One of the joys of running the Whole Life Challenge is that I get a lot of my friends and family members to play along with me. It gives me an opportunity to talk about the Challenge with other players where the rubber meets the road, where people try and fit their life into the constraints of this online game.
Recently, I had a great exchange with an old friend of my sister’s, Kate, and realized it was an exchange worth sharing. For Kate, her literal road bump was about traveling during the Challenge, but my advice applies to anyone who finds themselves asking, “How the heck do I make this work in my life?”
So here’s her email:
So, I realize we’re only two weeks in and it’s not like I’ve been exercising every day, but I seriously haven’t felt this good in ages. I don’t know if it’s the food, the getting back into the kitchen, the awareness, the sleep and constant hydration, WHO KNOWS, but so far, so good… my head feels clearer than it has in months.
Having said all of that, I now have to be in San Francisco next Tuesday-Monday for work. I’m concerned about trying to keep this up, since I won’t have any sort of kitchen at my disposal. The hotel has a gym and I’ll be on my feet and moving all day… water won’t be an issue, but sleep and diet may pose a challenge.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Ah, the eternal question: how do I live my life given I don’t always have control? Instead of seeing these moments as obstacles, consider that they are, in fact, the best part of the Challenge. The time when you are faced with an uncontrolled environment and want to keep up the practices you’ve started. I mean, that’s what the rest of life will be like after the Challenge, right?
While the Challenge is full of specific rules, life doesn’t have to be. Rules are nice, but being clear about what matters to you most is what is going to carry you through in the long term. Here are a few things to consider while you’re on the road (and for the rest of your life):
Try as Hard as You Can and Don’t Sweat the Little Stuff
And guess what? It’s all little stuff. As they say, no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. You will always be at the mercy of some kind of outside force. But remember: when you choose something that runs counter to your plans, it doesn’t define you. You do.
If the time comes to stay out late with friends or get treated to a fantastic meal, remember your life is about experience and not about following rules. The rules you choose should set you up to enjoy the experiences that open up to you. So, make your choices from your commitment to how you want to live your life, rather than let worry and concern rain on your moment.
Stay Flexible While Staying True
The most important thing you can take away from this Challenge is the ability to be flexible while staying true to yourself. Point yourself in the direction of growth and let life fly at you. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re moving forward, sometimes back, but your trajectory will remain clear.
No single meal or night’s sleep is ever going to be the end of the world. Sometimes that means choosing to accept what you needed to do to balance everything in life the best you could — and letting the rest go. If losing a couple hours of sleep to help your kid with a science project feels like the best fulfillment of your overall commitments, don’t beat yourself up over it.
Use the Challenge as a Chance to Learn
Practice asking questions to get what you need. If you’re eating out, don’t be afraid to indulge, but don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions either. The more practice you get, the more natural it will become for you to choose your own adventure. You can have a good time and still treat your body right.
You’ll get a chance to learn where your resolve is (and isn’t). Sometimes you’ll notice you freely enjoy your indulgences and sometimes you just give in. And those feelings usually come after you indulge. So don’t worry if you regret something. It’s all good information that will serve you long after any effects of the choice wear off.
You’ll also learn what you make it mean when you can’t do things the way you want. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, it will feel like the world is conspiring against you. You might be in a conference all day and only have non-compliant food to eat. Don’t starve yourself! Taking care of yourself means knowing what the best choice is and not making anything mean you failed. Your considered awareness about your choices is where you will succeed in this quest daily.
Make It About Fun and Adventure — Not Suffering
Most importantly, learn to let it all go when you need to. Sometimes you just have to forget about it. The only way you continue to suffer from your choices is if you insist on continuing to suffer. You don’t need anyone’s permission to let yourself off the hook, even when you think you didn’t do your best. No matter what happens or how you judge it, you can always learn something valuable from every situation.
I didn’t make this one up, but there’s an old ditty that might prove helpful in times like these:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The strength to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Most of All, Have Fun
Have a great trip, have fun, live your life, and know that living your life means knowing who you are and what is important to you. It doesn’t mean your commitment to health doesn’t matter. But don’t fear, you have that already. Everything else is just figuring out how it all fits into a joyful, fulfilling life.