Archive for the ‘values’ Category

The Connection Between Inspiration and Empowerment

February 20, 2009

Acting on dreams and inspiration is not just about honoring our uniqueness and vision for our lives.  On the most basic level, it feels good.  Think of the times you finally get around to that list of household chores.  Or how much you enjoyed writing a card to a friend, even if it is hard to shut off the TV.  The activity itself is enjoyable, the process feels good, or the sense of accomplishment is satisfying.  It engages the three components of happiness that positive psychologists talk about – positive emotion (enjoyable), engagement (getting into the flow), meaning (doing something with a larger purpose beyond personal fulfillment).

Beyond increasing happiness, acting on dreams spills over into the rest of life in other ways.  The courage and initiative it takes to explore a new hobby or tackle a project are important in so many areas.  These are the same skills as it takes to start up a conversation with the cute girl next to you at the supermarket or to make a career change.  In job-seeking parlance that’s called “transferable skills.”  The process of starting up a new project builds other transferables like persistence, diligence, self-discipline, creativity, and the confidence to tackle new and unfamiliar tasks.  And these are important in all areas of life, not just the fifteen minutes or half an hour set aside each day for personal activities.

In public health parlance this is called “empowerment,” or possession of a sense of control over life.  Empowerment is not innate but developed through life.  That crucial step – knowing that options exist, feeling that there is something I can do about the situation – is the difference between feeling trapped and searching for a way out.  It is the difference between feeling hopeless and finding hope.  And that has a huge impact in how we react to situations, both tiny crises and major life changes.

This is not easy to develop.  Initiative does not pop up overnight, and from the time we are young we are not given many opportunities to develop a sense of empowerment.  First in school then in work, we are always acting on someone else’s agenda.  Empowerment can, however, be cultivated in successively larger projects.  The first time is always the hardest, so it makes sense to start small and gradually build up.  Pick something out of personal interest.  It is far better to take these steps when the stakes are lower and the timeline is fluid, than when the stakes are high and time is limited.

In that regard, taking one step towards something you’ve always wanted to try, like signing up for an adult education class or becoming active in a church committee, is an easy, fun and non-threatening way to develop empowerment and the skills to take control over life situations.  Best of all, it coincides with your personal interests and values.  And who knows?  It might lead to new opportunities in your personal or professional life.  The blogosphere is filled with stories of men and women who started documenting their hobbies and developed them into a full-fledged career, or who met likeminded people through the Internet and created all sorts of interesting, creative, unusual and powerful new projects.

So just start.  Pick something.  Dip your toe in the waters.  Run with it.


The importance of inspiration

February 11, 2009

Everyone has a list of things they’d like to do before they die. Maybe it is to write the next great American novel, act in a play, see the pyramids, start a business. Far too often we put these off for “later, when I have time.” Meanwhile life slips by. We rush from obligation to obligation, and at the end of the day we’re too tired to do much more than flop down on the couch and decompress for a couple hours in front of the television.

The problem is that we could fill three lifetimes with work and household chores and still not be done with everything we’re “supposed to do.” In other words, we could spend three lifetimes on tasks that are less important to us, and less meaningful, than our dreams and passions. But it is our dreams and passions make us unique, not our jobs, not our ability to wash dishes or pick up dirty laundry. You may be wonderful at your job, but chances are you didn’t create your job. You may have molded someone else’s description into a job that fits you, but at the end of the day someone else could still take over and the organization would continue functioning. Your dreams and passions, on the other hand, are unique to you. Even two people who share the same overarching passion will find differences in the details, because our dreams are defined by life experience and personality.

To honor our dreams and passions is to honor what makes us unique. This means acknowledging our dreams and actively pursuing them. It may feel impossible to carve out time for them, but I’m sure you can think of a couple minutes ach day to devote to them. Pick one. Start small. Give your dreams half an hour a day, or fifteen minutes, or even ten or five. Aren’t they worth it? Aren’t you worth it?

Just start. Think of fifteen minutes you can squeeze into your day. Maybe it’s during lunch. Maybe it’s right after dinner when the TV shows aren’t that good anyways. Or maybe it means setting the alarm clock 15 minutes earlier and starting your day off on a positive note. It’s helpful to identify a consistent time each day. Think through the small details – where you’ll be, what supplies you’ll need, ways to avoid distractions and other obstacles. Make the commitment in writing, tell a friend.

Inspiration is the starting point. Inspiration is the day-to-day reminder to work towards the big dream, and why it is so important. It is also encouragement, a source of new ideas and solutions to the problems we encounter along the way. Inspiration is the flashes of insight into how you will carry out the dream – it is the seed of an idea, a novel new approach, the way around a stumbling bock. Inspiration keeps us moving forward. It reminds us to stay balanced and stay focused on what’s important.

Most of all, acting upon inspiration is exciting. Acting on one good idea unleashes a wellspring of new ideas that tumble forth, pile up, cross-fertilize to create even better ideas. You’ll notice this spill over into other areas of your life. Work won’t feel as tedious, and inspiration will help you find faster ways to get work done, or new ideas to contribute at meetings. It gives you something to look forward to as you do your chores. As your project grows and develops, it encourages a broader shift in thinking: what is worth my time? Am I enjoying life? Can I reshuffle my obligations to increase the time I spend on the things that matter? This creates an even larger snowball effect. Acting on inspiration leads to working on our dreams, which inspires new ideas and possibilities that lead to even more time and energy spent on our dreams, which leads to even more ideas and positive energy.

Positive Psychology 101

February 9, 2009

As a student, much of our classroom dialogue centers around grounding public policy and workplace practice in scientific research; that is, making sure that the practices we use are backed up by research.  And so, it seems only fair to ask whether a month of inspiration is a worthwhile pursuit or just wasted effort.  Is there any point to these daily challenges?  Do they really work?

It turns out there’s an entire field of psychology devoted to better understanding how to make life more fulfilling and productive, called positive psychology.  Since World War II psychology has been dominated by mental illness and pathology, but in the past decade there has been increasing recognition that absence of mental illness is not necessarily emotional well being, and that strengthening positive mental states can actually prevent pathology.  Inspiration touches on many themes explored by positive psychology.  Here’s what the current psychology research has to say about inspiration and happiness.

The “science of happiness” divides the pursuit of happiness into three major approaches:

The Pleasant Life.  The focus is on pleasure or positive emotion.  Increased positive emotion leads to increased happiness. We achieve this by directly pursuing activities that increase pleasure like having a glass of wine or watching a movie, or indirectly by changing how we interpret life events.

Past events: Cultivate gratitude and forgiveness
Current events: Increase mindfulness, or living in the moment.  In other words, positive psychology encourages us to stop and smell the roses.
Future events: Increase optimism and hope, or bring positive emotions to future events.

The Engaged Life.  Happiness comes when we do activities that fully engage us.  We become absorbed in the task, and this process of absorption brings great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, which translates into increased happiness.  This can be engagement in a really good conversation or accomplishment of a difficult task at work or for school.  In other words, any activity where we dive right in, lose track of the time and become fully absorbed in the process, falls under this category.  It may not always be a pleasurable task, but the state of absorption itself brings happiness.  Engaging activities ask us to draw upon our strengths like creativity, perseverance, sense of humor.  In doing so we build on our strengths while creating something worthwhile.

The Meaningful Life.  Happiness also comes when we are engaged in activities that give life a sense of meaning or purpose, i.e. when we work in service to a cause larger than ourselves.  Here the focus turns outwards to the world at large, and our strengths are used for the greater good.

The three pursuits to happiness are not mutually exclusive, but they do take different approaches to happiness.  The pleasant life treats happiness as the goal.  All activities are designed to create positive emotions.  The engaged life treats happiness as a process that is achieved through the process of engagement.  The meaningful life treats happiness as a byproduct.

Some activities combine two or more of these approaches.  Community service in a soup kitchen, for example, might produce pleasure from meeting new people, full engagement in the chopping or sorting or cooking process, and meaning in service to those less fortunate than ourselves.  Indeed, use of all three approaches is called “The Full Life.”

All humans differ in our tendency to rely on one approach or another to bring us happiness.  Some use only one of the above, some combination of two, or all three.  Studies have shown those who use all three in “the full life” have much greater life satisfaction.

A month of inspiration is a month dedicated to increasing happiness.  Inspiration touches on all three approaches to happiness.  Daily inspiration increases “the pleasant life” by calling on us to notice our day-to-day surroundings i.e. mindfulness.  It also encourages pursuit of our dreams, which brings hope and optimism about the future.  Inspiration pushes us to try something new or take on a new project, which allows us to live “the engaged life.”  We build new strengths and experience satisfaction from the flow of our work.  Inspiration also pushes us to think about our larger dreams in life and what we’d like to accomplish with our lives, encouraging us to spend our time on activities and causes we find meaningful.

Day 10 Challenge: Focus on one of your senses.

Inspiration Boards

February 8, 2009

Inspiration sparks new ideas and keeps us going through tough times.  Any endeavor that is challenging – weight loss, a job search, a creative endeavor – benefits from constant inspiration to spark new ideas or encourage us to work through the task at hand.  Daily inspiration challenges are one way to generate constant inspiration.  Visual inspiration reminders is another way, particularly if they are integrated into the spaces in our life where we are most likely to need inspiration to keep us going.  The still life I created is one example of this.

Another format I really like is an inspiration board.  A simple board hung on the wall, it is fast and convenient way to create a display of inspirational objects and ideas.  Pushpin boards are cheap and make it easy to add in new items, but be creative!  I’ve seen metal wires with slips of paper attached by clothespins, or a narrow shelf above a desk lined with a few well-chosen objects.  The idea is to keep inspiration visible and keep it close.

What goes on the board is completely up to you.  A dream vacation spot, quotes or phrases, a list of restaurants to try, that couch you’re saving up for, a striking color combination to work into a new design.  Change it up.  Keep it fresh.  Most of all, keep looking for inspiration.

Inspiration Challenge 8: If money was no object …

Take out a piece of paper.  Across the top, write the phrase “If money was no object …”  Now complete that phrase in the phrase below.  What would you do, where would you go?  Would your days be different from how they are now?  How?  How would you really spend your time if you didn’t have to work for a living?

Inspiration Challenge 2: When Strangers Meet

February 3, 2009

I can hear it now.  “When strangers meet,” you mumble, staring at the bottom of the last post.  “What does that mean???”

“When strangers meet” is the idea of marrying disparate ideas or fields to create a new, unexpected product.  I chose this as one of 28 inspirational challenges because many of the best new ideas come from the interface of established fields.

Yesterday as I was pondering how to take up this challenge, it occurred to me that many of my ideas come from layering ideas on top of each other.  Note:

1.    Writing + wellness + developing courage to put myself out there = creation of this blog.
2.    Photography + staying in touch with friends = beyond :: boston.
3.    Calvin and Hobbes + crafting + spending time with friends + school = Make Your Own Lucky Rocketship Underpants Party.  The idea is to make “lucky talisman” underwear to give us an edge against finals.  Admittedly I haven’t tried this one yet, but a couple people have asked me when I’m throwing this party so I’m hoping to do it later this month.

It seems I’ve been doing this unconsciously already, but I wanted to see what would happen if I formally sat down and crossed my current interests.  What new combinations might pop up?

This activity took me about 30 minutes of brainstorming.  I could’ve gone on, but I wanted to see what ideas jumped out immediately.  It turns out I already do a number of these, like crafting + environment = make reusable grocery bags and cloth napkins.  But I also circled new ideas I’d like to tackle in the near future.  There’s even a couple that pertain to this month.

Create things to remind you of your goals and dreams.
Friends: engage in self-reflective/goal setting activities together.

This is a great activity for rapidly generating new ideas.  Block out the mental critic and throw everything down on paper, no matter how small or how silly the idea seems at the time.  Keep the pen moving and the thoughts flowing.  The point is to brainstorm; there is plenty of time later to edit, but for now the more ideas the better.  Besides, that small or silly idea may plant the seed for a really inspired idea.  I will probably never make toy food (crafting + food), but if I had let the mental critic start censoring at that point I never would have come up with “play Calvin Ball” (creativity + exercise; yes, I love Calvin and Hobbes).  And who knows?  Maybe in ten years my (future, unborn) children will be dying for a plateful of felt spaghetti.

img_0071Challenge 1: Create a clear workspace.

Day 3 Challenge: Touch water.

Why “Inspiration”

February 2, 2009

Last month I wrote at length bout clearing away the cobwebs in the brain caused by excessive shopping.  I needed a detox from materialism, to stop myself from spending hours glued to online shopping sites, looking for good deals on stuff I don’t need.  There’s a whole world outside my computer just waiting to be discovered, social causes that could use an extra hand.

I now spend hours in front of the keyboard struggling with words instead, but words that capture my interpretation of the world at large.  (Don’t worry, my new internship is very much in service to a good social cause)  Writing daily is a goal I’ve struggled with for years.  Ever since I was five and decided I wanted to be a writer, I’ve been a writer who dreams of writing, who jots down story ideas to herself, random half-thoughts and vivid details captured on scratch paper and eventually lost, who feels guilt over her lack of writing but does little to act on that guilt.  This is exactly what 2009 is about: taking that first step, strengthening the ties between my interests so that they coalesce into an integrated whole, pulling the little details of life into alignment with the big picture.

February, then, is about finding inspiration to dream big.  February is also about bringing snippets of inspiration into daily life.  These snippets are little reminders to stay true to the larger dream, but they are also bits of happiness woven into the daily fabric of life.  Daily inspiration, drawn from daily life.

Daily inspiration invites new ideas, creativity, and directions for growth, because it encourages us to constantly see the world and our lives in new ways.  The unexpected challenges conventional wisdom we hold about who we are and what we are capable of.

This month’s challenge of daily inspiration is about consciously seeking inspiration.  And it uses the power of habit and reinforcement to attune my eyes and heart to all sources of inspiration in the world around us, to stay open to new ideas and new ways of seeing the world.  I will write out 28 distinct inspiration-themed activities on separate slips of paper and draw one each morning.  I will post the theme of the day to this blog, and report back on progress throughout the month.  Some days won’t be easy, I know this now, but part of living an inspired life means following inspiration out of our comfort zone.  Besides, some of the best stories come from testing unchartered waters.

Day 1 challenge: Create a clear workspace.
Day 2 challenge: When strangers meet.

jar with slips of paper

February: A Month of Inspiration …

February 1, 2009

When I first started grad school, I attended a brief “get to know the department” meeting where the professors sat at the front of the room and the students sat at the back and gawked at World Reknown sitting in Row 2 and Rumored to be Intimidating, perfect posture and unsmiling, front row center.  They addressed us one by one, handing out the elevator speech on their research interests and courses taught.  A woman with brown hair – New but Unknown, she had been on leave the previous year – faced us, smiled, then introduced her class, “And, because I know that 8:30AM in February is exactly what every student looks forward to …”

She has a point.  Not necessarily the 8:30AM part because I’ve been getting up at 7 daily, but the part about the utter gloominess of February.  Although the daily 7AM awakening has been a bit of a killjoy as well: unbeknownst to me, the failed daily ping set my internal alarm clock and has refused to let it snooze ever since.  Curse newly-minted-grad-student-me for my lack of foresight!  Didn’t I know I’d come to cherish the night owl study habits, only to discover too late that I had managed, once again, to foil my own plans with good intentions?

But I digress.  We were talking about gloom.  The gloom has seeped its way into every corner of my life, even dimming my initial burst of enthusiasm over starting this blog.  As I’ve been working away at my Vitamin D deficiency, it occurred to me that if the sun refused to cooperate, I would just have to combat the external grays with some internal shininess of my own creation.  And thus I present February’s theme: Inspiration.

Something light and airy, shimmering gold to brighten the still-darkened mornings when I crawl out of bed to write (did I mention slightly-dinged-grad-student-me is exacerbating abovementioned situation by aiming for 6:30AM daily?), a cheery hearth to return to after picking my way through icy, darkened streets each night after class.  Inspiration to remind us that spring – or sprinter, as it is known around here – is on its way.  Inspiration to stoke the fires of creativity, of joy, of possibility, a new kick of enthusiasm to propel us forward as wait for the first sign of new life is coaxed from the ground.

This is the perfect time to take on something new.  If you’re considering a monthly challenge, there’s the additional advantage of starting it in a shortened month!  And building on the theme of values, February feels like the perfect time to dig a little deeper into what we truly want, to pick a new direction and take those first, tenuous steps.  It might be career-related, it might be personal interest or that nagging item that always pops up on the to do list.  It is the perfect time to remember back to the dreams of our childhood, to start afresh with that vision in mind.

As for me, I think I’ll do something inspirational every single day.  What about you?

January post-mortem

January 31, 2009

So how am I feeling at the end of month one?  Pretty good, to be honest.  It wasn’t nearly as hard to buy nothing new as I expected.  Granted, I did have that one slip up due to a combination of unusual circumstances, not planning ahead well enough, and general unwillingness to put myself through the torturous experience of shopping for pants.  But I didn’t feel constrained this month, as though trapped in some bubble world where I could watch the rest of society move about normally in realms I could not access.

Did I miss shopping?  I cannot lie, occasionally I thought of all the money I could save on stuff I don’t even need.  But life has been very full this month.  Instead of dumping hours into online sites or wading through stores I cooked.  Read.  Wrote.  Caught up with friends.  Began jogging again.  Sent some letters, actual handwritten notes on stationery I’ve had since middle school.  Found an internship opportunity.  Started a collaborative photography project with friends.

I like this version of my life.  It’s closer to the lifestyle I’d like to lead.  It’s also more balanced.  Towards the end of last semester I grew increasingly dependent on shopping and sewing to balance the stress of school.  Remove shopping from the equation, and other hobbies flourish.  Without the material distractions that create an external definition of self, I’ve been able to focus on internal recalibration.  This is not a radical departure from the Jessica of 2008 but rather a distillation process.  Remove the dead wood to let half-hidden gems shine through.  2009 is about chipping away at the soil around those half-hidden gems, buffing them, learning to work them seamlessly into daily life.

A balanced approach to life means spreading the self-worth eggs into multiple baskets.  It means identifying with multiple parts of my personality.  Just as a three-legged chair is more stable than a two-legged chair, the more identities we create for ourselves the more stable our self-identity becomes.  Baker, crafter, student, friend, runner, photographer, daughter, volunteer, and yes, maybe even writer.

Balance is especially helpful in a society that places so much stock in careers to define who we are.  In my case, this means my identity defined by measures of student success (Grades!  Classes!  Collaborations with professors!), and, by extension, my post-graduation plans.  To solely define myself along these lines, particularly when I’m just acclimating to this program and have quite woolly plans at best, is to throw open the door and invite in self-doubt, anxiety, and depression with wide open arms, particularly if I kick sanity out the door as well and compare myself to my fellow students, an impressive lot to say the least.

Classes start Monday.  I’m excited.  It’s going to be a good semester.  I’m also excited for a new challenge in February.  January accomplished everything it was supposed to accomplish.  I’m ready for more.

Even more benefits of buying used

January 26, 2009

The last time I took it upon myself to buy nothing new I was in the process of moving from my parent’s place to an apartment to be closer to work, and I decided, in the spirit of the challenge, that I would only furnish my apartment secondhand. January is far from yard sale season but luckily Craigslist still dredged up a couple moving sales, and I spent an entire Saturday driving up and down the peninsula in search of something, anything to help me set up camp in an unfurnished 10’ by 12’ room.

I was looking for dressers, a desk, bed tables.  I found a small bookshelf and a TV stand instead.  Nothing else was the right price (cheap), the right size (small enough to fit in the back of an Accord), or the right weight (light enough to be manhandled by one person).  Along the way I happened upon an estate sale where most items were out of my price range, but discovered a really great antique-reproduction lamp that I picked up as an impulse purchase.  “Ah, lighting,” I thought.  “That could be useful.”  Total spent that day: $34.

I packed up a couple weeks’ worth of clothing and bedding, borrowed a folding card table, folding chair, floor lamp and foam futon pad from my parents, squeezed the TV stand into the backseat and the bookshelf into the trunk, placed the thrifted lamp as my prized possession in the front seat, and drove off into the heart of San Francisco.

I laugh whenever I think of those first few months in the apartment.  I was living in a drafty converted dining room, folding up the futon during the day for a place to sit.  My clothes were stored in the bookshelf, my crafting supplies in the TV stand; my shoes lined the fireplace and my laptop sat atop a rickety table that was barely large enough to hold the computer.  I stuck books on the ledge in the fireplace, placed photo frames on top of the fireplace.

It was good as a temporary solution, but lacked that feeling of “home” to really settle in.  I still had piles of clutter on the floor that had no permanent storage place.  The card table made it difficult to craft or write, activities I usually used to decompress from work.  A natural homebody, this forced me to spend more time socializing with friends to relieve the stress of work, and as a result grew much closer to new friends than I otherwise would have.  This period of time also illustrated the importance of home as sanctuary in my life.  It was a trade off, but taught me valuable life lessons.

Still.  It was livable.  I hadn’t broken my vow to furnish the apartment second hand.  In May I bought a couple pieces of furniture off my brother’s graduating college friends, picked up more lamps, took the card table home and brought up my sewing machine instead.  I nailed hooks into the walls to hang up clothes and purses.  I borrowed a bookshelf from my brother to eliminate the final piles of clutter on the ground.  My room saw every furniture rearrangement possible.  And so, through improvisation, thrifting, scrounging and borrowing, the entire apartment was furnished secondhand, albeit in stages.

As I learned in furnishing my apartment, the used market can successfully fill your needs.  It requires advance planning, improvisation, patience, and the ability to “get by” as you sift through what’s available to suit your needs.  Part of the fun of thrifting is the thrill of the treasure hunt – you never know what you’ll find, like when I stumbled upon a matching pair to the abovementioned reproduction lamp while looking for a desk.  The flip side of the coin is that it can be quite difficult to find an exact piece of item at any one given moment in time.  This is where it helps to put the word out to family, as it was my brother who eventually tracked down not one but two desks for me (it worked for me to have a writing desk and a crafting desk, and then I really had little space for anything else).

In return, you gain as much from the end results – fuller wallet, helping the environment, providing loose change to the former owner or supporting the charities that benefit from thrift shops – as you do from the process.  Thrifting is not just a treasure hunt but also fosters creativity through improvisation, the ability to look at old materials in new ways.  And whose career hasn’t required that same skill?  Parenting, keeping the magic alive in relationships, handling life’s day-to-day problems, managing a household all benefit from this outlook.  I carry these lessons with me every time I move to a new place, in crafting, in finding new ways to bring friends together.  The benefits of buying used, as with so many other aspects of wellness, carry over into all aspects of life, and continually pop up in surprising places.

Short-term vs. Long-term decision making

January 22, 2009

I have a confession to make. I broke my January challenge and bought a pair of dress pants.

Let me explain. My January travel was for a winter session course involving a gaggle of grad students collaborating with several federal agencies. As a student working with mid-level and senior members of federal, state or local agencies, it is critical to be as professional as possible. This includes wardrobe considerations.

None of the jobs I have ever held have required formal outfits. They haven’t even required business casual because it didn’t fit with the culture of the organizations. There was no interview for a Masters program. As a result, I have very few formal occasion outfits, and the few that I have tend to be a stretch and not properly formal.

Thus, after the first week of the program I could tell I was going to have to step it up a notch to just keep pace with the rest of my classmates. I mean, I still don’t have a suit, but at least I have a decent pair of pants now.

I did plan ahead by purchasing some items during the Thanksgiving and Christmas sales. I scoured the pants racks of several thrift shops, something I never do. I admit, though, that I hate finding pants, particularly dress pants, and through the years I’ve constantly put that one off and mentally prayed that the khakis I have on hand would be sufficient for the occasions that present themselves. Pants rarely fit well (hence various techniques to tweak them), and I’ve never invested enough time in shopping to find the one brand or style that I can passably wear. Frankly, the thought of spending an entire weekend hitting up every single store with business formal clothing is not appealing to me. Hence the procrastination that has stretched out for years.

Which is why, when I was standing in the dressing room in my last-ditch attempts to find something, anything passable, I kept screwing up my face in the mirroring and mumbling, “I HATE pants. Hate, hate, hate.” Unfortunately Ohio in January is too cold to wear anything besides pants, so I was trapped into a purchase that, realistically, will only help in the long run, if only to avoid further night-before-my-flight excursions to the shopping mall to find myself screwing up my face in the mirror, growing desperate and angry over the lack of any decent prospects.

As much as it hurt to falter in my January challenge, I made the conscious decision to do so for two reasons. One, I was running out of time, and when you need something in a hurry, thrift shops and eBay generally don’t cut it. Two, it is more important to maintain a professional appearance than to maintain the sanctity of the challenge. These will be my supervisors and colleagues once I graduate from this program. This January challenge is but one piece of a larger, yearlong challenge to myself.

Although the best life lessons are the ones learned from handling the consequences of our mistakes, in this instance the consequences would have farther-reaching consequences for my career and the relationships built during these two weeks. That is very different from living with a smelly sponge for a month (I was only joking, though it didn’t hurt that I was gone for two weeks in January). Either way, in the future you can be sure I won’t cut it that close in the future. The choice to break the challenge was a matter of balancing priorities, but I don’t anticipate any other big emergencies coming up for the rest of the month. Furthermore, I am already reaping the gains that the challenge intended to produce.

More on that in my next post.