I Tried A Year Of Monthly Challenges & Changed My Life In The Process

December 21, 2017

This time last year I was formulating a plan for how I could set some achievable resolutions for the year ahead.  Determined to beat the inevitable failure that we seem to set ourselves up for when we set these infamous New Year’s Resolutions, I needed to be smart in my choice of tactic. I believe this failure comes when we a) don’t have something concrete to stick to and b) set ourselves the task of getting across the gorge without a bridge, ladder or stepping stones, if you get me? We all want to be better people in a plethora of different ways, but if there’s something I’ve learned over the years about human nature, it’s that regardless of our age, we make most headway when there are baby steps available.

Ditch The New Year's Resolutions and Try *This* Transformative Experience Instead

So instead of the usual, vague, ‘get in shape’ or ‘eat better’ that many people pine for as December comes to a close, I decided I’d embark on a year of mini, month-long challenges instead. These would all cover a different ‘wellness’ aspect that I wanted to improve upon or experiment with. Now that I’m in the final couple weeks of the year, I’ve been indulging in some reflection time which – in many ways – is just as important as the monthly challenges themselves. What have I learned? Which was the most difficult to stick to? And most importantly: how do I feel now that these 12 months have passed?

Without tooting my own horn, I think I’ve kicked this year in the ass. Despite being dealt a pretty tough hand in my personal life, I rose to the challenges and committed myself to them with every fiber of my being. The great crescendo came in the form of deciding to quit the birth control pill and get back in touch with who I am as a woman on a most basic level. Here’s how I got to this point and why I’d encourage you to consider challenging yourself over the next year. You’d be surprised where you might end up.

Formulating the Plan

While it’s easy to be productive after a solid 8 hours of sleep, on a morning when you rise with the sun beaming gloriously on your face, the truth of the matter is that most days are plagued with obstacles of one kind or another. Making the choices that you know are best for you in spite of the hardships you face are easier if you’re working with learned, habitual behaviors. Research shows that it takes 66 days to form a habit, but I figured that by sticking to something for 30 days, I’d get a pretty good rhythm at least–and more importantly, honestly be able to answer as to whether it felt right for me.

Over the course of 2017, I’d embrace a new challenge every month. If I liked it, I’d stick with it. If I didn’t, all I had to do was keep on keeping on for 30 days. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a drop in the ocean. And that’s the point. It’s actually much easier than you think to do something for just 30 days. And once you’re done with those 30 days, just saying to yourself, “what’s another day?” Before you know it, you’ve created a habit.

In the final couple weeks of 2016, I wrote a list of some things that I thought would be good to try over the coming year. Some were physical challenges, others mental, others spiritual. Some intrigued me. Some scared me. I figured I’d be my own guinea pig and record my observations. If I felt I’d gained something by doing one or another challenge, I wanted to be able to share that with others.

The Challenges

So you might be wondering about the ways in which I challenged myself. I successfully completed:

A month of meditating daily

A month without caffeine

A month without complaining

A month without processed food

A month bossing the plank and squats challenge

A month of zero waste

A month without makeup

A month without social media

A month of free-writing upon waking

A month of charting my menstrual cycle

A month of keeping my blood sugar stable

A month of astrological awareness

I look at that list and feel tremendously proud because it sure as hell wasn’t easy. Meditating daily took reshuffling of my schedule, and going caffeine-free resulted in the headache from hell for 15 days straight. A month without complaining made me seethe with rage and saying no to processed food was pretty tough when I was on the go all the time. The plank and squats had me getting overtaken by old folks as I ascended the stairs. Going zero waste had me hitting walls in all directions of life as I knew it. A month without makeup made me feel like I wasn’t expressing myself properly. A month without social media was isolating when all I wanted to do was share the important stories I was reading about the world. Free-writing made me face some of my deepest fears. Charting my cycle took commitment and time invested in educating myself. Stabilizing my blood sugar meant prioritizing meal times above all else, and reading up on where I’m at in my astrological chart has taken time, patience and understanding when I consider that right now might not be the best time to x, y or z.

But contrast to all of those aforementioned struggles are the gems that I’ve learned. These include realizing that I function far better without caffeine – goodbye mid-afternoon slumps! And that living zero-waste, or as close as possible, truly aligns with my values. Oh, and that social media can be a beautiful resource, albeit one that must be indulged in sensibly.

The Greatest Truth

As 2017 unfolded, I realized that all of the wellness challenges I was doing were compounded by the fact that there was one key thing that was still enslaving me. That being: hormonal birth control. It’s a topic of much debate and discussion – all of which is incredibly important – but for me, it was revealed in my month of free-writing that I had reached a point where I physically couldn’t keep doing it to myself anymore. We only make a change when the prospect of not doing so becomes worse than the risk of making that change. I had reached that point. The brain fog, the sense of disconnection from who I was, the self-harm of suppressing what is actually an incredibly vital health indicator month-to-month made me realize that the time had come to explore other options and become pro menstrual cycle.

Now, a couple months on, I’m happily using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) and feel more like myself than I’ve probably ever felt before. Reaching this point may well have been inevitable, but gut instinct tells me that the mini challenges that proceeded this huge decision were the much-needed appetizers to whet my appetite for maximum self-growth and liberation.

A new year looms on the horizon–one that can gift you true self-actualization and discovery if only you let it. Spend some time in the next week or so thinking about all the ways you’d like to better yourself next year. Then, pick one of them and try it out for a 30-day trial. There’s a life-back guarantee waiting for you at the end of it, so you’ve got nothing to lose. Well then, what are you waiting for?

If you were to do a 30-day challenge, what would your challenge be?

Also by Kat: Tropical Coconut Vegan & Gluten Free Cupcakes

Related: 20 Ideas for New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Your Life

Fact: Helping Others Makes You Happier. 3 Simple Resolutions To Get You Started

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Photo: YIFEI CHEN on Unsplash

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Kat Kennedy is an Arizona-based physiology doctoral student and holistic health advocate writing about science, health, and her experiences as a third culture kid and global nomad. She's @sphynxkennedy everywhere.


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