“Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
I’ve met a lot of people in my life. I’ve worked as a shark touch tank supervisor at the Indianapolis Zoo, a busboy, a host, a waiter three times, an IT assistant at a Law School, an audio engineer, a business manager, an artist manager, and so on. Out of all the different people I’ve met in all the different corners of the work world, one constant has remained: we all wish we could be better.
Whether we want to make more money, be more productive, drink less, read more, or spend more time doing what we love, a central condition of humanity is to want to do more and be better at it. If you press someone on this point and ask what’s stopping them, chances are they’ll tell you that they’re just waiting on one thing to come in, or waiting to develop a new habit, and then it will all be fine. Sadly, for most people, that never happens.
A few months ago, when I looked at myself I felt deflated. There was so much I wanted to do, I wanted to be better, no, I wanted to be the best I could be. Thing was, I would get an idea of a company I wanted to start or a book I wanted to write, and I would obsess over it – for a few days. Then, I would acknowledge the idea’s shortcomings and start working on another idea, inevitably repeating the cycle.
After the twentieth time through this same spiral, I realized that there was something more central getting in between me and my dreams.
When I graduated college I left with a hard-earned degree, some long-ignored debt, and a host of terrible habits. On a given weekday, I would spend a few hours watching television, have a healthy several beers, and retire no earlier than 2am. The weekends were worse.
I spent six months trying to adapt the real world to my habits, instead of adapting my habits to it, and finally, I grew tired of being tired. I set out to change my habits and myself – gradually at least. I decided to root out each vice that was getting in the way of my self-improvement, and live without it for one week.
I didn’t want to give away everything entirely; I just wanted to know how to enjoy it all in moderation, not excess. I don’t mind having a few beers now and again, but I couldn’t go on having more than a few each night.
Thus far, the experiment has been a grand success. I kicked the TV habit first, experimented with living as a vegetarian, spent some good time sober, and am continuing on down the list as far as it will go.
As it turns out, I’ve found one week to be the perfect amount of time to reset a habit, and be able to approach it again with a clearer perspective. Some people can sail off to Thailand, move into the jungle, and retrain themselves to be a Zen master. For the rest of us, our lives can’t sustain a spontaneous habit overhaul, and even if we tried it, it probably wouldn’t stick.
The best way to change your habits, and start down the path towards reaching your fullest potential, is to start small. Habit by habit, you can reset each of the stagnant routines in life, learning the whole way and improving constantly.
After three months of week without challenges, I realized that the mission of the site should be a bit broader. Now, it focuses on both “week with” and “week without” challenges, to pick up new habits, and kick bad habits, depending on what’s necessary at the moment.
Through the experience of others, this site presents a game plan for examining your life and your dreams, rooting out the vices which are standing in the way of your potential, and creating new, positive habits to affect change in your life.
I hope it serves you well.
Start your own One Week With/out challenge! Begin here.