After reading The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life by Chris Guillebeau, I was inspired to create my own challenge/mini-quest. In his book, Chris discusses the path to happiness is the pursuit of a long-term quest or objective and that it’s not accomplishing the quest itself that leads to happiness, but the journey. Taking steps each day towards something great.
For the past 4 years, I’ve always taken the month of January off drinking alcohol, but wanted to come up with a more challenging goal to start the year off. I wanted to pursue a goal that scared me. Normally I run between 4–7km/day, 6 days a week with one run maybe being 10k. By setting a goal of 10k everyday, I felt that uneasy feeling in my stomach — the time commitment, the weather conditions (January’s are known to be very cold in Toronto), and the potential of injuring myself after running 31 days straight without a rest day. The uneasy and scary feeling is exactly what Chris Guillebeau describes as a quest worth pursing. Although most quests are longer term, I decided to create my own mini quest for the month of January with the purpose of self growth. On top of the 10k/day, I also wanted to improve my blog writing skills so added a few other items to my daily 10k challenge:
- Run 10k
- Take a new photo on each run
- Write a blog post everyday about that run
- Share my run on the Nike Plus app on social media (to keep me accountable)
- Drink 0 alcoholic beverages
With resistance training and stretching included, this was a time commitment of 2+ hours everyday which I usually fit in mid-morning.
The beginning of the challenge really excited me and made me feel like I could do anything. I would wake up happier, with more enthusiasm knowing that I was going to accomplish something challenging each day. After about a week I started seeing that the time commitment was huge and with my busy schedule, I was finding it increasingly more difficult to fit my runs and posts in. As I wrote in one of my blog posts, I could feel my limbic system starting to act up some days causing heavy procrastination from starting my workouts. There were even a few days where I had to wake up at ungodly hours to do my challenge. One Sunday I had hockey at 8:45am and started my run at 6:00am and there was another where I was going from Toronto to Waterloo to give a talk at my old high school at 8:30am and needed to be out the door by 6:00am to arrive on time. That day, I woke up at 3:45am and was out the door running at 4:30am.
Overall somedays were better than others — I felt incredible somedays and other days were very painful. Towards the third week I just wanted the challenge to be over, but then got a second wind going into the last week and approached it with the same energy as I had for the first week of the challenge.
Overall I ran 345.7km (214.8 miles), which is equal to 8.19 marathons. In addition, I wrote 31 blog posts, 31 social posts, and drank 0 alcoholic beverages the entire month of January. I definitely dropped inches and built some lean muscle mass over the course of the month and noticed the biggest body change in the last week when I started taking 10g of creatine and ate very clean for a week straight. In addition to my blog posts, I achieved more outside of my challenge too including writing two Medium articles (writing one article was a goal for the entire year), setup my own WordPress blog, read two new books, was consistent in writing out my daily to-dos before bed — I also tackled another adult behaviour change challenge simultaneously that included a ranking system of behaviours I wanted to change and a daily check-in with my mom before bed. The 10k runs left me pretty exhausted by day’s end so I ended the behaviour change challenge 3 weeks in — I think I took on a bit too much.
Overall I had more enthusiasm to take on other challenges with work and personal growth, and had the energy to do it. By not consuming alcohol, I saved close to $500, had more focus with my work, and more will power to eat healthier foods.
For me, writing out a calendar and crossing a big ‘X’ off every morning for my non-drinking days gave me an incredible satisfaction. I decided to add social post, blog post, and 10k to my daily calendar so I could get even more satisfaction crossing things off my list. This isn’t for everyone, but definitely gave me the energy to jump out of bed every morning to cross another day off my no-drinking calendar.
Now that it’s over, I feel a bit sad and want to come up with a new, more long term challenge to tackle. Whether it’s running, cooking something new everyday, going to a yoga class for 30 days straight, I challenge everyone to take on a quest of some sort. It develops your self discipline muscle, gives you an extreme sense of control in your life, helps develop a new habit, and gives you more purpose every day.
For those that are looking to pursue their own quests, Josh Kaufman wrote a great blog post 10 Big Ideas from ‘The Happiness of Pursuit’ that summarizes the big ideas pulled from the book.