Sunday, August 29, 2010

How to Start a Challenge?

In the last article I left you with the question:
what is something that you have never considered doing before, something that would challenge you and surely expand yourself into unknown areas if you would only grant yourself the time to learn how?
Before reading on, consider answering the question above. To practice challenging yourself and changing your beliefs it is important to think and move beyond the boundaries of your personal comfort zone by taking action. It's important to take all this out of the theoretical and into the practical. The examples I provide in my posts may need to be personalized and activated to provide you the greatest learning experience. If my running example doesn’t inspire your imagination, replace it with something else, something that makes more sense to you and helps you to connect with the concepts. Understanding your system of beliefs and its consequences starts when you translate my running stories and into situations that are meaningful to you.

So let me ask you this:
Do you want to move beyond the boundaries of what you believed possible for yourself? Do you want to change yourself in new and unexpected wonderful ways by taking on a big challenge?
As kids we change ourselves on a daily basis without thinking about it. It’s a part of life. We decide to do things without knowing what the results will be. Encouraging words from our parents or teachers help us to do and learn things we never even considered.

In primary school I was a quiet, shy child. When time for secondary school came, I told my parents I wanted to go to a school where I knew no one. At eleven years old I knew that it would be easier to make a new start, to establish myself in a fresh new environment. I knew that putting myself in a place of discomfort would help me expand and grow myself. And it did. Today, I am very grateful that my parents listened to me and decided to go with my inner wisdom.

I am a runner
After seven months of training I finally came to the conclusion last week that I am a runner. I was running my 8.7 mile run when a couple of early morning cars passed with the drivers looking at me. I was trying to imagine what they were observing. They saw a woman running persistently through the hills in the middle of nowhere. Clearly sweating and hot, while there is no indication that she is at the end of her run. I imagined it looked quite impressive. And realizing that, I became a runner in my own mind. Goodbye Try-er, hello Do-er!

Seven months ago
In my first running article What to do in 2010, I wrote that I wanted to come up with something really challenging and new for 2010, something I would never have thought to do, something that would truly challenge me. Something ridiculous! My goal of running a marathon was born.

In subsequent posts Marathon Training Week 1 and Marathon Training Week 2, I showed you some of the beliefs I held and how I changed some of them to help me overcome my startup issues. I believe that these are valid and useful ways of approaching new challenges and they formed a crucial part of helping me expand into new areas.

Fear of Failure
I believe that the way I started my running project is a great way to go when you want to start something new. You define a clear focused goal (running a marathon) and a timeframe (by the end of 2010) and an attitude of doing (I'm going to learn to love running). And then you start! Instead of listening to your judgments, you just start doing what you intend to do. Then while doing, you actively work to build helpful beliefs and address challenging beliefs.
Do and then change, not change and then do.
Since taking on my running challenge and writing about it, I've talked with lots of people about the challenges that they'd like to take on. The most common reason that holds people back is the belief that they must first figure it all out before starting. And when asking questions about their concerns it always seems to end up in the same place: what if I spent all my time on doing thus-and-such and it didn’t workout?

How to start overview
If you'd like to start something new, you can use the overview below to get started. I use experiences from my running as examples. However, I recommend that you replace them with examples that are meaningful to you.

1. Answer the question: what if I spend a lot of time on this and it doesn’t work out? 
What if I spent my time training for a marathon and then didn't run one? Hmmm... I assume that I surely would be in better shape than I am now. I would have a better idea of the physical shape I am in, especially if I had to stop because of physical condition. I would have challenged myself in new ways, and stimulated new neuropaths.

2. Decide on a specific goal and timeframe.
I want to run the New York marathon on November 5, 2010.

3. Declare your goal publicly.
Hello, world! I signed up for the New York City Marathon on November 5, 2010! Even though I hate running, I have promised myself I am going to love it!

4. Do some quick research and create an action plan.
I browsed the web, scanned through books and read about how to start running. I used what I knew about my body (not in good shape) to adjust what I found to my needs. I quickly came up with a plan, one that I could start using immediately.

5. Start Doing Immediately (in the first two days after you declare your goal).
Two days after my declaration to run a marathon, I started running. I had no clue how I would fulfill my crazy plan, but I knew that doing nothing was not going to get me there. I recommend minimizing the time between deciding on your goal and acting upon your goal. You will not figure out everything before the start. Figuring out comes with experience. Experience comes with starting. Once you start, you can go back to check in, refining your action plan as often as you want. Indeed, you will uncover unexpected challenges and steps that you'll need to take to address them.

6. Celebrate Yourself for the Action You Are Taking.
So you're planning to run a marathon and you just completed your first walk? THAT IS AWESOME! You took action and you're moving towards your goal. Don’t worry that you're not running yet. Don’t worry about anything. Just shout: YES! I AM DOING IT! I AM TAKING ACTION TOWARDS MY GOAL!

7. Create a List of Pertinent Beliefs
On a daily basis write down the thoughts that help you persist in pursuing your goal and write down the thoughts that seem to hold you back from either starting or persisting.

This is where I leave you today. If you are ready to start a challenge, feel free to make your public announcement by answering the seven questions and posting them in the comments. Or alternatively, simply declare your goal for all to see! Next week I will talk about persistence, how to develop it and how to continue towards your goal in spite of the obstacles that crop up along the way.

Enjoy starting your new projects!

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