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Taking Flight: A Few Words on the “End” of the Challenge

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I remember a day, once, sitting on the roof and watching a truly magnificent sunrise. While watching the sky change color, I noticed an array of birds crossing the sky. In my imagination, the seagulls heading east were going to work and the ones heading west were going home.

As I watched, I became fascinated with their flight — with the simple act of birds flying. It seemed outrageous to me. It was outrageous because I was thinking, “If I could fly, that would be extraordinary!” And yet to the bird, flying is just what they do. Flap, flap, repeat. But their simple, mundane, everyday action is marvelous to an outsider.

And I saw that this can be one of the most extraordinary things about life.

The things you do that are just a daily routine, things you do by habit or practice, are actually the things that “carry” you. So, as I watched the birds, I wondered, “What is my ‘flight?’ What extraordinary parts of my life are the things that carry me?”

Taking Flight: A Few Words on the "End" of the Challenge

When something becomes habitual, it can almost feel like a letdown. At the beginning, you think, “Wow, I can’t believe what I’m doing!” You might post photos of your food. Text your friends when you exercise. Marvel at the new feeling of daily stretching. But once you grow accustomed to these things — when they become a “habit” — they can lose their luster. In the act of becoming “habitual,” they can become less spectacular.

But consider this is merely a matter of perspective.

A bird never stops to think, “Wow, it’s amazing I can fly!” (At least, I don’t think they do) But that routine act of flight is nonetheless amazing.

What’s more likely is that the bird is focused on where she is and where she is going, and flight is simply the tool that carries her there. Flying is a given and giving up on flying because it has become “routine” would mean the end of life.

There are things in your life that are extraordinary. Things that give you flight. In fact, you have spent the last six weeks creating these things and some of them may feel mundane, some of them may feel unnecessary to continue now that the Challenge is complete — but to give up on these habits might mean the end of life. Not “death,” but the end of the powerful and intentional life you have been creating for yourself.

Taking Flight: A Few Words on the "End" of the Challenge

While the final day of the Challenge may seem like a special day, and every day of the Challenge may have felt different from “normal” life, the real difference was you. You were intentionally different, and being intentional takes attention. Attention is work, but it is only through work that you will grow. And the truth is every day is an opportunity to be better than you were yesterday.

Being “better than yesterday” may seem like a lot of pressure to do something grandiose. But “better” does not have to mean never-ending personal bests in the gym or daily rock-star performances at work. “Better” encompasses the subtle opportunities that are the building blocks not only to bigger changes, but to a more-fulfilling, peaceful, and joy-filled life. “Better” is remembering you can fly and continuing to flap your wings — your healthy choices, your ten minutes of mobility, your getting a good night’s sleep.

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While officially the Challenge is coming to a close, your journey is far from over. You can continue to take things on, large and small. Perhaps you can be patient where you weren’t yesterday, be kinder (to yourself or others) than you were yesterday, communicate more clearly than you did yesterday, make one better food choice than you made yesterday.

There will be days that you fall short of your ideal or handle things in a less than stellar fashion. But that’s good. Every apparent “failure” trues you up toward success and can point you toward doing things better next time. You do not have to be held hostage by one bad decision. Or a few. Or even the previous ten years’ worth. Today is different. Today is not yesterday. And sometimes you can’t even see the good decisions until it’s against the backdrop of the bad one.

Taking Flight: A Few Words on the "End" of the Challenge

The habitual things that you’ve been working on for the last six weeks make up a huge part of every day. It’s likely that greater than 50% of your day is made up of habitual, life-giving tasks. If you continue to improve those small things, little by little, you will be improving more than 50% of your life. That is a lot of return for that “mundane” investment.

Today, right now in fact, is bursting with new possibility and you have the freedom to make it better. Today is not the end of the Challenge — it is the beginning of you taking flight.

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Michael Stanwyck
Michael Stanwyck is the co-founder of The Whole Life Challenge, an idea that developed during his seven years as a coach and gym manager at CrossFit Los Angeles.

He graduated from UCLA with a BA in philosophy as well as a degree from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, and feels food is one of the most important parts of a life - it can nourish, heal, and bring people together.

Michael believes health and well-being are as much a state of mind as they are a state of the body, and when it comes to fitness, food, and life in general, he thinks slow is much better than fast (most of the time). Stopping regularly to examine things is the surest way to put down roots and grow.

He knows he will never be done with his own work, and believes the best thing you can do for your well-being starts with loving and working from what you’ve got right now.