Spiral of Awesomeness™

I know many of you probably started thinking I failed my 12-week challenge since I’ve not been posting in over three weeks… Well, the fact is that I’ve been very much succeeding in my challenge and thus not simply had time to write to my blog. In today’s post I’m going to discuss how I’m upgrading 12-week challenge to a whole new Spiral of Awesomeness™ Challenge. 

The Six Hours of Everyday Awesomeness

For this challenge I started with the foundation that it should take 6 hours every day. That way, it is at least theoretically possible for me to do this on top of a 12-hour work day. I need to be capable of that, for those days will come along. So I didn’t add any more than 6 hours worth of habits to it.

While I have all the time on my hands, the challenge will still be difficult because of the time constraints. Let’s go through what the Spiral of Awesomeness ™ Challenge constitutes of. Half of the time goes to the “Path” I’m following, then there’s a good chunk of physical maintenance and one habit of mental maintenance. Ultimately this challenge is all about improving your mental patterns and clarity, as even physical activities improve that.

The Path ~3-4 hours

I’ll tell you a little secret here. For my three hours of writing, it actually takes me 4-5 hours. Why? Cause I’m unforgiving on myself. I actually go by the number I’ve actually written. As you might know, I write on this site called 750words.com – the site measures the time you’ve actually spent typing.

So if I’m not typing, the minutes won’t rack up. I will just be staring the screen.

But yeah, that’s what I mean by the “path.” The skill or endeavour you’ve chosen as your life path, you do for at least three hours a day, every day, without fail.

During those three hours you just stay as focused on working the skill on your path. It doesn’t even matter that much if you’re working on your big projects. The important thing is to put the practice in, and not be just going through the motions. Focused quality practice.

As much as this activity trains you in whatever you’re doing, it trains your mind in general as well.

For me, writing three hours a day was something horrible initially. I’d rather put a bullet in my head than had to face writing for next three hours. It still doesn’t go smoothly. But the beating of the resistance in itself is what makes it worth it, and what really trains your mind. It brings a sense of accomplishment to every day.

Working out 20 minutes-2 hours

I counted working out as a two hour component, cause basically it takes me that much when I do really hard workouts, counting in all the warm-up etc. that belongs into the process. On those days I’m either physically wrecked from yesterday’s workout, work or from footy, or short on time, I can do just a 20 minute one. I don’t believe in having rest days in your workouts, better just to keep habit up and have active rest by doing easier workouts on those days the exercise regimen is starting to kick your ass.

Stretching/Yoga 30 minutes

For me, stretching works on both your mind and body. The whole idea of yoga is this – you’re fully focused on the movement. Whether its yoga or stretching won’t matter too much, though yoga is generally more effective, but the important thing is to just do this important piece of body maintenance. If I didn’t stretch, and I’ve had a lot of these patches of late, my generally sedentary lifestyle just destroys me.

Meditation 30 minutes

I’ve normally tried meditation only for 20 minutes a time, but people have said the effects are better on 30 minutes, so I will try that. I don’t really care what form of meditation you do. I sort of do it as explained on this video. Only difference I actually do my meditation standing (none of the seated positions feel quite right to me). For me, all it is is just focused presence. Not being caught in the mental chatter. It is still there, but I’m not caught in it. I am yet to ever fully cultivate this habit so I can’t speak for its benefits, but I a lot of people praise it, and its positive benefits are scientifically proven. I know I sound reeaally convincing, but just take my word for it. If you don’t believe in meditation I gotta direct you to this world famous picture of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc.

Thich Quang Duc

You can’t deny effects of meditation when seeing that expression.

What strikes me in that picture is how calm and composed he is as he is burning to death. Now I’m not commenting on the act itself, but how focused, how peaceful in your mind you have to be to be burning to death yet not even flinch in pain or in fear? He didn’t move until his charred corpse fell on its back. I’m not saying self-immolation is necessarily admirable, but the way he did it is what really makes me go “I want to be able to do that.” I’m sure if he was here the Spiral of Awesomeness™ Challenge would have been just a joke to him, too easy.

I actually have the picture of him burning as my desktop wallpaper for daily inspiration. But now I’m starting to want to go on tangents, so lets move on.

Only cold showers not long cause you can’t stand it for long

I don’t know and I won’t look up the physiological effects of cold showers. I’d imagine it boosts up your circulation, or something. I don’t really care about that because we areI am only going to do this as a mental challenge for the duration of the challenge, and not as a permanent habit. I got the idea initially from Julien Smith’s excellent free book, The Flinch. He talked how we “flinch” getting under the cold water, and it is similar mental process as going for something that might be a bit scary, like talking to a pretty girl, or doing a video blog in public (speaking from experience here).

Taking only cold showers trains you to go against that mental process. To move forwards, as opposed to retreating when you feel the flinch. It really trains you to recognize it, and to just do it. Get the unpleasantness over with.

Even with as cold as the water is here, you get used to it in few seconds anyway. Well, except for the head. As cold as the  water is here, it cools your head too much so I think its unhealthy.

I couldn’t do this challenge in Malaysia, for the “cold showers” I got in there were actually much warmer than the middle setting is here.

Additional Challenge: 1 hour of reading a day

I admit right away I don’t read enough. So I will throw this challenge on as an “if there’s time” bonus for myself. It takes the theoretical time spending over the pre-designated 6 hours, but for me this is important.

I Will Stop Doing These

To further amp up the mental effects of the challenge, I am going to include some habits I have to stop, because they are messing up your mind and body. Abstaining from these temptations becomes easier because while very busy anyway, but that’s not to say many of these would be challenging on their own, let alone as a part of a bigger challenge like this. Let’s go through the things I want to abstain from.

Masturbation

There’s a whole site dedicated on telling you what’s this all about, called YourBrainOnPorn. I didn’t know if what was said on the site was true when I discovered it in late 2011. It might have been just sensationalist propaganda. But I gave it a shot. I stopped masturbating and porn for two months (one of the hardest things I ever did) and hoo boy, let me tell you. It really had a strong effect on me and my mental clarity. I would imagine it is very individual as well, the effects.

Eight weeks will be almost that same two months so if I manage the challenge again (I’ve pretty much fallen back to my old habits) I should feel the same effects.

Eating junk food

For me, junk food means snack foods like chips and popcorn, all kinds of sweets and soda. Anything that has a lot of refined sugar, really. It all hazies up your mind and causes that same response in dopamine as excessive masturbation, making you lazy as a result (not that I claim I understand anything about brain chemistry. I just understand the effect from experiencing it).

Drinking anything but water

I know what you’re thinking now. “You gotta be kidding me, right?”

No. I’m not kidding.

I personally don’t drink any alcohol, and very rarely soda either. So this only means giving up juice and milk.

Think about it, what sense would it make to cut refined sugars out of your diet, if you still drank soda? What sense would it make to start meditating, if you’re still just re-blurring your mind by taking alcohol? It only makes sense to drink just water.

Water is the best drink. I’m talking pure water here. No carbonated water. No flavored water. Just plain old water. That is only thing that’s allowed.

No music

Look, I have nothing against music and personally love nothing else but obnoxiously listening to metal in public so loud that everyone else can hear what I’m listening in my headphones as well. That said, within the context of this challenge I want my full focus to be in whatever I’m doing. Even for working out I actually have experienced that music pumps you up into higher intensity, but I’m not allowing it for even workouts. For this challenge I want to shift my brain into a more process-oriented mode, where it doesn’t distract itself in any way at all. Normally I’d do stretching at least with music. Now it will just be focused silence.

Wrapping the Spiral of Awesomeness™ Challenge Up

That is the challenge, in a nutshell. Think its difficult enough? It is not as difficult as Self-Discipline Challenge, but there’s a lot of ways I can screw this thing up.

It is a very difficult challenge. I know it myself, and I know that there will be days where I will have spent 12 hours working with dad and come home, having this mountain of tasks waiting still ahead of me. I know that at those days, I’m liable to break.

But I’m going to go for it regardless. I know all these habits would just compound my awesomeness.

It would be impossible if I just started to go without any external motivators. I’m finishing fourth week of 12-week challenge. This was supposed to be the landmark where I earn the purchase of new mp3-player. Now I’m going to shift it’s earning to after first week of this Spiral of Awesomeness™ Challenge. I need it to get moving. Once I’m in the groove, it will get much easier, that’s what I found with the writing three hours challenge in itself. That said, you still need to put in effort every day. I allow myself forgetting couple of times something, cause this really is a lot to remember. During this week I’ve been warming up for the challenge, testing the habits already. I for example forgot I was supposed to drink only water and drank a glass of juice.

Stuff like that might happen once the challenge really starts tomorrow, so I allow myself two times of forgetting something, before counting the challenge failed. The challenge will run for the total of 8 weeks, the amount of time there was remaining in 12-week Challenge. My reward for completion will remain the same, though I don’t really know how I’m going to make another trip to Malaysia if I want to make it to World Cup in Brazil next year as well… But that’s a story for later on.

Ultimately the goal is to whip my mind into completely different shape. Into a more self-disciplined, more aware, more present and more focused shape. No more mental haze.

Let me know what you think of the challenge in the comments. Due to short notice and ridiculous difficulty level of the challenge, I don’t expect anyone to join me, but you might join me on individual habits.

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