Having a daily ritual is the best way to keep working on what you love, but it is also difficult to create the habit in the first place.
In this episode, I share a simple way to build belief in yourself and in what you create by taking up a personal challenge.
Listen to the episode below:
In April, I took part in a challenge called the National Poetry Writing Month or NaPoWriMo. This is just like NaNoWriMo, where people around the world get together to write their novel in one month. NaPoWriMo is the same thing, except you have to write one poem each day. I was introduced to it by a friend and took it up on a whim.
And I was glad I did.
Sitting down to write a poem each day, trying to get my creative juices flowing and finding things to write about was quite the task. And yet, it was fun because I was trying really hard to not give up halfway through the month.
To my own surprise, I actually completed the challenge and ended up writing 31 poems instead of the 30 I needed to. On top of that, I launched my own poetry challenge for Indian poets to write in their native language.
Now I’ve talked about forming a daily habit if you want to pursue something that you love, and even though you’ll hear that advice everywhere, I understand that it is quite difficult to get started and then keep at it. I’ve started tons of projects all excited and then quit just because I lost interest after a few days.
When we do that with something we actually want to do, there’s this weird mix of anger and frustration that we feel. And it’s not aimed at any person or thing – it’s mostly us being disappointed with ourselves for not being able to do what we set out to.
Somehow, I was able to complete the poetry challenge and I didn’t have to force myself to do it. It came very naturally, and it was almost as if the 30 days went by in a blur. There were days I struggled to put down even a single line that made some sense. Other days I was full of things to talk about. I was able to see why it worked though, and that’s what I want to share with you now.
If you want to follow your passion, one of the best things you can do is to work on it daily. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend on it each day, as long as you spend some time. Time is the best thing you can give to yourself and your work.
So here are a few things that I found work really well in creating a daily habit by creating a personal challenge.
So first, look at it as a challenge. A number of times, we start something without seeing how difficult it is going to be past day 3 to still keep coming back to it. We start with a lot of enthusiasm and end up disappointed. It’s better to take it up as a challenge from the very beginning. Whether it is art or music or anything else, you’ve got to commit to it as a challenge. Acknowledging that it is difficult and still doing it means that you are letting your mind know that it has no options when the going gets tough – you still got to do what you set out to do.
Second, share it with people you know. Anything we do that people know about has some built-in accountability. When I took up the challenge, I made sure I posted about it on my social channels and shared what I was creating as well. Even those 10-20 people who bothered to check out my work encouraged me to keep going and kept me on task. If you are an artist, you could take up a 30-day art challenge and share it, talk about it and let people know. This will keep you accountable and you’ll come back to it the next day.
Third, keep it simple. When I was writing a poem each day, it wasn’t about writing poetry that made sense right away. It was more about getting things out of my system and onto the screen. This is how most daily habits work – it’s not about producing your best work. It’s about producing some work. Take away all the pressure and think of the easiest, smallest manner in which you can hit your daily goal of working on what you love. And don’t be afraid of sharing your work either – even though you may think it isn’t awesome, your friends will still think it is and every bit of positive feedback helps.
Fourth, take it one step at a time. If you’re sitting down to write, maybe come up with just the title or the first line of the piece. If it’s a sketch, draw just a rough outline to start. If you want to learn to dance, focus on doing just one step or even just dressing up for that day’s workout. Any small step you can take that can get the ball rolling works very well. Once you do that, it is very hard to give up at that point of time.
Fifth, use a daily deadline. With the poems I was writing, I had to post something online before the day was over, so that was a constant source of worry as well as inspiration. It didn’t matter when and how I wrote it, as long as I did it before the day was over. Use a particular time or the end of the day as your personal daily deadline – as the deadline closes in, you’ll notice your mind will find ways to get stuff done on its own.
What all of this does is that it helps you to stop caring about the outcome altogether. Instead of wondering if you are doing the right thing, or whether things are going somewhere or if you are producing your best or even half-decent work, you are laser-focused on simply getting something done. Your attention shifts from figuring out what to work on that day to instead simply working on whatever comes to mind. It’s at once powerful and fun.
At the end of your personal challenge, you’ll notice that your mind suddenly lives in a zone of possibilities. You’ll begin to believe that something is possible for you and that you can do it. Trust me, it wouldn’t be surprising if you start looking for new challenges to work on right away.
If you don’t find there is a challenge out there, you can create one and inspire others instead. This not only makes you want to work on your own stuff but also adds the responsibility of helping others out which is another way to live your passion.
Take up a challenge to work on your passion each day, and experience the magic of creating a daily habit around what you love.