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  1. Hi Monks! I'm glad I didn't enter the last challenge. Life got so damn stressful! I will spare you the details but I feel the broad strokes are necessary to set the stage. My team was hit by a crunch, not an unexpected one but a backlog of problems and delayed work all due at once - Bad stuff! But one of our specialists stepped up to the role of acting supervisor for a few months and gave us a plan - Great stuff! The plan didn't sit too well with a couple of people, though, as it forced a set of priorities on them they weren't too keen on, and it resulted in ~*drama*~. I don't know how to make that word sparkly. Pretend it's rainbow flashy sparkly, but with a sinister gleam to it. I hate drama, and it and the work took their toll on me (as evidenced by my failed challenge at the opening of 2015). But I pushed through! I rode the waves of drama to a (relatively) happy place; I chewed through almost all of my backlog (3 dozen cases, that is a HUGE deal), I kinda kept up with my exercise routine! I also competed in my karate club's annual tournament and did really well! Men's Adult Intermediate Karate Kata - Gold Medal! Adult Intermediate Kobodu Kata - Silver Medal! Adult Intermediate Sparring - Silver Medal! This is an astounding showing for me and I came very close to getting gold in those silver categories. In the last year, I have improved in both karate and general fitness by leaps and bounds and it feels great. I still walk to work almost every day and it's finally nice enough out to run in the park and on the trails. Alas, the full force of that sinister gleam has yet to be erased from my mind, and this is where my challenge lies. I have been allowing my emotions to dictate my diet, and it's threatening to undo a lot of the progress I have made. Not that I was really very diet focussed in the first place - I don't give a flying frontkick about eating a specific diet like paleo, but I have at least worked on shifting the broad staples of my diet, like cooking more often at home (I love to cook, this is easy when I have time!) and using fresh, unprocessed foods (support local farmers and eat healthy, sign me up!). Sadly, when I'm stressed out and lonely and down-in-the-dumps, I'm more likely to order pizza and pop while binging on Netflix or video games at 3 AM. This would be a good place for a GIF. I need to start looking for good GIFs. Anyway, my discipline is slipping and we all know willpower isn't enough (just look at all this whining I'm doing, it's total proof!), so my challenge is geared toward regaining that focus with a few simple but hopefully powerful changes. Challenge 1 - Drink water every morning! I'm pretty lazy in the morning. I hardly get up in a timely manner, and I usually rush through a shower and dash out the door to get to work. I don't eat breakfast, not so much for time but because my stomach gets kind of upset if I eat too much just after waking. Several of my family members are the same way, so I know it's not just me! But it's become painfully apparent that skipping water first thing in the morning is an awful idea - it impacts my mood and productivity, my ability to recover muscle strength, my ability to push my limits while running or practicing karate... pretty much everything! So I want to focus on making a morning ritual out of drinking a big glass of water upon getting out of bed. My biggest bottle is 750 mL, this should be more than enough to get started. Challenge 2 - Log my food! I'm fairly certain I've mentioned a few times (too many?) that I'm a scientist. I've never said why I'm a scientist though. It's partly because I'm naturally curious, and partly because I have a gift for understanding abstract concepts, but it's mostly because I was a terribly fearful child. I was scared of anything and everything. The best way to combat fear is to embrace it, look into it, then past it, and understand the source of what caused the fear; it's very hard to be afraid of something you can understand. The technique has worked for all sorts of other unsavory emotional responses, and it's high time I stopped letting my nasty feelings rule my fuel intake. The first task when assessing any new problem is to gather data - no judgements, no changes, no cheating or fudging, just find out what's going on. This needs to be done every day to establish the habit, so that optimization can begin once trends emerge. Challenge 3 - Meditate! At karate class this year, we've had two classes where we took 30-45 minutes to discuss and practice meditation. Since then, I have heard from other disparate and diverse sources that they also meditate every day. All people who have talked about it have said the same things about its benefits and the scientist in me can't deny that kind of coincidence, even if it is anecdotal. So I want to try meditating daily, to see if I can improve my attitude and emotional resilience. If I do it before bed, I suppose at the very least I can see if it helps me get to sleep more quickly. Life Challenge - Goal setting! Notice my lack of a main goal? Notice I'm speaking in terms of challenges rather than goals? That's because I've already been doing some soul searching and have uncovered a root (not necessarily the root) of many of my perceived problems. I have no major goals, no grand plans, no epic quest. Thus my life challenge is, by the end of these six weeks, to have created an 'Epic Quest' and defined some big goals. Working on small goals without feeding them into a larger one is a potentially wasted effort. It's time to move out of the tutorial zone. Insert appropriate GIF here.
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