following these days of kickassery, I fall into a hole of sadness, void of all motivation and run instead by the twins named “what the hell is the point?” and “I don’t care anymore”. Occasionally this will last one or two days, but more often than not it will last a week or so. Fortunately, as I grow older and more capable, coupled with the wisdom of not going so full steam ahead, (but rather a constant, steady pace) these potholes have been getting rarer and smaller.

Recapping What I Have Learned From Each Challenge This Month:

  1. Start a blog. Starting a blog was actually a really great idea. I enjoy writing it and it kept me on track a lot more than I would have been without said blog. I do indeed wish to continue this.
  2. Giving a busker $20 showed me the infectious nature of happiness and the joy of giving.
  3. Banning YouTube kind of didn’t work and I need to do so again.
  4. Going for a walk was pleasant.
  5. Curtains have improved my sleep considerably. I am glad to have them.
  6. It was nice to appreciate someone.
  7. I really enjoy having a photo wall. It is pleasant to look at and meaningful.
  8. Catching up with relatives is considerably more enjoyable when it is of your own volition.
  9. Baking can be hard. Don’t worry too much about your failures.
  10. Sewing is easy. Don’t worry too much about rips.
  11. The 2-hour meditation session was one of the most difficult challenges in the entire month. Would highly recommend it. I learnt that I need to start meditating again.
  12. Decluttering my room organised it a bit better, and I need to do it again.
  13. Taking the time to learn a poem by heart forces you to delve considerably deeper into the meaning, both personal and overarching, of each individual word and phrase.
  14. A 24 hour fast was much easier than I thought and made me feel great.
  15. The Wim Hof method was definitely useful, however, the way of actually doing it is so over the top and time consuming that it is not practical for everyday use. I discovered the potential of my body with this challenge.
  16. Laying on the sidewalk showed me that no one gives a crap. They are way more focused on themselves than they ever will be about you.
  17. Going for a bike ride was pleasant and showed me the importance of equipment upkeep.
  18. The life image somewhat helped, but not knowing what I want in life was a major hindrance, as you would expect.
  19. I did not do this challenge.
  20. I did not do this challenge.
  21. No tech for 24 hours was great fun, and actually very relaxing.
  22. Making my bed was great to come home to and I shall try to make it a habit.
  23. Not only was dancing great exercise, but it was a great release.
  24. The dream house exercise was kind of pointless.
  25. I did not do this challenge.
  26. The grateful listing thing was very nice to do, and I have definitely noticed a change in my perception of things.
  27. Skydiving truly was amazing, I must do it again without the illness so I can actually enjoy it.
  28. I did not do this challenge.
  29. I did not do this challenge.
  30. I am currently doing this challenge.

All in all, I have accomplished a lot this month. I  have also learnt a lot this month. It was a change of pace to do something every day, which made me glad I did this.


Moving Forward.

I thoroughly enjoyed this blog. That being said, a challenge a day is quite a lot to put into action, hence missing 5. So as I continue this blog – yes I will be continuing – some changes need to be made.

Posts shall decrease to either a weekly or twice-weekly basis. This means that there is no excuse for me to delay a whole week’s worth of posts like the past. This change will be complimented with a decrease in challenges. I have thought things through and my decision has landed on a challenge a week, coupled with month-long challenges. I think that this is much more doable with day-to-day life.


 

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June 27: 14,000 Feet Up

The task.

Leap from a hunk of metal that is filled with explosive liquid, while strapped to another person. How do you survive? A big sheet and some rope. I am not talking about a MacGyver episode, I am talking about skydiving.


Why this Challenge?

We all know someone that has skydived and, at least in my case, every single one of them describes the experience as ‘once in a lifetime’ (which, by merit of being able to do it twice, is a false statement, but whatever). But anyway, I figured I had better do it.


Execution.

I would like to start by saying that I was not well this day. On a scale of one to ten, ten being optimal wellness, I was around about a negative five. I am not joking. My skin was ghostly white, I felt incredibly sick and I vomited both during the skydive and afterwards in the car home. Why did I not postpone? Well, I had already paid for my ticket.

Prior to the day, some work colleagues found out about the challenge, which they decided they wanted to do also. Matt, Ben, Alex and I booked the event online, at Redcliffe. We got there, I paid for the video package ($160! Highway robbery!) and we got into the harness and jumpsuits. A ten-minute bus ride, and into the plane we went. Another ten-minute plane ride to 14,000ft and the roller door opened.

At this moment, I stopped worrying about my sickness and my fear of heights kicked in for the first time. There was nothing I could do, however, so I resigned myself and did what I was told. Legs over the edge. Hands on the chest. Deep breathe. Out the plane, instructor strapped to my back.

The gut-drop lasted no time at all. The cold wind lasted the entire time. I was chilled to the bone and flying through the air. Freefall. Freefall. Freefall.

The chute opened. The chill was a little less, the speed a lot less. Aaaaaaannnd, I was going to be sick. Thank god my instructor had a bag because it would not have been pretty otherwise. I got to enjoy the scenery for a total of 3 seconds the entire time before I had my legs up and we landed.

 


What I’ve Learned.

Try to be in your best condition for big events in your life. I will not say why, but I could have definitely prevented my sickness, which would have allowed me to enjoy the skydiving a million times more. I will definitely be going again.


 

June 26: Gratification Abound.

The Task

List 30 things I am grateful for.


Why This Challenge?

There was a study undertaken which compared the effectiveness of different activities on participant’s happiness. I cannot link this study, unfortunately, as I have not read it directly, but rather second-hand accounts of it. What the study found was that a gratification journal, which consisted of writing down 3 things you are grateful for each day, was one of the most effective boosters of overall happiness. It is said to be the case due to its uncanny ability to focus your attention on the positive, and not the negative. During the day, the participants started to look for things they had gratification for, thus focusing on those instead of more negative events.


Execution.

I typed up an empty list numbering from 1 to 30, sat down and filled it in. I made sure to actually feel gratification toward each one, else the exercise is useless.

I AM GRATEFUL FOR:

  1. The food on my plate, and the easy access I have to such food.
  2. Unlimited access to drinkable water.
  3. A safe roof over my head. Without it, I would be left to nature’s elements and may not even survive.
  4. Cheap access to public transport. For just $5 I can travel 14km in under an hour. If I had to walk it would take me two and a half hours.
  5. MY AMAZING GIRLFRIEND, for putting up with my flaws and my jealousy and just being perfect for me.
  6. Electricity. With it comes the ability to accomplish so many amazing things that tribesmen of old would think me a god.
  7. The Internet: despite its ability to stop me from accomplishing things, I know so much information it is incredible.
  8. The fact that nuclear war hasn’t accidentally been started. It has almost happened 3 times. (Probably more!)
  9. The fact that nuclear war hasn’t purposefully been started. I have reasonable faith in my personal ability, but I do not think I am resilient enough to withstand that.
  10. The diversity of food that is within my reach. I can get Asian, American and African produce all from the same Australian grocery store.
  11. Alarms and clocks, for starting my day and keeping track of it.
  12. Shoes. I wouldn’t know the first thing about making them, and they are extremely useful.
  13. Washing machines. It really wasn’t too long ago that people had to spend hours doing it by hand.
  14. Hot water. I can turn a knob and get it. Could you imagine a world where you had to have cold showers ALL of the time?
  15. Stoves. I do not have to labour over attaining wood and then lighting said wood.
  16. The collaboration of society that allows humans to specialise in fields.
  17. The performance industry, providing thought-provoking entertainment, expressing emotion that words cannot and spreading happiness.
  18. Advances in medicine, allowing us to live longer times.
  19. Books, preserving knowledge and creating entire universes through imagination.
  20. Music, in all of its glory and variety.
  21. Clothes, for warmth and protection from elements
  22. Photos, capturing infinitely minuscule moments of time as constant reminders of memories.
  23. Air conditioning, allowing us to bypass discomfort.
  24. Emergency services, keeping society safe.
  25. Laws, however unjust at times, they still improve life considerably.
  26. Refrigeration, preserving food.
  27. Food processing, for making food standardised and safe.
  28. Farmers of all types, whom often do not get recognised but whose work is shown on everyone’s plate each day.
  29. The love I have in my life
  30. Out of an infinitely small chance life was created on this rock and so I am able to sit and write this list.

What I’ve Learned.

I take a tonne of things for granted, each and every day, which sitting down and appreciating was very nice to do. For the next couple of days, I shall be aware of them and cherish them more so.


 

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.

19457531_1826506684031585_1315175671_o.jpg


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 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.


 

June 13: If

Day 13 was to learn a poem by heart, simple.


Why this Challenge?

Expressing, in different forms, is not only enjoyable for me, but often bring with them a new perspective. Poetry is great at taking complicated, often overwhelming feelings and expressing them compactly. If clearly expressing your thoughts and feelings was the Mona Lisa, poetry is more a white canvas with a single dot in the middle. That is to say, not everyone gets it, lots think it is over-valued but for those who do connect, the clarity is boundless.

I like poetry. Not most poetry, and certainly not traditional poetry. Spoken word poetry, however, I really enjoy. Poetry that is not meant to be read and analyzed, but rather spoken, performed and felt.

Honestly. I have no idea why having a memorized poem appeals to me. I know why the poem I chose appeals to me, which is for the same reason I wanted to memorize it.


Execution.

I had a poem in mind: If, by Rudyard Kipling. (copy of it under the post) I really enjoy this poem because it basically lays out reminders on how to live life and lists the values I would like to embody. These values are that of Stoicism, which I thoroughly enjoy. I figured that if I knew it off by heart, it would be much more effective.

The poem speaks clearly, but in a way that is not detrimental to itself. I only regret that there is no fun word play within it.

Unfortunately, I only have two of four stanzas memorized so far, but I will definitely be continuing my efforts.


What I’ve Learned.

Memorization is harder than I thought, and I need to procrastinate about 40% less than I do.

I also noticed that when I wrote the poem out and thought about every line for the purpose of remembering it, I discovered a lot more meaning for myself. Of course, this meaning is probably only in my eyes, as the way humans look at things is a reflection of themselves, so it is interesting to take a third person view on such things and take a different look at myself.


IF

Rudyard Kipling

 

If you can keep your head when all about you

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!