My hope is that my yearlong experiment in creating change will continue to add value to the world, triggering a ripple effect of positivity through sharing my story.
I invite you to try some of these challenges for yourself. And if you’re feeling bold, do them all. You’re welcome to change the order, adapt them to suit your own situation, or even create entirely new challenges that inspire you. The only rule is the challenges are win-win: Good for the world and good for you too.
It’s January. And what better way to begin this year of intentional challenges than to quite literally step into it. Getting around on foot helps the planet and is good for your health and your pocketbook too. So this month, challenge yourself to walk exclusively for all trips under five kilometres. Why five? It turns out the average human walking speed is about five kilometres per hour. This makes for an easy to remember rule: If you can walk to your destination in less than an hour, then hoof it. Of course, you can adapt the challenge to reflect your personal abilities.
It’s February, the month of love and Valentine’s Day – the perfect time to focus on being kind. This month, commit to bettering the lives of strangers by extending a different gesture of kindness each day. Random acts of kindness do not need to be complicated or expensive in order for them to bring joy to others. Plug money into strangers’ parking meters, give away lottery scratch cards, leave positive comments on social media, or smile at strangers. Kindness is like a boomerang: If you throw it out into the world, it will surely be returned to you.
It’s March, the official beginning of spring. Inspired in part by the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku, or forest-bathing, this month’s challenge is to spend an hour in nature every day. Spending time in nature promotes longevity and wards off mental illness. It can also strengthen your connection to the environment and your community. You can adapt the challenge to reflect your personal abilities and constraints. If your schedule is tight, even 20 minutes a day in nature is good for your health.
Spend the month of April fostering personal and community relationships. This month, do one act a day to help strengthen connections in your local community, both within your immediate networks as well as the community at large. Attend a community event, buy food at a Farmer’s Market, shop at locally owned businesses, support local indie artists, or visit the neighbourhood library. Not only do these acts enrich your own life, but they bolster the social fabric of the whole community.
In May, dig deeper into your commitment to the local community by voting with your wallet. This month, resolve to patronize only locally owned businesses, stores and restaurants. Amongst other benefits, shopping at local businesses helps to keep more money within the local economy, provides more employment opportunities locally, and reduces the environmental impacts with shipping from distant locations. Buying local often translates into better customer service and a more engaging experience for you too.
June sees the return of warmer weather, and with it the impulse to celebrate. But you don’t need to spend more to have more fun – this month resolve to have as much fun for free as you can. Take a child on a rambling exploration around your neighbourhood, attend a free concert, revel in a good book, or simply enjoy a long bath. The bottom line insight this month: The best things in life really are free.
Revel in the rewards of the simple life and go on a technology cleanse in July. This month’s challenge is to reduce the amount of time spent using personal technologies – devices like TVs, computers, tablets and smart phones. Try dropping these devices cold-turkey, or else gradually build up week by week towards a complete technology hiatus. Here’s my four-week plan. Week one: no TV. Week two adds Internet surfing to the list of banned activities. Week three extends to email and texting. And in week four, give up your cell phone completely. The best part of doing a technology cleanse: It is like going on a vacation, without leaving home.
August, the height of summer, seems the perfect time to immerse yourself in a daily dose of positivity. To test the power of positivity first hand, this month challenge yourself to be positive in all your interactions. Be nice to people, smile often, give compliments, be encouraging and supportive, ask questions and listen empathetically, and laugh and be playful. Being positive with others is a simple, yet powerful, way to make a difference in other people’s lives and it benefits you too.
In September, it’s time to give back. This month, roll up your sleeves and do some volunteer work every day. Volunteering is one of the most effective ways you can make a difference in your local community. Whether helping to organize a clothing drive for the homeless or mentoring a youth at risk, the positive impacts of your efforts are often plain to see. Not only do your efforts help to make the community a better place for all, but volunteering can bring an incredible sense of achievement and fulfillment to your own life.
It’s October, and get ready to put your values where your mouth is. This month, explore the benefits of making meaningful changes to your diet that also lessen your impact on the planet. Try adopting a Mediterranean diet all month. The diet encompasses many environmentally friendly food philosophies – more fruits and veggies, and less meat and processed foods – without being too restrictive. Take it one step further by choosing locally produced foods wherever possible.
In November, the focus is on education, the springboard for human accomplishment and the backbone of any democratic and equitable society. Whether pursuing a formal university degree or taking a music class for fun, furthering your education can make life more enriching and rewarding. There are many reasons to invest in your own education – perhaps you want to start down a new career path, or simply fulfill a life-long dream of playing Stairway to Heaven on the guitar. No matter what your motives, dedicate this month to furthering your educational goals.
It is December, the holy season of reflection and devotion. In this final challenge of the year, invest at least one hour every day doing a spiritual activity. Meditate, practice yoga, read contemplative texts, or attend spiritual services. Spirituality is the ultimate form of connection, and the art of being human and living a good life of fulfillment is to nurture those connections in service of something greater than ourselves.