One week into my Awesome 30-Day Push-up Challenge, and I'm ahead of schedule. My arms are a bit sore, but I like to think it counterbalances the four hours I spent at the Charlestown Seafood Festival yesterday.
Focusing on a single goal each month has made for a very motivating year. There's something to the act of zeroing in on one idea that keeps my spirits up. Even if I have a bad day, I can do my 322 push-ups and feel good about it.
It's a constant in a world of things I cannot control.
I experience a similar feeling during National Novel Writing Month, a global movement in which thousands of people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. It's a crazy goal, but it gives you something to hold onto, something to be excited about. I remember having terrible days at work, but finding comfort in the fact that my novel—my characters, my world, my creation—was at home waiting for me.
Making a goal tangible is a huge help. In June and July when my habits were more abstract, I had a harder time sticking to them and staying focused. I felt listless, like I was floating, because I wasn't working with anything concrete. The mind wanders. 50,000 words or 10,000 push-ups, on the other hand, are easy to track. The numbers don't lie.
This realization has been particularly useful to me as a post-graduate. When you're in college, your classes are the primary focus. Graduation is the big, overarching goal. There's a sense of progression as you pass classes and move closer to your degree.
But when you graduate, and there are no more classes, that overarching motivator disappears. For many, the goal of a college degree gets replaced by a job and/or career, but the transition isn't always seamless. Success as an adult doesn't involve going to class over and over until you're done. It requires forging your own path through self-reliance and self-investment.
Committing to the Awesome 30-Day Push-up Challenge has been an anchor for my happiness this month. I know that even if everything else goes wrong, at least I can look back knowing this was the month I did 10,000 push-ups. I'm the only person holding myself accountable, and I'm doing something for myself.
From a Buddhist perspective, attaching my happiness to a push-up challenge may seem unwise. Once the challenge is over, then what? Do I just continue to come up with new challenges ad infinitum, never satisfied, never content?
See, I'm not actually attaching my happiness to push-ups. I'm attaching my happiness to the betterment of myself. Whether that's doing 10,000 push-ups or writing 50,000 words, having a goal allows me to continually move forward because I have something to move toward.
In the post-college era, it's easy to drift along waiting for someone to hand you your dream job or even just tell you what to do next. But drifting is a trap of passivity. Success never happens that way. That's why self-reliance and self-investment are invaluable tools.
When we take an active interest in ourselves, we take responsibility for our own sense of happiness, of getting better, of becoming who we are.
You are the most reliable person in your life.