100 days to a better you

Learning
28 December, 2015

Find fresh inspiration and enrichment with a 100-day challenge

As 2015 draws to an end, it is time to celebrate and reflect on the year gone by. Carving out this space for introspection and gratitude can be deeply meaningful. And many of us will also be coming up with our resolutions for the new year. But as you would probably agree, several of our best-intentioned plans don’t end up making it past the first couple of months of the year. All you need to do is match your new list of resolutions with what you had down last year, for that reality check. Once the novelty of the new gym membership or eating healthy or reading more wears off, it is easy to get caught up in the routine of everyday life. If this sounds familiar, then this year perhaps try figuring out what it would take to stay inspired. Not just excited about changing a bunch of things and trying out lots that is new, but what it would take to get inspired and keep that going.

I am very pleased that Vandana Gupta has written this week’s message. Vandana joined the Communication Design team in 2014. Over the last couple of years, she has led our communication efforts across different GCPL platforms, including creating our corporate websites.

Please read on…

Let’s face it. As splendid as life is, it’s easy to get bogged down by routine. The daily grind can get the better of you… But that’s only if you allow it to.

There’s a saying that goes, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you”. (At the risk of sounding spiritual,) I firmly believe life is about pushing your limits, finding your ‘purpose’, and working towards becoming the best possible version of yourself, one day at a time. It’s amazing how we are offered a chance to start afresh each day of our lives. It’s with this realisation that I decided I want to make every day count.

Around the same time, I figured I was doing too little of something I had left on the back burner for months – creative writing. Coincidentally, #100happydays (www.100happydays.com) was taking the Internet by storm too.

And that’s how I was bitten by the 100-day challenge bug. It was time I put myself to the test and revisited something that gave me immense joy, and yet hadn’t pursued in months! For as long as I can remember, I’ve been able to express myself best through writing – this was my way of proving to myself that I still had a fire in my belly for being consistently creative for a good stretch of time.

So what was my challenge specifically about, you ask? To write one haiku poem a day, for 100 consecutive days. Haiku, as you may know, is a traditional Japanese form of poetry, which consists of a 17-syllable verse, broken into three phrases of 5, 7 and 5 on (syllables), respectively.

Why haiku? Firstly, for my 100 days to qualify as a ‘challenge’, I had to attempt a form of poetry I hadn’t experimented with before. Second, I had to be realistic about how much I was going to write every day, if I wanted to make it to day 100. And thus, it had to be short form 🙂

Did I manage to complete my challenge? I most certainly did! Here’s a selection of some of the poems I wrote:

Scuba diving
Schools of fish pass us
amid rainbowesque corals.
We gaze on, awestruck.

Early morning stroll
Tiny drops of dew
slide down the petals and leaves
to caress the grass.

Camping
Fireflies, by the
hundreds, appear from nowhere
and light up the night.

What did I learn from the challenge?

It goes without saying, this experience taught me an incredible lot. Besides having to convey so much in such few words, it brought with it some crucial learnings:

1. Find joy in ordinary things

Writing a haiku a day compelled me to appreciate the small things in life, each day. It taught me that if I became a keen observer of nature, I could find inspiration all around. I also gained new respect for my favourite Romantic poets, Keats and Shelley, realising one need not look too far, for a muse.

2. Keep a diary

You never know when inspiration hits you. Throughout the 100 days, I always kept a diary and pen handy, to take notes on-the-go. I insist on jotting down my initial ideas on paper, since it helps me jog my memory and revisit my thought process, much more easily. Oh, and it serves as a wonderful keepsake!

3. Prioritise

When you’ve set yourself up for a challenge, you need to find sufficient time to complete it, among umpteen professional and personal responsibilities. Figuring out what takes precedence and what can take a backseat can be a new challenge altogether! Knowing this all too well, I would set aside about half an hour, generally at the beginning of the day, to finish my poem.

4. Focus

Working with little time to start off, I would be left with no option but to get “in the zone” as soon as I sat down to write. Tell your family and friends you will be inaccessible for that much time, if need be. Trust me, they will understand when you’ve voiced how much what you’re doing means to you. I would just park myself in a quiet corner and let my thoughts flow. As I gradually focused more, I would grow completely unaware of any distractions.

5. The bigger picture

On days when I just couldn’t put something together in the morning (my most productive time), I remember being tired after attending social events, but would refuse to call it a night unless I was happy with what I had written. More than a couple times, I drifted off into a slumber with pen in hand – and the lights on! As I woke in a start from my shuteye, I’d remind myself, “Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture”, and somehow complete my task. There will be days when you can’t give your best shot. But no matter which day you’re on, think of how proud you would be to achieve your goal (your 30, 50 or 100 days) and you will get through just about anything.

How do you complete such a challenge?

1. Choose wisely

Before you embark on your ‘challenge’ journey, think hard about what you truly enjoy (or detest). Or something you’ve been putting off for a while, but have been wanting to do for a really long, long time. You must want to achieve your goal bad enough, to work for it. Having trouble settling on a challenge? How about choosing something from here, for a start? 🙂 http://thoughtbrick.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/30-day-challenge-list-ideas2.jpg – Be honest with yourself, set your target, and follow it through.

2. Buddy up

You’re more likely to stick to your plan if you get your friends involved. But make sure you buddy up with the right people, to stay on track and attain your goals – they’re supposed to motivate you, and not distract you. I got two of my best friends to join me on my 100-day challenge. One is the most disciplined person I know; the other, insanely creative. Both of them played unique parts along our journey. While one was always around to pep talk, the other would give me tips on how I could dabble with different rhyme schemes, to liven things up. Receiving encouraging and constructive feedback from both of them, each day, pushed me to set my bar high, and keep delivering.

3. Use technology to your advantage

In this day and age, we’re more connected than we’ve ever been before. My two challenge buddies and I were scattered across five countries, over the span of the 100 days. We didn’t let that come in the way of sharing photographic evidence of our completed task for the day, on our WhatsApp group. Social sharing is a great way to keep the pressure on. It’s no wonder that fitness enthusiasts swear by Fitbit and Endomondo!

4. But don’t be a tech slave

As much as technology eases our lives, it can also be quite the time-zapper. In some cases, it turns out to be the bane of our existence. Life has never been as distracting as it’s become post-social media. Learn to switch off from the ‘noise’ for a while, and you will find time for the more enriching things.

As Lao Tzu famously said, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The first step is the most crucial one for you to take.

Since I’ve been writing poems from a very young age, it almost comes as second nature to me now. A few days into the project, I stopped thinking of it as a challenge. It became a sheer pleasure. If for nothing, you must keep going with your challenge for the unmatchable sense of accomplishment you’ll be overcome with on the last day.

You hold sole responsibility to enrich and add meaning to your life. It’s for you to seize the moment and make the most of it. Start off easy – but don’t stop there. Let your first challenge be a stepping stone for the ones to follow.

Read inspiring books. Surround yourself with positive people who motivate you. Listen to great music. These are some pick-me-ups that get me going every single time.

So what are you waiting for? As the year draws to a close, go pick up that paintbrush. Put on those trainers. Sign up for those guitar lessons. Unleash your inner child. Stay motivated, and stay inspired. I wish you all the best with your endeavours!

A big thank you to Vandana for sharing her perspectives and her 100-day challenge with us.

Do try and spend some time in self reflection over the next few days. And as we start on 2016, raise the bar and challenge yourself. Find that something you have been wanting to do for a while; the resolution that you keep putting off – make the time for it this year and enjoy it. Do this for yourself. We would love to hear what you end up discovering.

Here’s wishing you and your families all the very best for a wonderful year ahead!

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