As the month known for back-to-school, the end of beach trips, the first day of fall and new projects, it’s only fitting that September is also Self Improvement Month. All those gears that got rusty as you relaxed in the sun have started turning again, and it’s the perfect time to refocus on your goals.
To help you stay motivated on your personal quest of self improvement, Live in the Grey is offering a month full of mini-challenges. Every day beginning today, we’ll share a new self-improvement idea. Follow along on our social media channels to receive daily reminders and check back on this page at the end of every week to track your progress!
[Tweet “I’m taking the Self Improvement Month Grey Challenge! Wish me luck #SIMGC via @livegrey”]
P.S. We want to see your awesome progress. Share any photos and updates, whether they’re awe-inspiring or just fun, using the hashtag #SIMGC
Day #1: Learn about a new country.
Choose a random country that you know little to nothing about–try this random country generator if you need help–and pull out all your best search skills. Look up the country’s history on Wikipedia, it’s demographics on the CIA World Factbook, it’s cuisine on Pinterest, it’s popular culture on the YouTube Trends Dashboard, and whatever else strikes your fancy.
How do you know when you’re victorious? By the end of this challenge, if someone brings your country up in conversation, you’ll embrace it instead of awkwardly changing the subject. For extra points, share a tweet or photo of the country you chose (get creative) and tell us one cool fact you learned using the hashtag #SIMGC!
Day #2: Clean out your email subscriptions.
We all have those email newsletters we subscribed to long ago or by accident that we immediately delete or archive when we see them pop-up. At the end of the day, they only serve to distract us from our goals and from responding to emails that can actually help us progress. Cut some of the clutter out of your life by going through the last couple of weeks of your inbox and clicking “unsubscribe” on any listservs you never read. (We also recommend Unroll.Me for ongoing de-cluttering.) Then, let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief at the thought of a lower unread messages count. Tweet at us and let us know how many unsubscribes you completed!
Day #3: Ask how you can become a better friend
With the weekend kicking off, take advantage of a social outing you have planned–or call up your bestie right now and squeeze one in! Then when the right moment strikes, ask your companion this question: What’s one simple thing I could work on to be a better friend?
It might be about how you communicate, what expectations others have about your timeliness, or just a suggestion for how to be more considerate. Either way, you’ll get a great suggestion out of it. There’s nothing like gaining insights from someone who knows you, but isn’t you. Finally, let us know if you completed this challenge using #SIMGC!
Day #4: Write down your biggest fears
We’re borrowing from a previous #FailureFriday post for today’s challenge:
- First, get out a fresh piece of paper or journal and a pen. After all, writing things down (instead of typing them) helps your brain retain information better.
- Next, write, “What am I so afraid of?” at the top.
- Then, take ten minutes to list out all of the scariest, worst-case-scenarios you can think of right now. They may have to do with a risk you are considering taking, or simply things that are out of your control. Get them all out of your system, and when they’re on paper go back and think about what it would really mean if they happened.
- More importantly, think through all the ways you could bounce back and keep on track despite any of these scenarios actually playing out.
Humans are incredibly resilient. Once you realize that you can overcome your worst fears (if you have to), you’ll feel more free to live life fully and be the best version of yourself.
Do you feel relieved? Did you learn something unexpected? Don’t forget to let us know how it goes on social media using the hashtag #GreySelfImprovement.
Day #5: Self-mandated curfew
We’ve all been there. You’ve laid out a plan to get all sorts of things done over the next several days. Then one super-late-night derails your whole system of hypothetical morning workouts and early errands. Today, choose a curfew for when you need to be back home that you’ll follow for the rest of the week. Remember to keep it in mind before you head out to any social gatherings!
It’s up to you how late is too late, but you must abide by this time. Think of it as an exercise in self-control. As long as you plan around your curfew, you’ll enjoy your night without any FOMO (fear of missing out).
For bonus points: Make your curfew the time by which you’ll be home and off all of your devices.
Day #6: Discover a podcast
If you’re a podcast junkie like me, you know there’s nothing quite like hearing hilarious, insightful or interesting stories and conversations while you’re on the go. It’s one of those few multi-tasking combinations that actually work.
Most of us spend a big part of our lives in the in-between (commuting to work, driving or walking to the store, waiting at the doctor’s office). Instead of feeling like that time is gone forever, why not fill it with a new podcast? For today’s challenge, think about the fields, industries, or skills you want to learn more about and search for a podcast that fits the bill. For me, that might mean listening to hilarious communicators or comedians. Other times, it might mean listening to a motivating show or one that teaches me something new.
Then, during an idle moment, give an episode a listen and see if you like it. I suggest listening to episode #1, then skipping to something with an intriguing title or description to give you a full idea of what you have in store.
If you discover any amazing podcasts you think our community should know about, be sure to share them with us on social media using #GreySelfImprovement!
Day #7: Take a 20 minute walk without your phone
As someone who loves self improvement and making progress, you likely often get buried in a mountain of projects, details, deadlines and routine. If you don’t take a step back every once in a while, you may forget about the larger context of your work.
For today’s challenge, find a spot without too many external distractions to take a walk without your phone. Use this time to connect with yourself and consider the purpose of your week.
If you possible, try to do this one one a work day or while you’re working. Depending on whether you’re at home, at a flexible office or at a strict office you can adjust the time as needed. The point here is to give yourself a small break in the middle of your day to completely clear your head. If you’re like me, the most challenging part of this challenge is to leave your cell phone behind. But it’s necessary to have true alone time with yourself!
Day #8: Set a seven-day goal
Set a seven-day goal for this week.
One of the hardest parts of self improvement is that we often set huge, unattainable goals for ourselves and feel bad when we don’t feel like we’ve made any progress. This week, set a simple numerical goal for yourself in an area that you want to get better at. Knowing that you have exactly seven days will make your goal easier to manage and visualize. Here are a few suggestions:
- X Number of workouts
- No internet after 10pm
- Y Number of home-cooked meals
- One call to a family member or loved one per day
Day #9: Sign up for a Meetup
It’s Day 9 of the Grey Self Improvement Challenge!
Your self improvement journey shouldn’t happen in isolation. Why not tap into a community where you can learn and improve with others? For today’s challenge, here’s what you’ll do:
- Go to Meetup.com, and sign up for an account if you haven’t yet.
- Search for an event in your area that’s happening in the next month
- This could be an opportunity for you to dig deep into an existing passion or explore a completely new one. My search results included anything from from “Intro to organic vegetable gardening” to an “Authentic Networking” experience.
- Sign up for the event that speaks to you the most and don’t remember to set a calendar reminder!
For bonus points, reach out to the organizer of the Meetup to thank them and let them know you’ll be attending. It’ll help keep you accountable and you’ll automatically know one person (who can introduce you to others)!
Let us know if you find a great Meetups you would recommend to the LITG community using #GreySelfImprovement!
Day #10: Spark a conversation with a stranger
It doesn’t matter how confident or composed you consider yourself, it always takes effort to meet someone new, introduce yourself and start a conversation from scratch. For many of us, it’s something we go out of our way to avoid. Yet learning how to improvise and work with whatever is thrown your way is such a valuable skill to hone!
For today’s challenge, you’re going to spark a conversation with a stranger. It could be a complete stranger (the person sitting next to you on the subway) or someone you know tangentially but have never really talked to (a neighbor, or the cashier at a store that you frequent).
TIPS: If you don’t know where to start, simply ask “How has your day been today?” The trick is to act like you mean it, instead of delivering it like typical small-talk. To help the conversation naturally evolve, remember to ask questions like “why is that?” a lot.
Who knows, you may learn more than just conversation skills.
Day #11: Cook a meal for someone
Today’s challenge might be tricky if you’re not a cook book connoisseur or secret wiz in the kitchen. But you never know when being able to cook a delicious meal is going to come in handy–aside from always if you like yummy food, that is! You’re going to work on improving your culinary skills by doing the following:
- First, find a stretch recipe. Whether you experiment in the kitchen on a regular basis or occasionally venture beyond frying eggs, you’re looking for a recipe that will take your skills to the next level. It’ll probably lie right outside of your comfort zone.
- You can search for a recipe using an app or website–Allrecipes and Whole Foods both are great options–or by Googling “recipe” + whatever ingredients you have available.
- Finally, remember to invite a friend or loved one to the meal, too! It’ll keep you accountable if you know someone else is looking forward to your results.
- You’re allowed to have some just-in-case food on hand, in case things don’t go quite as planned, so don’t hold back!
Whether you make something delicious, beautiful, hilarious or all three, be sure to share a photo of your creation using #GreySelfImprovement!
Day #12: Write down your values
As we’re sure you’re discovering, there are so many parts of our lives that can use a little disrupting and #GreySelfImprovement. But sometimes the best way to make sure that improvement is purposeful is to take a step back and consider what your progress is ultimately building towards.
For today’s challenge:
- Take out a piece of paper and a pen and title your page “How I Aim to Live my Life”
- Next, write down all the values, principles and guidelines you use (or aspire to use) to build the life you want. Use these questions to guide you:
- What virtues do I admire?
- What beliefs and causes do I want to manifest in the world?
- What guidelines will help me become the kind of person I aspire to be?
- Once you’ve settled your list, place it somewhere that you’ll see everyday like your fridge or your desk.
Remember to share your values or guidelines to live by with us using #GreySelfImprovement!
Day #13: An hour earlier challenge
For today’s challenge you have two options: depending on which of these you struggle with most, either go to sleep an hour earlier or set your alarm clock to wake up an hour earlier!
If you struggle to get enough sleep or gather the willpower to turn off your devices and head to bed, set an earlier-than-usual bedtime. Take some melatonin, drink some herbal tea, do what you need to but don’t give in to the computer!
Alternatively, if you’re always in a rush in the morning set your alarm to an hour earlier and commit to not snoozing. Then, instead of using the time to complete last minute work or pick out an outfit, use it on something you never prioritize. It could be an early morning workout, a homemade breakfast or an art project you’ve been putting off. It might just be so exciting to have this extra time that you’ll do it again the next day!
Day #14: Score your communication skills
So many things in our life, from family to friendships to work, depend largely on our ability to communicate what we mean and understand what others are trying to communicate.
Today, you’re going to hold a magnifying glass up to your communication skills:
- Every time you take a call, have a meeting, send a lengthy email or otherwise communicate with someone, take a moment to score yourself on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Key questions to ask when scoring include, “Was I prepared for that exchange?”; “Did I express what I meant to?”; “Did I make the other person feel heard?”; and “Did we efficiently address an issue rather than adding extra steps?”
- This isn’t about feeling guilty for low scores. Instead, try to be as objective and honest as possible.
- Once you’ve scored yourself, jot down a things you could have done to make the score higher.
Inspired by The Muse.
Day #15: Mini current events lesson
Is there a news item you keep hearing about but keep having to avoid in conversation because you know nothing about it? Unless you work in the news, the answer is probably yes. Maybe you’re an expert in your industry news but you don’t keep up with technology news, or environmental news, or sports news, or global news, or pop culture news, or economic news…. I could go on.
Whatever your blind spot is, take some time today to read up on an important issue you don’t know about. Then get ready to jump into the next conversation with the ease of a pro.
Here are a few suggestions:
- The NFL, Domestic Violence and Concussions, in Forbes
- The Vote for Scottish Independence, in the BBC
- Chinese Internet Company Alibaba Raises 21.8 Billion in IPO, in the New York Times
- Your Brain Makes Decisions While You Sleep, in the Washington Post
Day #16: Have a “Then & Now” talk
Today, call a loved one you haven’t reconnected with in a while. It could be a parent, sibling, old friend, teacher, mentor or anyone else.
First order of business is to catch up and learn about how they’re doing. But let them know that this is part of the Self Improvement Challenge and ask them a few key questions like:
- What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in me since you’ve known me?
- What did you feel my priorities were [when you first met me – or – 5 years ago] compared to today?
- Do you feel that I am staying true to the person you’ve known?
- What do you think old-me would have to say about current-me?
The great thing about talking with someone who has known you for a long time ago is they can offer a perspective about your growth that even you may not have. Don’t forget to thank your loved one for their time and extend an offer to talk again!
Day #17: Set your own agenda
Let’s face it: sometimes life feels like it’s coming at us nonstop. We feel like we just finished taking care of yesterday and suddenly another day is already on it’s way.
Today, take 5 to 10 minutes before you rush to your next task and set a few deadlines or goals for the day. They can be simple. Maybe it’s that you’ll take an hour lunch break, or that you’ll finish writing an overdue email before 4pm. Set the intention to make it happen now so you don’t get to tomorrow morning and have to do it all over again!
Day #18: #FallCleaning
In honor of the first day of fall, we’re flipping “spring cleaning” on its head for a fall cleaning challenge. Today we challenge you to eliminate clutter from an especially messy part of your life. It could be your literal closet, but it could be your desk at your office, your refrigerator, your inbox, your computer’s folder system, or anything else.
That means applying the same principle as our previous “unsubscribe” challenge– anything you haven’t used in recent memory has got to go. This adage sums it up:
Remember to donate any items others might find useful to make this a meaningful and productive exercise!
Day #19: Find a cause you connect with
One way to grow as a person is to find a cause outside of yourself that you connect with. Today, we’re challenging you to spend some time researching and learning about organizations and causes that could use your help.
When you do find a cause that resonates with you, be sure to share it on Twitter using #GreySelfImprovement and we’ll retweet it!
Day #20: Quit a bad habit
Think of a habit you have that’s holding you back. It could be as simple as going to bed with your computer, snacking too much or being late to meetings. In the interest of starting small (but aiming for bigger!), try to cut out the this habit for just the rest of this week. Keep a tally of how many times you falter every day so you can hold yourself accountable and try to improve.
If you make it to Sunday with a clean slate, that’s the universe imploring that you keep going and leave the bad habit behind you!
Day #21: Set a strict budget
We all have different approaches to how we budget our money, but it can be a useful exercise to push your limits and prioritize your needs. Today’s challenge is to set a daily budget you won’t surpass for the next week — or whatever frame of time makes most sense for you. This budget need not include essential (like rent, transportation or needed groceries) but should include extra spending like eating out, entertainment, clothing, coffee, etc.
TIP: Depending on your spending habits, you may want to set an even stricter budget but enable a “roll over plan” whereby any unused dollars get added to the next day’s bucket (my preferred approach).
Let us know how your budgeting goes and what insights you gain about your priorities along the way! Share your experiences using #GreySelfImprovement.
Day #22: Thank 3 People
Acknowledging how others help you is a crucial part of your self improvement journey. For today’s challenge, you’ll thank three people.
They can be any three people in the world, but here’s our suggested recipe:
- Thank one friend or loved one that has changed the way you look at life.
- Thank someone from the service industry that makes your life better.
- And thank one role model for the impact they’ve had on you (tweeting at someone counts!)
Bonus Points: Turn each thank you into a conversation.
Let us know how it goes using using #GreySelfImprovement!
Day#23: Do something for the first time
When was the last time you did something for the first time? That question is at the crux of today’s challenge.
We’ll leave it up to you exactly how you knock this one out, but the point is to try something new and push yourself beyond your normal routine. Here are a few suggestions to help you brainstorm:
- Explore or have dinner in a different part of town for the first time
- Do something publicly (sing, tell a joke, give a speech) for the first time
- Don’t do something you do every day (open Facebook) for the first time
- Tell someone how you feel about them (a colleague, friend, etc.) for the first time
- Do something alone (like going to the movies) for the first time
We want to know what you did! Share your experience on social media using #GreySelfImprovement.
Day#24: Root for the other team
Here’s one of the hardest things to do in life: Step outside of your own shoes and really put yourself in the place of someone you feel you don’t understand. As hard as it is, it’s such a worthwhile thing to do. To help give you a helping hand, here’s today’s challenge:
- Identify an issue, a belief, a team or anything else that you feel passionately about
- Now, try to imagine that you feel just as strongly about a contradictory belief, the opposite viewpoint or the opposing team.
- To truly embody this, write a list of all the reasons why you might believe this (or all the positive things about that opposite team.)
- BONUS POINTS: Share this list with others (whether it be through email, Facebook, or in person.) And yes, you’re allowed to explain that it’s all part of a challenge!
We’d love to hear from you! Let us know if you learn anything from this challenge by using #GreySelfImprovement on social media.
Day#25: Write a letter to your past self
Think back to ten years ago today: Who were you? What were you doing? What were you thinking? What did you want?
Thinking about this can be a fascinating and insightful experience in and of itself, but for today’s challenge we’re going to take it one step further. Take pen to paper and write that past you the letter you wish you had gotten at the time. Here are some prompts to help get you started:
- What struggles did you need help dealing with or thinking through?
- What insecurities were you concerned with?
- What did you have no idea was coming?
If you’re brave enough, share it with your friends. It might inspire them to do the same or take the self improvement challenge themselves!
Let us know how it went on social media using #GreySelfImprovement.
Day#26: Add extra-curriculars to your LinkedIn profile
We often forget to think about every part of ourselves–our passions, hobbies, issues we care about, organizations we’re a part of–as important to our careers. But they are. For today’s challenge, make sure your LinkedIn profile gives a truly full picture of who you are by including more personal interests and involvements.
Day #27: Work on the big picture
Think about all of the big picture goals you have in your life. Maybe it’s to change something about the world; to be a loving husband or wife; to build a community; or something else.
Though achieving these goals may seem very far away, there are always steps you can take in the right direction. The problem is we often forget about them because they aren’t as immediate. For today’s challenge, spend at least 15 minutes doing something that contributes to one of your big picture goals in life.
Day #28: Tell someone “your story”
It’s not every day that we sit down and think about the path that has led us to this moment in life. But occasionally, as we build new friendships or meet people with no connection to our past, we get the opportunity to share it with them and reflect.
For today’s challenge, choose a friend (or mentor, significant other, colleague, etc.) who doesn’t know too much about your past, and tell them your story. Include all of the major moments that have shaped you, and be sure to explain what led you from one place to the next. Let them ask questions, and allow the conversation to evolve naturally.
Just the process of sharing this can bring you a lot of clarity around why you’re here today and where you’re going next. #GreySelfImprovement
Day #29: Eliminate a Distraction
Find something in your environment that’s distracting you or bringing you down and make a plan for eliminating it.
Day #30: Treat. Yo. Self.
Our self improvement challenge wouldn’t be complete without some self-love! We’re so proud of all the work you’ve put in to bettering yourself this month. Today, we challenge you to take a moment to reward and reinforce this work!
- Get yourself a delicious lunch at your favorite spot
- Take a nap in the middle of the day, just because
- Let yourself do some binge watching with a bowl of ice cream
- Eat some cookie dough
- Draw a warm bath
We bet you’ll want to Instagram this one–remember to tag it with #GreySelfImprovement!