A longer post about a lot of stuff
Today’s post is longer than usual because I’m a teacher and I’m on summer break and because day-time television stinks and because writing is away to avoid doing housework and because I’ve got a lot to tell you and I know you’ll listen.
So on Monday I started the 21 Day Freedom Challenge.
There is a new challenge everyday. Some of the challenges are limited to that day, others are for the duration of the challenge.
Along with the challenge, I instituted a personal challenge of not using my cellphone before noon. I’m using the mornings for my own version of VRT therapy, reading, and writing.
Cindy and I are also using the time to work with our three children on their reading, writing, & math skills, and physical fitness (admittedly, this was all Cindy’s design).
But here are the first four challenges of the 21 Day Challenge:
Day 1– Take a cold shower
Taking a cold shower is all the rage. Growing research suggests that there are plenty health benefits for taking cold showers.
This one wasn’t hard for me. It also helps it’s July and cold showers feel good.
But the real point of taking a cold shower is will-power. Knowing that you’re capable of turning on the warm water yet you don’t.
Look, I like a warm shower as much as anyone but when I finished my first cold shower (which was 2 minutes and 35 seconds) I felt awake, accomplished, and surprisingly calm.
The cold shower is about will-power.
It’s about those 3 seconds before the cold water flows south and hits your skin.
It’s about knowing you’ll be uncomfortable and accepting being uncomfortable.
It’s often the sheer anticipation of being uncomfortable terrifies us the most. And because of this we use our power to avoid uncomfortable situations. We take hot showers and take comfort in being comfortable.
Day 2–Pick a diet and follow it for the rest of the challenge
Stoic philosophy asserts that a healthy man can help others better and longer.
This makes sense to me. With my ongoing health issues, I experienced the great benefits of eating healthy. Going vegan for 10 months quelled my inflammation and allowed me to come off steroids and injection pain suppressants completely.
Though I’m no longer vegan, I still do not take medication.
I have learned that eating healthy is simply about being mindful of what you’re eating.
Though the challenge doesn’t advocate a specific diet, it promotes healthy dietary choices.
I was a little overwhelmed when people were discussing fasting, juice cleanses, and Keto diets. Diets that, if I committed to, I believe I would fail.
Choosing to remodel your eating lifestyle is overwhelming. (I honestly don’t know how I got through 10 months of veganism.)
So I’m going to keep things simple–I’m going to replace sugary drinks ( for me it’s–lemonade and ice tea) with water.
Regarding diet, I feel a simple change is good for me right now.
Plus– sometimes it’s okay to rig the game so you can win.
Day 3 — Develop a daily outfit
We suffer from decision fatigue.
Our modern lifestyle pummels us with choices from what we’re going to wear today to what’s for lunch to what movie should I watch tonight on Netflix.
Our minds can take only so many choices. This is one reason why we’re so damn stressed.
Having a daily outfit, a uniform is one less choice you have to make.
During the school year I wear either grey or brown khakis, Adidas canvas sneakers, and a polo shirt or a half zip long sleeve shirt with a collar. And I openly make fun of my lack of fashion sense to students who often wake up earlier then they have to just to pick out an outfit.
One habit I developed during the school year was to lay out my clothes the night before. This saves time and saves me from making a decision with sleep still bogeyed in my eyes.
In the spirit of this challenge, I will continue to lay out my clothes for the next day– eve though it’s summer and I’m just bumming around in shorts and a t-shirt.
Day 4– Go a day without complaining
Almost 6 years ago I was diagnosed with brain damage. This diagnosis wrecked me. I was pretty sure I was going to die and if I didn’t die, I was certainly destined for a sad existence.
For years, I asked the question why?
I fell into the torturous loop of complaining and feeling sorry for myself– which is such an easy thing to do.
I’m currently reading an awesome book, On Fire by John O’Leary–gifted to me by my friend Jen.
When he was 9, O’Leary suffered burns, mostly 3rd degree, on 100% of his body.
He fingers were amputated.
In Chapter 1, O’Leary explains his tragedy was his inflection point– “a moment in time that changes everything that follows.”
Acceptance did not come easy for O’Leary but he learned to not only accept his inflection point, but to embrace his new, hard life. His tragedy offered him extraordinary gifts of gratitude, humility, and perseverance.
We get sick.
We get injured.
We get manipulated and abused.
We lose everything.
But rested in these hard moments, if you’re brave enough, are opportunities to transform your tragedy into a life of hope and inspiration. A life that helps other people shoulder their own tragedies.
I’m thinking about how awful and senseless her death was.
We all endure tragedy.
We’re all convinced we have the right to complain.
Yet our tragedy is not what makes us special. What makes us special is having the courage to respond positively to tragedy.
One of the goals of the Challenge is to teach you to observe your thoughts–especially negative thoughts.
How often is our anger or anxiety simply products of our thoughts?
Thoughts are not concrete. They do not have tangible mass and weight. Yet our thoughts, if we let them, can sink us.
When we complain, we give drain our precious power.
When you feel like complaining, observe your thoughts and ask yourself, “What will complaining accomplish?”
Then use your power, put yourself in charge of the situation, and say to yourself, “_____ happened now I’m going to do something about it.”
This declaration allows you to reclaim your power.
Takeaways from the 21 Day Freedom Challenge:
-Everyday of the challenge you’re sent an email that outlines the day’s challenge and how the challenge relates to Stoic teachings and how it fits into the modern world. There are also thought-provoking passages from Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Henry David Thoreau, Confucius as well as links to other articles written on the day’s challenge.
-The goal, I think, of the challenge is to not “quiet the mind” but to consider your impulses and think through and question your impulsiveness. We often let our impulses run our life. I want ice cream and I want it now. We often scold kids for being impulsive but we, the adults, are often no better. This challenge makes you mindful of your thoughts and consider the consequences of your actions.
-Being deliberate. May all your actions have a purpose. And may those purposes benefit not only you but others as well.
-Being humble. Understand that praise or criticism are fleeting and it’s your actions, not what is said about your actions, that matter.
-Being open to new ideas and experiences. Understanding that “your way” is just one of a billion ways of thinking and acting. “Your way” may be of good intention but “your way” might have you pointed in the wrong direction on a Los Angeles highway.
-Accepting the challenge gives access to a Slack channel (a chat room) with other people who have accepted the challenge. Though it’s great to connect and talk to people, the channel is very noisy. Some people are encouraging and helpful and offer thoughtful reflections. But some posts are just humblebrags— which is discouraging.
I’ll stay true to the challenge, but aside from telling you, I think I’ll keep quiet on the channel. It just seems like the stoic thing to do.
PS– the book is going well. My illustrator just finished a portrait of a young man that will be used throughout the book (I’ll share shortly). I hear so many of my young male students saying that they don’t like reading books because books:
a) don’t have anything relatable in them
b) don’t have pictures
…this one will have both.
PPS– I’m looking to connect to a psychologist/therapist that works with adolescent/young males. If you know of anyone who might be interested in helping my research please contact me at email@example.com.
PPPS– a former student wrote a personal creed and shared it with me. He reads it to himself everyday. The last 3 sentences are:
Be a better person. Don’t take the easy way out. Do something.
PPPPS– Now I’m done.
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