Hold Your Feet to the Fire

Accountability - motivation In the post, How Shall We End This Year?—my first of the month post in which I state my new challenge—I asked for others to make their challenges known, as well. I extended the challenge to “Finish [the year] Strong!”

I was so gratified that a couple of readers took me up on the challenge and responded by stating good, “meaty” challenges for the remainder of 2012. When I say meaty, I mean that their challenges are not just token “challenges” to appease their consciences and convince themselves that they are doing something beneficial for their personal development.

Angela wrote:

“I’m thinking a BANG and no fizzle for me. 🙂 [She is referring to my question in the post as to how to end the year—with a bang or with a fizzle?] Therefore, I publicly announce that my 30-day challenge is to write at least 300 words (approximately 1 page) everyday this month, more specifically 300 words for my thesis. I’m really hoping to do more, but this minimum daily amount is a good step for me. It is a must-do for me to get 80 pages done by mid-March or no graduate degree for me, and that is NOT an option! I did get about 15 pages done in the past 2 1/2 months, which included a month of just research; a decent start, but not all I wanted to do. Even my math-challenged self knows that if I keep that rate I will not finish in time, so I need to turn up the heat. So here I am, saying it in black and white.
Side note: Thesis or no thesis, I know the bigger picture of this process is that God is training me how to do something small on a daily basis (no matter how I feel!) to get to a bigger goal down the road. This is something I’ve never been good at but want and NEED to be, especially as a mother with kiddos and no big chunks of time. I did 300 words today, so little by little here I come! Thanks for the support and all the great posts to inspire me. I will keep you posted.”

Cindy also took up a December challenge:

“My challenge is to get up with the alarm every morning and stop hitting the dadgum snooze button! It’s a very bad habit I’ve built over the years and it’s time to get the ball rolling in the other direction. I’m missing some very valuable time in the mornings when I snooze, and I don’t want to miss it anymore! Gotta make my minutes matter these days and not let tiredness govern what I do. You are so right about December! We will finish strong.”

I wanted to share these two ladies’ challenges with you because 1) I want you to be as inspired as I was by their positive, proactive challenges, and 2) I wanted to assist them in their challenge this month by taking it even more public. Why would I do that? Because it will help insure their success. The more public we go with our goals and challenges, the more likely we are to succeed. There’s only one caveat: You must report your progress (or lack thereof) publicly, as well.

I can easily use myself as an example here. I started this blog on January 1 of 2012. Between January 1 and July 1, I posted 10 times. That’s not a very active blog! I remember vividly sitting at my computer on July 1 and contemplating whether or not I really wanted to “go public” with a challenge to post to the blog every day that month. Honest; I sat and stared at the screen for a minute or two before I posted that first challenge…

I often read about “30-day challenges” on the web, and now it’s my turn. I am officially beginning my first public 30-day challenge. You’re welcome to join me if you like.

And so began the 30-day challenge concept. Did it work? Yep; I posted every day that month, and I have remained very consistent since then. What made the difference? Going public like Angela and Cindy have. Angela even went so far as to post a link to How Shall We End This Year? on her Facebook page and invited others to join her with a challenge of their own. Now her friends know about her challenge, too.

However, I will quickly add that my real motivation came not so much from “declaring” what I was going to do, but in the awareness that ‘the whole world’ could tell if I was sticking to my declaration or not. All one had to do to see if I was succeeding was check the website for that day. Granted, there were a couple of posts that went up just an hour or so before midnight, but by golly, something got posted every day (I’ll admit that some posts were weightier than others; I did post a picture of my new running shoes one day).

Unless your challenge is to start a blog (where ‘the whole world’ can check your progress), then I suggest you come up with some creative ideas to hold yourself accountable in a public forum. Angela could take her Facebook post a step further and post daily progress reports. Both ladies could enlist the help of some close friends that they send an email report to on a daily basis. Whatever methods are used, I suggest the stakes be as high (aka, embarrassing or costly) as you dare.

In the spirit of this post, I will report that thus far, for three days in a row, I have fulfilled my challenge of writing for at least 30 minutes first thing in the morning. Only 28 more days to go!

It’s not too late to get in on the fun and start a new, positive habit before 2012 is history. Will you join us? State your challenge in the comments. And leave a comment about how you plan to hold your own feet to the fire, too.

Photo compliments of Frank M. Rafik via Compfight

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15 Responses to Hold Your Feet to the Fire

  1. Sherri Sumstine says:

    I have seen you change and grow and wanted to say that I’m sure many like me are perhaps not yet participating in the challenges, but we ARE watching you!
    I have been through a long season of change and I’m in the closing weeks of it as 2012 comes to an end. I am not the same person I was five years ago. Most everything about my life has changed to some degree.
    God’s best for now lies right here in front of me and I know it’s full of many promises! They will take courage to exlpore and faith to believe, but they will come to me as I acceot God’s challenges to grow in new soil! And i will!
    Keep going! Blessings! \|”/

  2. Cindy Lofton says:

    Yep, I’m starting to sweat now! I can feel the heat, but of course in a good way. The accountability factor is probably a key ingredient of what I’ve been missing in my previous challenges that ‘fizzled out’. I really want to execute this one 100%. Building this particular habit seems pretty important to me and the rhythm of my day right now. So far I’m 2 for 2, and I’ve got some ideas on how to be more public w/ it and even give myself consequences for not accomplishing it that day. I appreciate the kick in the pants!

    Angela- you can do it! I loved what you said in your ‘side note’. I totally agree and can relate. So here’s to a month of putting our ‘feelings’ in their place and being obedient to the process He’s created for us. You’re not alone! Cheering you on.

    • Diane says:

      You can do it, Cindy! Keep us posted on your progress, too. I agree, this is a particularly beneficial challenge. How you start the day often makes all the difference in how the rest of your day goes. It’s so much better to get a head start on the kids when possible.

  3. Angela says:

    I appreciate the support Diane and Cindy! I do feel that heat 🙂 I remember the first time I read your 30-day challenge articles and was very inspired. I knew right then and there that I was lacking the key element of accountability and momentum. I too had that “pit in my stomach” kind of feeling when I thought about stating what I knew I needed to do in front of everyone. It took me a month to be ready to commit and I can say there are days I definitely would not have written had it not been for stating this challenge in a public forum. Now that I have done it, I have felt a new infusion of grace to accomplish my my goal #1 because I know I’m doing what God is emphasizing for this season of my life and #2 I’m sharing my process with like-minded people and sharing life together. I think #1 is key, because there are many “good” things we may want to challenge ourselves to do, but if it isn’t “accurate” for the season God has us in, then I don’t think it’s possible to stick to it. I know it wouldn’t be possible for me to stick to something if the inception of the idea is ME-based only. Speaks to the “God-confidence” you spoke about in another post Diane, there are limitations to pure self-willed initiatives and I know only with God saying “YES!” will there be success.

    Anyway, all that to say: I’m glad to report I’ve written 300 words for my thesis everyday since I started my challenge last weekend. It feels good! I laughed at the part where you said you would get your post in just before midnight. I’ve had a few of those evenings already where I’m reading and reading, then 11pm hits and I know I NEED TO WRITE SOMETHING. That is always my problem, I get lost in all the research and don’t stop to force myself to write things in my own words. This challenged has forced me to just WRITE. Sometimes the writing isn’t that great, but it IS writing and I can feel the snowball effect of building a habit, slow at first and then gaining speed.

    I’m also learning a lot about myself and being more creative with structuring my day. I’ve been able to find time that I didn’t see before. I’m starting to realize that “finding time” is much more about your perspective and priorities than anything else. In many cases, tell me what you spend the most time doing and I’ll tell you what you truly value.

    I was thinking it would be cool to have a place on your blog where people can track their progress, like a community calendar or something.

    • Diane says:

      Great comment, Angela! I like that you are learning a lot about yourself through this process. That’s a sure sign that this is a good challenge for you.
      I love the idea of a community calendar or some kind of place on the blog site to track one another’s progress. I have considered this idea myself, but I didn’t know how to make it work. People will have to have access to the site so they can record their progress. Do you have any ideas? Or do you know of a site where “members” can log in and put info on the site? I’ll mention this to our tech team, too, and see if they can help out. Most of all, I just love that you are offering suggestions to make it better. Thanks!

  4. Amie says:

    It’s time for me to ‘go public’! For the past few months I have challenged myself to a 30 Day Challenge multiple times. It has been to wake up with the alarm and not hit snooze, just like Cindy’s. I have been trying to do this on my own for the past few months and it hasn’t worked because I don’t have accountability and I don’t have the ‘fire’ to hold me to it. I haven’t let it get me down even though I have failed miserably over the past few months. Instead I have just kept trying. Well it’s time to stop trying and just do it. I know that building this pattern for the future is what God wants me to do right now. Reading about your challenge Cindy has spurred me forward. And it’s not too late to start for this month and so with the 22 mornings left here I go!

  5. Cindy Lofton says:

    Yay Amie! Now I know I’m not the only one who struggled with snoozing! 🙂 You can do it. WE can do it. One little trick I like is timing my coffeepot to brew when my alarm goes off. I like waking up to a hot cup every morning so knowing it’s down there waiting for me is a little more incentive to get out of bed. Maybe try switching up your morning routine, along w/ the accountability, since you’ve been working at this challenge for a few months. Might be good to start fresh and do something new that you look forward to the night before for the next morning, like going outside first thing and looking at the stars, or doing some stretches to some music you like. I don’t know, just some thoughts. I’ve never had a morning routine I actually looked forward to until now, and I’m still working on it!

    Angelea- loved your comment! I couldn’t agree more.

    Update on my challenge: I’ve woken up w/ my alarm every day except for 2 days when we were out of town and I was out of my regular routine & didn’t purpose to hold to my 30dc and felt ‘extra’ tired. I got mad at myself, I knew I couldn’t gotten up with my alarm and been fine but just chose not to. I’ve decided to give myself a consequence when I don’t wake up with my alarm: I don’t get coffee that day. (I REALLY like my coffee). I just need to put more weight into this process, so we’ll see how this works.

    • Diane says:

      Cindy, sounds like you are having a successful challenge so far. The coffee-pot is one of my motivators, too! Keep giving us those progress reports. You can see that it helps others.

  6. Amie says:

    This week hasn’t been fully successful. But I have held to my challenge on mornings that it was important that I wake up extra early. It was bold thing for me to do as I was entering into finals week, and I didn’t fully think through that fact beforehand; which was probably good. 🙂
    Cindy, I like the idea of going outside first thing in the morning! I think it is important for me to get in the routine of being active in some way first thing in the morning. It’s important that I remember that I craft my mornings, rather than letting my mornings craft me.

    • Diane says:

      Good job, Amie! I like the ideas of “crafting” your mornings. I find it helpful to envision myself getting out of bed and “getting with the program”–whatever it is–as I’m drifting off to sleep at night. Kind of like programming my mind.
      Another thing, even though you weren’t 100% successful, you were probably more successful than you would have been if you hadn’t made the goal and made it public, right? That means it was successful! Just keep pressing!

  7. Cindy Lofton says:

    Amie- that’s great! Keep it up! Mine’s going well. I actually missed 2 days this week and I was pretty frustrated. (I didn’t even hear my alarm one morning) I have been emailing a group of ladies I’m close to every day (with their permission) after I get up to say whether I got up w/ my alarm or not. That level of accountability is definitely helping. I DON’T like telling them I missed the mark that day. So far this 30dc is going better than previous ones.

  8. Angela says:

    Ok ladies, I’ve had a tough week sticking to my challenge mostly because I was traveling and fighting a cold going around our house, so I got out of my groove. I’m writing to recommit and start again. I have been working on the thesis a little each day, but getting to the 300 words requires another level of focus that has been hard for me to get to. I think in another post Diane talked about not breaking the chain. I can see how missing one day can cause me to lose momentum and focus, but learning grace and starting again is also important. This is all a good lesson for me and teaching me a lot about myself. I couldn’t do it without knowing you are all doing it with me and “watching me” in a sense.

    I’m still on “vacation” with family until after Christmas, but I know that even on vacation 300 words is doable and needs to be done. I even have some help with the kids 🙂 Here I go again starting today and will keep you updated!

    • Diane says:

      You go, Angela! I think it’s great that you’ve managed to get in any writing time during the hoidays/vacation. I like what you had to say about grace and starting again. So true!
      Keep us posted.

I love to read your comments!