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Friday, December 31, 2010

January 1, 2011: The 100 Days Challenge

Welcome to 2011! Happy New Year!

I just love the start of something new, don't you? The start of a new year, or new semester, or quarter, or month, or week. It's such an opportunity to regroup and rethink the current path we are walking and adjust our focus and direction as we make our way along our life's pathway. Sometimes we make minor course adjustments, and other times we turn entirely toward a new direction. Sometimes our new direction takes us along a parallel path to our original, but sometimes we blaze a trail toward something new and unfamiliar. And that's the beauty of "living." Not just living to eke out an existence but living to experience our lives to the fullest, to the utmost.

Now that I've waxed eloquently about the possibilities of the new year, let me turn to the business at hand. I promised you a practice challenge for the new year, and here it is: The 100 Days Challenge. You can start this challenge whenever you are ready.

The challenge is to practice 100 days in a row, with no skips or misses, for at least five minutes at a minimum. (See? I told you everyone could do this!). Just five minutes? Yup, that's right, just five minutes. Because everyone can find five minutes every day. Because five minutes is a small enough amount of time that no one can justify an excuse to miss it. Yup, five minutes is E-A-S-Y!

Now, what do you practice? Doesn't matter. It's your choice, as long as you do something related to whatever is your practice. That's another great thing about the 100 Days Challenge. You can do more than one challenge at a time and include other things, although I would wait to explore such fancy footwork until after you have mastered one challenge first. You can use the challenge for your music practice or for a health habit (like walking everyday).

I find this challenge to be very useful for my parents of new students. It helps the parents to build up a practice habit. At first the parents do the challenge for their benefit, but often the students themselves opt to continue the challenge for another 100 days. I had one student who did the challenge along with me, and we continued past the two year mark.

Here are some specific rules. There are no skips or misses. If you miss a day, you must start over. My studio likes to follow the "biblical rule": if we forget, but the sun hasn't yet risen for the new day, then we can quickly go get our 5 minutes in. Once I forgot but got up at 5 am to take the dogs out and go for a run. The sun wasn't due up for another hour, so I was able to quickly add my 5 minutes of scale practice in before the run. Of course, I also had to do another five minutes later that day for the new day.

Everyone can use this challenge, not just for practicing, but also for other life areas. For example, you can use the 100 Days' Challenge to effectively build a new habit or eliminate an old one (although I recommend you build or substitute a new habit rather than wrestle with eliminating a bad habit). Here are some examples
  • add daily exercise: in this case, substitute the appropriate amount of time you would like to aim for daily exercise, e.g., 15 minutes of aerobic (walking, running, biking)
  • make a dietary change: add 1 green vegetable daily or stick to a minimum goal of a specific caloric intake number (make it a reasonable one and not too restrictive; we want to succeed)
  • Make a lifestyle change: how many days can you go without eating sugar (or any food product that has sugar listed in the first five ingredients), or smoking, or drinking, or watching TV for more than one hour, or staying at work late (or more than 1 hour late)?
So if you are reading this blog post on January 1, jump right in and join me in the 100 Days Challenge!

P.S.: In case I have to state the obvious, you are permitted to practice longer than five minutes. You may even do a lot of five minute practices in one day. The five minutes suggested for the challenge is the absolute MINIMUM that you must do. There is no limit to the maximum. Funny thing, but once you start your five minute practice, you tend to keep going longer than five minutes.

Be sure to log in that you are participating in the challenge by answering the poll question in the right margin.

If you are a teacher or parent, I have added a page just for you. Please check it out.


  1. Paula,
    The 5 minutes a day is the easy part- you are right!
    It's the other- with all the things I want to change about myself, how do I choose just one?

  2. Teri, thanks for writing! You're right, where to start? Usually there's at least one thing that will make changes in 80% of the other areas.
    Which one thing, if you could have it accomplished tomorrow, would you choose? Or which one thing causes you or your family the most frustration? I find that my shifting priorities change my answers from week to week.

  3. Thanks for the insight. I had my list broken down into 5 categories. I will now reevaluate my lists based on your suggestion...

  4. Yes, 5 sounds about right. There are about 5 areas of our lives that need attention: spiritual, finances, family, work, and physical, and NOT in that order. I think each of these priorities takes a front or back seat at different times of our lives. I used to obsess over the categorization of my goals. Now I just look for working connections between the areas of my life. For example, what one thing can I choose to do right now that will have the greatest short-term impact on my life or accomplishing my life's purpose?