Take The Week With/out Challenge

Are you tired? Exhausted, maybe? How about just plain bored with life? Yep, me too.

The good news is, life doesn’t have to be that way.

The solution is simple: challenge yourself, test your limits, learn from the experience, and grow as a person.

This isn’t some New Age, fix-all solution. You’re not going to lose forty pounds in a week, find your fortune with a click of a button, or discover the mystic healing powers of your personal chakra.

Instead, you’ll discover the power of living intentionally, never taking anything for granted, and always knowing that you aren’t defined by your habits, your lifestyle, or your stuff.

Step 1: Determine what you value

photo courtesy of Cassidy Curtis

photo courtesy of Cassidy Curtis

Take fifteen minutes completely alone, whether in the woods or in your bedroom, somewhere where you can focus.  In that silence, be one hundred percent honest with yourself about…yourself.  Don’t say anything that would impress others, or even take the needs of others into consideration.  This is the one time in your life that it is okay to only care about yourself.

The goal of this exercise is to reflect on what you value most in life, think about how you can stay true to your values in all you do, and see what you can change or improve upon to give you the time, energy, or peace of mind you need to do so.

I’ve provided some questions to help jog your mind, but you needn’t answer all of them, or any of them at all.

  1. If you knew you were going to die in one year, but maintained all your physical and mental capabilities until the final hours, what would you want to accomplish in the next month?
  2. If you were completely alone in the world, with no family or friends, as though you were dropped out of a plane into a distant land, how would you go about making money?  What would you do with your spare time?
  3. If you could master one skill completely, but not be above average at anything else, what would it be?
  4. What is your proudest accomplishment of the past year?  What will you be proudest of in the coming year?
  5. What would your dream life look like in five years?  What can you do tomorrow to get you one step closer?

Here’s what you want to come away with:

  1. What do you value the most in life?
  2. What can you do every day that reflects or advances these values?

You don’t need to solve the great problems of your life and identity, you just need to figure out what matters to you, and what you can do in service of those things.

For example, here’s my answers, not that yours should look anything like mine:

  1. What do you value the most in life?
    • Knowledge
    • Creativity
    • Independence
    • Generativity
  2. What can you do every day that reflects your values?
    • Reading
    • Writing
    • Listening to others
    • Trying new things
    • Helping others any way I can

Step 2: Examine your life

One Week Without Lying

One of the most important concepts in OWW/O is living intentionally.  Stop taking things for granted, and start examining, challenging, and questioning your life and habits constantly.

Now that you know what activities serve your values and make you feel truly good, the next step is to observe your life for a few days.  Track what you spend your time on, and what you spend your money on, and keep notes on your phone, computer, or a piece of paper.

Once you have enough information, take some time to look it over and see what stands out.  More specifically, ask yourself:

  1. How much of your time and money goes into things that actually matter to you?
  2. What do you spend time or money on that doesn’t align with what you value in life, or help you accomplish your goals?
  3. Which people, things, or activities that you value are under-represented here?

Make a list with two columns.  In the left column, put everything that takes up time or energy without reflecting your values or getting you closer to your goals.  These are your candidates for your Week Without challenges.

In the right, put down everything you wish you could do more of, if only you had the time, energy, or willpower.  These will be candidates for your Week With challenges, and some may also serve well as replacement habits for the Week Without challenges.

Step 3: Plan your challenge

photo courtesy of Angie Torres

photo courtesy of Angie Torres

Now that you’ve identified a few candidates for your first few week with/out challenges, the next step is to plan them out.  I recommend only planning the first three or four, as too exhaustive of a list can be a bit daunting at the start.  First, a few tips:

Don’t start with the hardest challenge, start small and build your way up.
I recommend starting with something simple, relatively easy, but still effective.  For my first challenge I chose television.  I knew that I could do it, was excited about the ways that I could use my time otherwise, and knew that it would be of genuine help to me.  This is a great way to build confidence

Have fun with it.
Plan to start your first challenge a few days from now so that you can enjoy whatever you’re giving up in the meantime.  For instance, if you’re giving up television, give yourself a night to catch up on some shows, and give the habit a solid farewell.

Mix it up.
For diet related challenges, ex. giving meat and alcohol, don’t do them right in a row, instead add some variety to keep you on your toes and make the process more fun.

Plan out what you are going to do during your challenges.
You don’t want to be locked to a regiment, but you do want to be prepared for the challenge going in.  If you are trying out a new habit, let’s say you want to start running everyday, be sure to make time to do it.  Make a plan and a schedule and stick with it.

Likewise, quitting a bad habit often works better if you replace it with a good habit that has similar triggers.  Consider this ahead of time, as well as any other difficulties you can anticipate.  If there’s something you can do ahead of time to make it run smoother, do it.

Step 4: Start your challenge

photo courtesy of Oscar Rethwill

photo courtesy of Oscar Rethwill

Now that you have you’re plan in place, you’re ready to go!  Remember, this is about living the life of your dreams, or getting closer to it at least, so have some fun with it! Test your limits, push yourself, and you’ll be all the better for it.

As you’ll soon see, the One Week With/out process is not without its unique challenges – I’ve certainly come across a few and I’m sure you’ll find some that are unique to your personal circumstance.  This site is ripe with the experiences of myself and others, refer to these for guidance and support, and feel free to reach out to me at anytime. You can find me at scott(at)oneweekwithout.com

Step 5: Learn from it

photo courtesy of monkeyc.net

photo courtesy of monkeyc.net

At the end of each challenge, take some time to reflect on the experience and determine what you will take away from it.  Sometimes you’ll discover that you should keep up the challenge indefinitely, other times you may decide to simply take a more moderate approach to whatever it is you challenged yourself with.

I find it’s helpful to write these down so you can refer back to them whenever is necessary.

Step 6: Share

photo courtesy of Duane Schoon

photo courtesy of Duane Schoon

None of us exists in a vacuum, and social support is especially important when taking on a serious challenge.  The One Week Without community is always here, on Facebook, and on Twitter.  Please feel free to share your experience so that we can all learn from it, and give advice wherever possible.

If you want to take things a step further and post about your challenge here on OWW/O, I would love to have you.  Just shoot me an email and I’ll get you set up.

may we all get better together.


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