30 Before 30: 40-Day Yoga Challenge

I’ve learned something interesting about myself as I work my way through my 30 Before 30 list: I’m unnaturally motivated by challenges. The Whole 30, NaNoWriMo, a 40-day yoga challenge – if you give me a time limit and a set of parameters, I will get shit done.

I just won’t enjoy it much.

As the 40-day yoga challenge at my studio wrapped up, I was chatting about it with the owner of the studio, and she asked me how I enjoyed it.

I told her this: “For me, the challenge is a mental one. I could come to yoga every day of my own volition and love every minute of it, but because I have to come to complete the challenge, I’m not loving my practice near as much.”

This is why I’m fat. This is why I don’t write books. This is why I don’t do the things I want to do. I need the promise of a challenge – with goals and an end-date – to keep me motivated, but I don’t like doing things I have to do.

I do them, these things that I set out to do, but I do them begrudgingly. It becomes a chore.

So I go to yoga almost every day for 40 days – but I don’t enjoy it.

I eat clean for 30 days – but I don’t enjoy it.

I write 50,000 words in a month – but, again, I don’t enjoy it.

These are the things I’m supposed to be passionate about: my writing, my yoga practice, my health. But forcing yourself to do something is very different than choosing to do it, and I can’t seem to find the motivation to choose to do these things. They’re all work, and I’d rather be not working, thank you very much.

But I’m starting to suspect that I’ve got passion all wrong. I expect passion to be all-consuming all the time, but it’s more like a long-term relationship, I think.

At first, you can’t get enough of the person you’re seeing. Your life is consumed by passion for them. You can’t sleep. You can’t eat. All you can do is devote every waking moment to that dreamy green-eyed geek. (Oh, is that just me? Yeah, just me.)

But we all know that’s not sustainable. Those phone calls that last into the early morning are soon replaced by sweet, precious, life-giving sleep, and you welcome that. Soon, that person that you were so passionate about begins to get on every one of your last nerves and you tell them so – and again, you welcome that. Eventually, you have to (get to) settle back into real life – and real life is a heck of a lot more comfortable than all-consuming passion.

Sure, it’s not as fun, but it’s a more realistic way to live. 

You grow to love that person, even if you don’t like them all the time. You enjoy your time spent apart, but you always come back to them, and you enjoy that too. You’re passionate about them – but you’re not ‘in passion’ with them.

These things I love – yoga, writing, whatever – are the same. They take work, like a marriage takes work.

And I have to do the work because the alternative – my life without them – is unthinkable.

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