The 30 day challenge. There are many of them ranging from workouts to eating to not biting your nails. Each is about breaking a habit and creating a new one. The first three months of this year were a time of rapid growth where I realized some things needed to shift. This required some serious purging.
The things I decided to cut out or not participate in were by no means the worst ever. They were simply impeding my goals. Over a 3 month period I purged the following for my mentality, clarity and well being.
1. No Heat
This was something I ran across on YouTube as I was frantically trying to find a DIY mask for my poor hair. My hair has been colored many times, however I had only been to the salon for a color ONCE in the past 5 months and my hair still seems dry, frail and my version of “thin”. I have an insane amount of hair, but it seemed thinner non the less.
I use a straight iron or a curling iron every single day of the week and most weekends as well. Despite using nice paraben free shampoos and rich oils in my hair, nothing was more damaging that that constant heat. I had gotten to the point where I cranked my straightener all the way up to 450F in order to straighten my hair faster. Yikes!
Thus the No Heat Challenge took effect. I stored the hot tools in a cupboard in the guest bathroom and did not pick them up for 30 days.
My first few weeks were the most challenging, as was expected. What was not expected was that not using heat tools and seeing my hair in a natural state brought up some serious insecurities. I had to start confronting these ideas in my head about what I should look like that I had long thought were smashed.
In fact I considered myself a very progressive woman. Not a woman who would have a total break down because her hair was wild. While pulling my hair up was also an option this felt even more revealing. I realized I had to start welcoming my natural state, not wrangling and controlling it with a hot tool.
This transition may sound a little deep, and I thought so too. I had no idea that locking my curling iron and straightener away in a cupboard would also unlock the deeply rooted insecurities about my appearance. The 30 days have come and gone and I have only broke out my iron one time. Otherwise I am embracing myself and my insanely wavy hair. I am pulling it out of my face and giving way to the kind of self love I cultivated in my mind, but never in the mirror.
(Plus, this combined with my hair masks has made my hair grow crazy fast!)
2. No “Extra” Work at Work
Spinning off from Tim Ferris’s The 4 Hour Workweek, I decided to look at the amount of time I was spending being busy at work rather than productive. While I have talked about this challenge before, it is something I revisited in January. I set time boundaries and made sure to use my one hour prep period with care.
Email was not checked before 11am and only once at the end of the day as that was a serious time suck and keeping me from other tasks. I made sure I completed tasks in “bulk”. Meaning doing all grading for Photography at one session instead of small bits.
Most importantly, I left work by 3:30 everyday and did not stay late. I said no when I needed to. I did not try to take on extra projects that were not in my scope of responsibility and I attempted to not feel the guilt.
The soul crushing guilt of saying no the first few times nearly made me stop. As a teacher especially, it was so hard to say no to staying late for the 4th day in a row to help out a student. Yet, I needed boundaries. I was exhausted and feeling burnt out before spring break was even on the horizon.
The guilt began to dissipate when I began to separate my job from my life. When I realized I cannot work harder than the students. I started to define myself less as a teacher. I am many things, teacher is one of them, not all of them.
In addition to the internal growth, I became more productive during my prep period at work. By bulking tasks and saying no to the unnecessary I was able to get so much more done in terms of planning, grading and offering my students leadership opportunities. By limiting my time, I somehow felt like I created more of it!
3. No Dairy
Cut out all dairy possible. I found I was lactose intolerant and it was causing bloat and discomfort. I also felt like the dairy was literally weighing me down and I needed to get rid of it.
Well, I was not successful at lasting 30 days with no dairy. The fact is I freakin love cheese. Instead, I found a few alternatives and made some compromises. I easily gave up milk and yogurt and replaced the milk with coconut milk and found an amazing coconut milk creamer at Trader Joes. We also replaced our cheese with an almond milk cheese that is delicious.
These replacements made the shift easier and I have continued with this in my diet. However, I did eat pizza once and had some mac and cheese at a restaurant. I paid the consequences and decided every once it awhile it was worth it. Once I broke the initial consumption it was an easy thing to only occasionally indulge in. I feel better and my skin looks so much better. It was the right choice for me.
I encourage you to talk to an allergist if you are experiencing any symptoms with food consumption. My phone consultation was free under my insurance and I was given so many tips about food and allergies.
4. No Shopping Ban (Still going)
Inspired by Cait Flanders “The Year of Less” I took on my own shopping ban. This challenge started with a clutter clean out, which included a serious re-evaluation of myself as a creative. To hear this story see The Unknown Creative and a Box.
After the major de-clutter (again- as I feel I do this every few months and my possessions are thinning over time), I was ready for the ban. I created a list similar to Cait’s-
- Things I could Shop For on the regular such as groceries, gas, items for our pets and toiletries when they totally run out.
- Things I Cannot Shop For at ALL such as Online Sephora Purchases, Take Out, Clothes/Shoes, Household Items like candles and decor.
- APPROVED List: (These are items I knew I would need in the next year) including a swimsuit, black flats, tennis shoes, baseball hat, travel backpack, bras and anything that wears out to the point of a hole as long as I throw it out after replacing it.
The Result 3 Months In:
It is only fair I start this with #strugglebus . So far I purchased the black flats and tennis shoes from the approved list and replaced one sweater with a horrible stain. I did order some essential oils which were not allowed on Amazon and quickly turned around and shut off the ‘One Click” purchase button. They seriously make it way too easy, am I right?!
My main struggles were coffee (takeout) and online shopping.
I would only grab a takeout coffee every once in awhile, turns out exactly 2 times per month. I was pretty consistent in stopping on a Friday afternoon when I was utterly exhausted and picking up a coffee and peanut butter cookie seemed like the perfect pick me up. Since I drive right past the coffee shop on the way home I had a little mantra I repeated to myself. It worked and in the time since the ban started I only stopped once, felt some remorse, and have not stopped since.
Instead I make a coffee at home and skip the cookie.
Online shopping was the most challenging. I love to peruse online at the end of a day and “shop” around. Removing Amazon one click and made it harder for me to make a purchase. I was getting most of my ideas for what I “needed” from YouTubers that I follow who always seem to be suggesting products. So I had to cut out watching these videos until I could get a handle on my purchases. I also decided that for other purchases like the approved clothes I would need, I would go into a store for as many as possible in order to make it more challenging to purchase.
I have spent a significant amount less and created even more of a community. When I needed that random item, I checked instead with my friends or neighbors. I borrowed a dress and I started lending out my items as well. So far it is feeling much better and I am excited to see the growth and savings as the year progresses.
5. Looking at the Numbers
For heaven’s sake this is not the budget numbers…so take a deep breath. I regularly check personal capital. The numbers I did not check for 30 days were Google Analytics for our blogs and my Instagram followers for my photography page.
I was getting too wrapped up in the numbers and allowing this to effect me on a personal level. While the numbers first used to inform me, they quickly grew into a stressor as I was trying to figure out why someone would follow and then unfollow and what that meant about me and my work. I also was comparing our numbers on the blog to that of other bloggers who started at the same time. Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
Thus, I decided not to look at the numbers for a bit and focus only on content, sharing and more sharing the love on other platforms.
I did this for the month of January and it was honestly a relief. I also started writing some of my best content during that time. This is because I was thinking about what I found essential and valuable, making my writing more authentic, rather than what others are doing or what others might want to read. The photographs were taken for myself again, rather than the numbers or trends on Instagram.
So far I was rewarded in the best way possible. On Twitter I found an incredibly supportive community of bloggers (especially the women). on Intstagram my followers grew by 100, this took me nearly half a year previously to grow by 100 followers.
My stories were featured on CampFIRE Finance and Rockstar finance in the following months. I participated in the #WomenRockMoney movement and created a guest post for WomenWhoMoney. Taking a month off from looking at the numbers in January was the best thing I could do. It gave me energy to create and cultivate real connections. By not looking at the numbers our numbers skyrocketed in the following months. (And of course I was looking then)