There are barely 40 days left to the end of the year. The resolute resolution-makers gearing up for 2020 to begin, are looking back on their achievements (or lack of) in 2019. Maybe that’s why there is a fresh spurt of 30-day challenges online, a last ditch effort to make up for promised goals, unmet. Morale boosting self talk, rather WhatsApp group talk, while cringeworthy, has its positives — research suggests creating routines with digital support systems do, indeed, help people establish healthier lifestyles.
I’ve never much liked the idea of a challenge — or the other worthy attempt at maximising the time in one’s life — a bucket list. Of course, it’s good to have a plan, if only for the reason it’s something to think about and occupy your mind with. The top #30daychallenge trending on Twitter right now, unsurprisingly, is something called ‘30 days 30 minutes’ that urges a half-hour daily workout with the tag line, be stronger than your excuses. Goal setting is motivating and accomplishments feel good, sure. But this fools people into believing that 30 days of exercise will magically transform a lifetime’s habit of non-exercising. It’s a good attempt to kick-start something positive but the reality is that exercising regularly is a struggle even for people who’ve been doing it all their lives.
We tend to benchmark ourselves against all the amazing people we read about and see, and God knows there are enough of them out there. This newspaper carried an incredible story about 17-year-old Yashasvi Jaiswal, who sold paani puri while trying to make it to the Indian cricket team. However, the vast majority of us are, at best, above average performers who simply wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of hardship, which is exactly the problem with these fitness challenges; they end up making you feel bad about yourself when you can’t keep up. Human beings spend a large part of their lives beating themselves up for wasted time and missed opportunities. Cooped up in this pollution induced haze that, in any case, induces feelings of deep discontentment, then to have to live up to some goal—it sounds extremely stressful. While one could always do more (work), be more (fit), right now it seems enough to just be, and dream of a brilliant blue sky.
Or, partake in the other far more entertaining challenge (if you can call it that) of posting one useless fact for 30 days. Who knew ‘dreamt’ is the only word in the English language to end with ‘mt’? A vastly popular one, followed by many of my acquaintances, is the posting of favourite book covers for 30 days. I was recently added to a chat called ‘21 Days of Abundance’ where the tasks involved were keeping financial accounts and listing five people who improve your life. I am highly sceptical of any exercise that promises a discovery of inner strength or resolve. But having to think about this and write it down led me to the surprising conclusion that the person who improves my life the most is my driver, without whom I would be caught in an endless loop of painful chores.
The notion that we can ever be better, is in theory, a great idea. It also feels ridiculously optimistic right now. The smoky grey sky transports one back to Pink Floyd’s most depressing albums predicting an apocalyptic doom. An environmental anthem, Sorrow is an ominous recollection of a lost paradise and of rivers that ‘flow dark and troubled to an oily sea’. However, the fatalistic band
does — like people participating enthusiastically in challenges — provide a glimmer of hope in the same track: One world, one soul, time pass and the river roll.