30 Days to Rebuild a Habit: Introducing the Back to Self Challenge

Why is it so damn hard to carve out a spare five minutes a day for yourself these days?

Don’t get me wrong: These past 18 months have been tough. We canceled all of our plans, went into hiding, and waited. We watched the world get sick and spent our days and nights glued to tiny blue screens starting wide-eyed at tiny numbers in tiny boxes that first ticked up slowly, then ticked up so quickly that we got tired of watching. We heard about friends of friends who sick, then actual friends, actual family.

All along the way, we’ve learned how to be versatile with our careers, our educations, our friends, and our families. We’ve dabbled in critical public health theory and we’ve striven to hold ourselves to a higher standard of ethics when it comes to things like systemic injustice and racism. And then, just when we thought we could start planning things for real, we were rocked again, snowballing into yet another wave of uncertainty, indecision, guilt, and fear.

And you wonder why it’s been hard to stay motivated from one day to the next?

You’d think by now we’d be experts at adapting. That, in spite of it all, we’d have locked into our new routines and rhythms, figuring out not just how to survive, but to thrive. But that’s certainly not true for me and my guess is that’s not entirely true for you, either. Like it or not, many of us are living in that funny space in between: languishing.

I’ve reconnected with dozens of people over the past couple of months and I’ve been surprised to learn that it’s not the big stuff — changing plans, changing jobs, changing homes, changing relationships — that’s driving us crazy. It’s the small stuff. Not finding regular time to meditate, to call old friends, to work on our art.

Of course the small stuff is the easiest to drop from a single day, a single week, or a month. But as one month turned into the next, I’ve suddenly found myself 18 months into this thing still not keeping promises I made to myself from last May. And that doesn’t feel great.

Forget back to school. In 2021, this fall is all about “back to self.” After having a baby in the height of the pandemic, I spent the past 18 months in full throttle. New baby, new job, new apartment. And despite my best efforts, there’s still a little part of me that I feel like I haven’t seen since 2019. I’m tired of waiting; I’m reclaiming that part back this September.

30 days to recommit. 30 days to do the thing. That’s the Back to Self Challenge. For me, this will involve writing every day. (This blog post is day one.)

To keep me motivated and accountable, I turned to Twitter to recruit a few friends. Now there’s a small community of us — Back to Selfers — who are getting started and recommitting together. We’ve published our challenges in a leaderboard and we’ll check in daily, answering just one question: Did you do the thing? Yes or no? It’s less about competition and more about accountability. Let’s face it: It’s easier to stay motivated when you know others are watching.

I’ve noticed about half of the other participants, like me, have opted for a rekindling of a creative pursuit. Art, writing, photography. The other half have selected wellness-based challenges: Walking every day, meditating, stretching.

None of the challenge projects seem particularly challenging at face value. Many take less than 30 minutes a day, some even less than five. We all know exactly how to do these things. We’ve simply found it hard to stay the course. I’m hoping this 30-day period helps us all get back in the groove.

Here’s to day one of the Back to Self Challenge. Let’s do this.

By the way, if this sounds like something you’d like to participate in, you can sign up and join us here.

Originally published at Dry Erase.

VP @ BolsterTalent, alum of @USV, @StackOverflow and @NorthwesternU, board member at @CompSci_High and @NUalumni, co-founder of #BeyondCodingNYC