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How I failed the 100-day yoga challenge

And why it changed my life

· Entrepreneurship,Habits,yoga

This article originally appeared on my blog Wantrepreneur on 2 December 2016

Let's get this straight, I'm not really a yoga person.

However, back on 23 September 2016, on a spur of the moment decision, I agreed to do yoga for 15 minutes every day.

I failed spectacularly after the first 20 days.

This is the story of how I failed, and how, much to my own surprise, in a very short space of time, yoga changed my life , and improved my ability to build run a business.

A spur of the moment decision

The whole thing started when I saw the following post on Facebook from the amazing Dave Cornthwaite, who's an all-round inspirational bod, as well as a member of SayYesMore Facebook group.

The post that changed LITERALLY EVERYTHING.

Being able to develop a new habit in just 100 days was a pretty amazing thought! I immediately loved the sound of it, and especially because I don't think we should wait for things like New Year to be constantly improving ourselves. However, because I hadn't been considering consciously starting a new habit at that point, I wasn't sure what I would choose, and I certainly didn’t feel ready to commit to anything then and there.

Anyhow, against my better judgement (perhaps I'd been drinking, or maybe I was in a particularly bold mood) I decided to 'Say yes more' and just do it anyway. No time like the present, right?

For my 100 day challenge, I decided to do 15 minutes of yoga, because yoga was something I'd been meaning to do more of for a while, but never seemed to get around to doing consistently enough to get good results.

Don't think; just do

So right then and there, on 23 September, I started doing 15 minutes of yoga every day. I didn’t have a particular plan about how or when I was going to approach the challenge, other than the fact that I just had to do yoga for 15 minutes at some point between waking up and going to sleep.

I started off by doing my 15 minutes in the gym, or in the middle of the day as a break from work, but most days I found myself squeezing it in last thing at night before I went to sleep – literally in my pyjamas. I decided that on the days I couldn’t fit it in, I was OK with doubling up the following day: as long as I averaged 15 minutes per day for 100 days, I would be happy with that.

However, little by little, my routine became erratic. Travelling, changing time zones, and meetings made it hard for me to have any kind of routine and to stick to one particular time each day, and I found myself skipping more and more days, and building up to mega once or twice a week yoga sessions, which, were enjoyable, but didn’t feel very sustainable and certainly didn't feel like a genuine habit. It felt forced, and required considerable amounts of willpower and planning.

After three or four weeks of starting the challenge, I realised this wasn’t working for me. I was missing days, doing yoga binges, and it just didn’t feel as though I was developing a new way of life.

The challenge we had been set wasn't to force us to develop a habit through routine or repetition; it was to encourage dedication and focus on a relatively small task every day. However, I soon found that I was doing the yoga in order to get through the 100 days, rather than developing a productive new habit. Realising that what I really wanted from the challenge was a genuine and sustainable habit, was a lightbulb moment.

Restart. Repeat. You don't have to have a plan.

So after just 20 days, I quit the challenge. I eventually got my shit together and restarted on 1 November, with a different set of conditions for the challenge. I made two key changes to my original commitment:

1) Every day, no cheating. No doubling up the following day if I miss one day. This had been my downfall the first time.

2) Same time every day, first thing in the morning. The erratic routine had also permitted me to deviate from the task.

Developing new habits is hard

Well, I’ll be honest with you, the first few days of doing this new routine were difficult, but of course that's no surprise: if it was easy, we would do it already.

I found getting out of bed and straight onto the yoga mat really tough. I found I needed a few minutes to wake up, so I started writing in a journal for 15 minutes before doing yoga. I had never planned to start doing this, it just kind of happened (I’m a writer and thought it would be a good way to exercise the writing muscle, whilst waking up). So, whilst intentionally developing one habit, I inadvertently ended up developing another one at the same time. Curious.

So what changed?

So why am I telling you all this? How is it relevant for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Well here are some things I learnt when I started doing yoga every day for 30 minutes:

  • I often didn’t want to do the yoga in the morning. The best thing was not to think about it, and simply do. This can easily be applied to entrepreneurship.
  • I change the yoga practice depending on my mood (e.g. if I’m feeling really sluggish, I do 15 minutes of relaxation yoga rather than power yoga or flexibility yoga). No matter what, I ALWAYS feel good at the end of the 15 minutes. Doing something is better than doing nothing.
  • I always feel much more relaxed and positive after doing yoga, even when it isn’t a specifically a relaxation workout. When I'm more relaxed, I'm better able to make good business decisions.
  • I start the day feeling as though I’ve already accomplished something really positive, and am motivated to continue that positive feeling throughout the day. It sets me up to have more productive conversations, and motivates me to continue checking items off my to-do list throughout the day.
  • I perform better in my HIIT workouts because I have improved agility and flexibility (e.g. my range of motion on deadlifts and squats has improved). I am reminded every day that by making tiny improvements to a regular habit adds up to large improvements over time. It's good to be reminded of this.
  • It gets me out of bed in the morning. I know that if I want to have time to do yoga, I have to get up by a certain time. It provides structure for my day.
  • One new habit breeds other new habits, like my bonus habit of journalling before yoga every morning.
  • You have to be patient with yoga. You cannot force yourself into positions that your body is not ready to handle. Sometimes you have to be happy with 'good enough'. There are parallels with business; sometimes, you just can't move things forward as quickly as you'd like to. You have to accept that there are forces outside your control. All you can do is control your reaction towards them.

Doing yoga every day has been so important for me as I transition from corporate structure to entrepreneur. Whilst I started out wanting this to be a physical challenge, that would improve my health, the true value it's shown me is in the structure it provides me with.

By committing to do this small challenge every morning before I do anything else, I have regained structure and positive mindset to my day, which means I am in turn happier and more productive when it comes to the projects I'm working on.

The birth of #2017habits

All this yoga and journaling got me thinking. The past 30 days (or longer, if you count the time since 23 September which marked 100 days till Christmas as the yoga I did before 1 November taught me more about failure than the last 30 days have) have been transformational for me. Although I'm only 30 days in to the 100 day challenge, I already know that this is a habit I've made for life.

There aren't many things I have consciously developed in this way, and none have taken hold so quickly. This made me wonder what might happen if I started cultivating other habits, and how easy or difficult it would be to maintain them. What other habits would I choose? What effect would they have? What would be useful and effective habits to improve my entrepreneurship skills in as short a space of time as possible? Would they have to extend beyond 100 days, or would 30 days be enough just to 'try out' a few habits that I'd always been curious about?

For a few days, I couldn't get this out of my head, and it gradually morphed into fairly sizeable project that I'll be taking on in 2017 called #2017habits. You can read all about it here. My yoga experience is the origins of #2017habits.

If you like this post, you can see more of what I write on Wantrepreneur.life (formerly wantrepreneur2entrepreneur). The articles here document my journey from corporate escapee to wannabe entrepreneur and new company founder: all the highs, all the lows, and everything in between.

It's a work in progress and I'd love to hear what you think, so drop me a line at clairedransom@gmail.com, or on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

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