Last October I tried out my first Inktober Drawing Challenge, and in January I’ve kept sketching going on a weekly basis. Drawing and visual arts is really a whole other way of being creative than my usual dancing and also very relevant to the enterprise of shape, shaping and space in my dance practice as well.
I got a lot of value out of the challenge of producing 31 drawing studies in in as many days. It was also super inspiring to see the works of, and connect on social media with, “real” illustrators and other visual artists. Great to be influenced by new works and creators!
As November passed, I witnessed those who participated in the latest round of NaNoWriMo at work on their books, some ultimately “winning” the 50,000-words-in-30-days challenge. In 2019 I took on the challenge to write a novel in a month myself, not “winning” the challenge, but coming closer than ever before with a 18,600-word partial novella.
In 2021 I went on to write a Haiku poem every single day and like my Inktober adventure, I continue to seek out fun new creative challenges.
What follows are a sampling of challenges I have enjoyed in the past which have led to valuable insights and in some cases lasting change.
Past Challenges Undertaken
Here are a few of the other challenges I’ve partaken in recent years:
- Yoga with Adriene 30-day Yoga Journey in January, which I took my time working through the first few years as I was able, eventually helped me build my daily yoga ritual. I then branched out to participate in yoga challenges with Schuyler Grant and others. I am grateful to Adriene Michler as well as all my other in-person and online yoga teachers for helping me establish a daily practice which I have since made all my own and which I hope to continue for life!
- Deepak Chopra and Sharon Salzberg’s Meditation Challenges and other such guided meditation practices have also been instrumental in making what was more sporadic practice a consistent feature in my life. Starting with these brief 2-4 week challenges, I again expanded slowly into longer sessions daily. It was inspiring to practice in daily bite-sized pieces and led to my 2021 Daily Meditation Practice Challenge and ongoing daily ritual.
- A few rounds of the MinsGame 30-day Decluttering Minimalism Challenge, for example before moving or as a spring refresh, have done me good, and I’ve also used Marie Kondo’s method. I spill the details in my Minimalism Memoir article.
- Since buying my Kindle and reading my friend Claire Willett’s incredible debut novel The Rewind Files, I was inspired to dive back into reading for pleasure and have have since participated in Reading Challenges for the last few years on Goodreads. I don’t plan to continue to set higher and higher goals for books read each year, but am glad to continue to read consistently and with relish.
- Language Sprints on Duolingo and Lingoda support me to practice my German. I have over a 3-year streak on the former app!
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a 12-week in-depth creativity program/challenge full of valuable practices, including writing Daily Morning Pages for freewriting/braindumping/creative flow which I continue benefit from.
- For Music, I’ve played with a minimal daily Harmonica practice, and then read the book a Year of Wonder and listened to the accompanying classical music selections daily last year (2022). This was a huge boon to my dance improvisation and choreography practices and my creative inspiration in general.
- This year I am having fun with A Year of Planning, which is a weekly Bullet Journaling Challenge, and am considering other challenges to participate in and lead.
…And I’ve done assorted other challenges, such as Letter Writing (my weekly-correspondence goal last year, inspired by the book I Want to Thank You), Cold Showers a la Wim Hof for stress-reduction and immunity, and surely others I’m not recalling in the moment.
Cultivate Ongoing Habits
Some challenges, like yoga, meditation, journaling, gratitude and abundance, reading, writing, languages, and music have proven to provide ongoing value to my life.
In these cases, a challenge can provide a sort of “kickstart” for something you intend to make a habit or practice. After the official challenge is complete, these may continue in some form indefinitely. These type of challenges have supported me in creating daily rituals and repeating traditions.
Personally, I’m always on the lookout for fun and motivating challenges in different areas where I’d like to learn and grow.
Challenges don’t have to become a lifelong habit in order to have value. While some may indeed lead to lasting change, others provide insight and inspiration for a time or can be revisited intermittently as desired.
Maybe it turns out that you require the practices in your chosen challenge only intermittently, or they provide a connection to something that proves to be more meaningful for you, or you realize it’s not really a fit at all. Take the learning forward with you, but feel free to leave the challenge behind if it has served its purpose and you don’t wish to continue.
Always feel free to take or leave any “official” rules or make your own entirely, based on your true objectives.
Challenges to Avoid
There are some common challenges that I certainly don’t plan to participate in in the foreseeable future, such as any kind of food or eating restriction or dieting.
I DO want to continue to make a habit of body acceptance, self-care, and joyful intuitive eating as well as rampant creativity and joy.
Challenges I Have Led
In the past, I have offered mindful movement and coaching challenges, and going forward I foresee providing further ballet, dance, yoga, meditation, creative living, and coaching challenges for my community. It is such a blast to come together in a focused way to see growth and results in a short time!
- Balletlicious Building Blocks of Dance
- BASTE: Feast on the Ingredients of Dance Choreography Challenge
- Yogalicious ReTREAT
- Magic Within You Yoga Challenge
- Dance Through Any Difficulty Coaching Challenge
What I offer next depends on your feedback, so please do let me know how I can serve you with a free challenge or other service.
Questions for Reflection
- What sorts of challenges have you participated in previously and what was your experience? Did you experience lasting growth?
- What challenge would be the most supportive for you going forward?
- Which skills and habits are you working on currently?
- What tends to prevent you from taking on or succeeding at challenges?
Resources for Further Exploration
- Journaling & Reflective Practice
- Getting Out of Ruts & Into Action
- Learning from Mistakes & Failure
- Minimal Fitness
- Meditation Practice
- Healthy Habit-Building
- Creative Morning Ritual
- Morning Boundaries
- Getting Grounded
- Yoga for Energy
- Rest & Recovery
- Yoga for Sweet Sleep
- Powerful Portfolios
- Bullet Journaling
Let’s connect by email or on Instagram @ablythecoach, I would love to hear your perspective!
Blythe Stephens, MFA, Bliss Catalyst
they/them or she/her
Creator of A Blythe Coach: dance through your difficulties
and take leaps of faith into a joyful, fulfilling life