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  • Writer's pictureCory McGowan

Beware of Evil Donuts

I’m probably a bit late on this trend, but the internet seems to be rife with 30 day challenges these days, mostly of the fitness or diet genre, but I’m sure there are many other types out there I haven’t even encountered. I even got something about a 10 day self-compassion challenge in my inbox today.

Of course, I understand the logic behind this - add or remove a habit for 30 days (or more or less) and improve your life. I’m all for people improving their lives, and I’m all for people pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, both things I have spent a lot of my time doing in my life as well. But what has come up for me recently is the framing of these things as a ‘challenge’.

The idea of taking on a challenge seems quite binary to me. You pass the challenge and are successful and feel great, or you fail the challenge because you eat one donut and feel like shit. And that likely leads you to quitting the challenge before the time period is up, and to deciding not to take on any such challenges again for a long time. At least until next January.

It also occurs to me that life is pretty damn challenging these days. Yes, I will qualify that by saying that as a white, straight, male American my life is much less challenging than the large majority of people around the world, but I’ve been through enough in the last year to feel some universality in saying that we’ve got plenty of challenges on our plate. Do we really need to serve ourselves another dish of that right now?

Full transparency, the seed that was planted in my head about this is thanks to Yoga with Adriene. A friend of mine told me about her last year, and at the beginning of this year, I somehow convinced my 13 year old son, Taiyo, that we should try her 30 day yoga journey. That’s right, it’s not a challenge it’s a journey, and she talked about that in one of the sessions. I hadn’t thought about it until she mentioned it, but it came as a relief because Taiyo and I were definitely not getting to it every day. In fact, it took us nearly two months to get through the 30 days. But her framing it as a journey helped us to stick it out, and just get on the mat as often as we could, knowing that life would get in the way on some days.

If you’re reading this, you may know that I took on a challenge of my own starting on March 1 when I launched my website. Two great colleagues of mine, Matt and Toku invited (remember that word for later) me to take on a 50 Coaching Conversation Challenge as a way to kick start my coaching practice. Clearly it was something that has worked for other coaches, so I decided to go for it, and declared in what for me was a very public way on social media that I would do it in 30 days .

I got my first two bookings in 24 hours and I was off! And then nothing for one week. Ten days. And barely a trickle for the rest of the month. It was like I was gorging on donuts (can anyone really argue against donuts being evil?!). And all the feelings that came with it - I’m no good at coaching, I’m no good at social media/marketing, I didn’t really want to do this in the first place, etc.

But then a very subtle yet important shift happened for me. I thought - what if this is an invitation and not a challenge? What if this isn’t succeed or fail? What am I being invited to in doing this? And things softened: an invitation is so welcoming and open, and doesn’t have to have a deadline. Of course an invitation can be binary in that you accept it or you don’t, but there can also be a middle ground where you can accept it on your terms, and those terms may shift as life shifts. And it has allowed me to shift my thinking on these coaching conversations - it may take a while. But every conversation I have had so far has been valuable and enjoyable, and I can feel the momentum building.

I’m not on a madman’s quest to remove all of the trending 30 day challenges from the internet. I’m offering an invitation.

What are you being invited to in your life these days? What wants to emerge?

Life has invited me to live in service to my vocation as a coach, and I’d love to invite you to have an adventurous and powerful coaching conversation about the invitations in your life.

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