For some reason setting goals is an intricate part of my life. From an early age I can remember writing goals down on paper and ticking them off when they had been achieved. I think having my birthday on the 31st December helps with mindset. Having the anniversary of my birth coincide so nicely with the calendar year makes it easy. You can sit back during the holidays and reflect on the previous year, while also looking forward to the future.

In our society, the end of one year and the start of another is often served as a time to reflect on our lives. But the sad reality is that a large percentage of society shrug their shoulders at New Years and ignore this gift.  

In my opinion, people fail to realise the potential of this time of year and ultimately, they don’t take the opportunity that the beginning of a new year offers. It was Ellen Goodman who said that we should spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched and potential to be reached.

Over the past 10 years my birthday has always involved the setting of a yearly challenge. Now a challenge is slightly different to a resolution. Resolutions are usually made in order to correct something people are unhappy with. To change something; to improve a weakness or to break a habit. At the heart of a resolution is the idea that you current life is not good enough. You don’t measure up in some area and you have to change.
I need to be fitter.
I need to lose weight.
I need to …

Challenges on the other hand are about personal discipline and organisation. They require you to plan, to organise and adjust your life to accomplish something extraordinarily ordinary. In fact the more ordinary, the better. Yearly challenges won’t improve your life, nor do they offer any great wisdom to the outside world. All they will do give you a small task that you have to achieve each day.

My first challenge started in 2008 with the goal of writing a blog for a year. Following that who could forget the year of 2009 where I shaved everyday of the year with the same razor. Things got a little sketchy around June, but I managed to keep focused and see the year through.

In 2010, I completed one of my proudest achievements, wearing the same pair of underwear for an entire calendar year. Going with the old school silk boxers was inspired genius. I was able to wash them regularly, they were quick drying and yes, to answer your question, they were crotch-less by the 31st December.
The year 2011 marked my first of two failures. A hospital visit in April for suspected appendicitis curtailed my attempt to see if it was possible to eat 3000 Weetbix in a calendar year. At this stage there has been no evidence to suggest that my high fibre diet clogged up my insides. However, the resumption of more balance diet did see the appendicitis subside.

Failure continued in 2012 when my best efforts of completing an elaborate push up challenge ended when I broke my ribs in a bike crash. My plan had been to start on January 1st with one press up and then add one per day until I was doing 365 on my birthday. Unfortunately, I made it to day 274.

Failing my yearly challenge 3 times in a row was not an option. So I went with the relatively safe option in 2013of using no pillow when sleeping. Success continued in 2014 when I went an entire calendar year only drinking water.   

The year 2015 saw me revolt against the comforts of our 21st century lifestyle and live like Wim Hof. This involved a year of cold showers, which also resulted in a year of short showers during winter.

On a roll with my yearly challenge 2016 proved to be the easiest with a year away from social media. The first month was hard and then the rest was easy.

Without doubt the hardest challenge year was 2017. The challenge was to run for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. A bad case of planta fasciitis in the final month reduce my running to more of a hobble. But I made it through.

Green vegetables were the order of 2018 as I ate one brussels sprout a day. I did fail this one due to an evening out of town in the middle of winter but made up for it with a couple extra the next day.  

So, what for 2019. Well my challenge is to use the same knife, fork and spoon for each meal. I have purchased a new set of Maxwell Williams utensils and they will be used whenever needed. They will have to travel the year with me to work, to the local café, to restaurants and summer bbq’s. As we bring in 2019, what does the year hold for you? My advice is to ignore the tired old tradition of a half-baked resolution and instead go for a challenge. As British author Alex Morritt said  “New Year – a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story ? Ultimately we write it. The choice is ours.”