14 Day Walking Challenge to Regain My Focus

Why I started this challenge

When I made a decision to create this website, I set myself a deadline. It was the end of January 2017, I was going to launch it by the 2nd of April of the same year. I gave myself two months. I had no idea what I was doing or how am I going to do it. I thought two months was a fair amount of time, and it was more than fear. However, I made a lot of mistakes, I spent a lot of time working on the wrong things and by three weeks left to my deadline, I realized that there is no way on earth I'm going to do it by April the 2nd. I was lost, and I had no idea what on earth I was doing. Long story short, I found a solution to my problems: Solo Build It! I'm not affiliated and this article is not going to be about what I did and didn't do and what worked or didn't work. Solo Build It suited my needs at that time, gave time, clarity and relief and after less than two weeks of intense work and studying my website went live. 

From beginning of March to about 10th of May, I was working non-stop, from morning till late evening. My house was turning into a real tip - almost like the ones you see in the movies where they show where heroin addicts live. Well, maybe not that bad, but it was getting scary. 

The only thing that kept me sane was the only daily routine I stuck to unconditionally: meditation. However, 20 minutes of sitting meditation a day could not counteract an extreme lack of balance in my life for the last two months. A thick layer of brain fog was building up faster than ever, as thoughts and fears, relevant or irrelevant were storming around my head all day long. Clearing my mind for meditation was becoming more difficult, it seemed as if I was fighting against my thoughts rather than letting them be. After two weeks of work like this, I had a two week break where I done a lot less work, when my sister and her boyfriend came to visit in mid-February. But from the day they left onward it was non-stop. 

I have to admit, the state I was in wasn't as bad as it may sound. But compared to what I was used to before, the brain fog was an unacceptable nightmare, that I thought I left behind a while ago.

I get so enthusiastic and fired up about every new thing I'm doing, I forget that there is a better, more efficient and more healthy way of doing it. Then I make myself unfocused, productivity decreases by a milestone, my progress slows down, and my enthusiasm starts to roll into a deep dark hole.

And what did I say in one of my blog posts? I actually have an article, titled Simple Methods for Better Focus. I have found that a daily walking routine made my productivity shoot up sky high, and enjoy everything I was doing with laser sharp focus. I knew that the time spent walking, would more than pay off. But what can I say? I was so in love with a process that I didn't want to stop and do anything else. I forgot to listen to my own advice. 

Challenge

Everything was set up the way I wanted, and I knew I needed my sanity back, brain fog had to go away. I decided to do what previously worked wonders: get back to a regular walking routine. Only me being me, I decided to make it a challenge:

For 14 Days in a row I had to:

  1. I had to walk at least 10 miles
  2. Make a video about my experience
  3. Post it on YouTube

And I was not going to count any other walking than the one ten mile walk. Meaning, when I went to the shop or gone to other places on foot, I was still going to walk my dedicated 10 miles.

Not much. But consider this: after having spent 2 moths setting this project up, I had to catch up with my other work, mainly the art of being an artist. I needed more paintings. The house needed a very serious clear up, and while my beloved was helping as much as he could, he too was spending an awful lot of hours at work, for the sake of me having time to do this. I had things to do.

I didn't think it was going to be a problem, but it was those "things" that really made this challenge challenging. I soon figured out that fitting 4 hours of walking and video making in my day wasn't very easy. 

I  started the challenge a lot later then what I originally planned, due to some technical problems I was having. I wanted to postpone it even further, namely because I had no plan of what I was going to do on video, but I couldn't because we had tickets to a festival for the end of May, and I also had set out to do my long hike from Ramsgate to Camber for the 1st of June , one day after we came back from the festival. We also had organised to go camping for a week in New Forrest, few days after I walked back to Rye.

What I Learned

Purpose of this Challenge

I had several reasons for wanting to do this challenge the way I did. 

  1. Regain my focus and improve productivity
  2. Try out a video format
  3. Prepare for my long hike from Ramsgate to Camber

Focus

Brain fog started clearing after day 5, though I could barely notice it at first.  I wasn't going to push myself, if something was left undone and it wasn't of a major importance, I made a decision that I wasn't going to feel guilty of delaying.  

Around day 8 I managed to catch up with most of my tasks I was way behind doing: one of the main things was posting my videos on YouTube, as having to learn using my editing program delayed the process of publishing them. The state of my house was gradually going back to normal, and I was happy to see that I was finally accomplishing things with a lot more fluency. 

Physical tiredness kicked in at around day 5, however after day 6 I did not really notice it much. I wanted a break from different things I didn't enjoy doing, but after a little struggle and acceptance past day 10, everything started feeling a lot less overwhelming. I knew I didn't have much left to go. One of the days, I believe it was day 10 - I messed up. I made a video and walked only 2 miles of my walk. I had completely forgotten about a birthday party me and Andy were invited to. I left my walk for later in the day, and when Andy came back and reminded my of this happening, I barely had time to make a video and walk a tiny bit of the walk. I was a little upset about this happening, as that day I felt so great I almost felt like running the whole way. Nevertheless, I completed the rest of the challenge without any other incidences. 

Why walking works

Past day 10 I suddenly started realizing why walking works. Last time I started with regular walks, results came as a surprise. At first I couldn't put two and two together, and was getting confused of where was all this energy coming from. This time I was trying to watch myself as closely and as objectively as I possibly could. I couldn't understand it at first, but the big picture suddenly arose in the last final days. I was noticing longer and longer gaps between my thoughts, the more I was walking. On one of the last days I decided to clear my mind as soon as I'm done with a video, and meditate while walking for the next two and a half hours of my walk. It worked beautifully. I didn't expect to be able to do it with such ease.

The benefits of walking are incredibly similar to those of a good quality meditation. In fact, the benefits of walking are the benefits of meditative state. However, there is a major difference between sitting and walking meditation. 

Sitting meditation requires discipline and awareness from the practitioner. You have to notice when your mind is disturbed, and deal with it accordingly. Walking does not require anything like that. Your mind just becomes quieter. The more you walk, the stronger the effect. 

Walking is one of the oldest activities we ever undertook as physical beings. This is why walking works this way for everyone who can walk. It's been in our DNA for millions of years, walking is part of who we are. 

We never expect to gain anything from walking. We may have some expectations from activities that we do after we reach what our mind sets as a destination, or we may expect something from our endurance and stamina while combating long distances, but we rarely expect anything from walking itself. Even someone decides to start walking to improve their focus, or to loose weight - after continuous practice, walking itself has a strange ability to remove those expectations; and that's where the magic happens.

First time this magic happened to me, my expectations for this activity were purely on a physical body plain, and the expectations for it's results were set in a far away future. It was a form of exercise that I enjoyed. All I really wanted was to stay strong and healthy. However, after a few weeks I noticed a superb ability to focus, and to do and awful lot more work than I would normally be able to achieve on each single day.

After this experience, I knew the power that walking can have if undertaken as a regular activity. A while after I stopped regular walking, I knew exactly why I'm not as efficient as I was before. This time, my expectations were on my productivity. I wanted to be able to do more work, faster. Interestingly enough, while I experienced increased productivity, it was not by doing the things I really wanted to do. I had an awful lot of boring, every day tasks that I needed to catch up on. Once I gave up on the idea to be able to accurately calculate my work flow by one set measure, I realised I received yet another unexpected gift: clarity.

It finally downed on me that productivity did not matter at all. All that mattered was action, the quality in which it was taken, and intent. By this I don't mean to imply any form of perfectionism. Perfectionism is a state of mind and not action taken. While perfection itself is something entirely different. Anything that is close to true perfection is a byproduct of gazillion seemingly imperfect actions, taken with clear intent to achieve quality. Perfectionism is one being controlled by the mind, while true perfection is one being in control of the mind.

What I call perfection in this case is a true fulfilment of ones intent. If I wanted to draw a perfect circle by hand, I would have to draw plenty imperfect ones first, with the same intention of drawing a perfect one. As an artist, I have drawn plenty of circles in my life, yet not very many with an intention to produce a perfect one. As a result, my circles are still a little wonky. Therefore every one of those imperfect actions has to have the same intent to eventually be able to fulfil it. Only good practice makes perfect.

However, the only thing we achieve by drawing a perfect circle, is a very good control over your hand - yes, drawing circles is a great exercise. This is quite amazing. However, this does not make you a good artist. What makes a good artist comes from very deep within.  Mastering the technique gives you fluency and freedom to express what comes from deep within. 

In life, we must be aware that every goal we make requires the same principle. To succeed, we must never ever expect perfect results, but we should always intend them.

Awareness of our intent

With all our intentions we must always be aware of what we're intending, otherwise, we're ignoring the fourth dimension: time. If I intend to build a perfect house, yet my focus is on doing a perfect brickwork - the brickwork may be fantastic, yet all the other aspects of this house may be left average. Or, lets say we put all our focus bit by bit in all physical aspects of this project: footings, brickwork, roof and so on, yet we didn't pay any attention to the architecture before we started building, it may be a perfectly built house, yet it will look average and boring. Our main focus should always be on a big picture, not the details. When we have enough clarity to look at the big picture, we will instinctively know how much effort we have to spend on each separate component of our project.

This is one thing meditation helps with. I noticed this especially after walking: it helps you see the big picture and saves you from tangling up in the details that are ultimately meaningless. 

Clearly seeing the big picture also helps you become placid and creative - this can be a huge help dealing with upcoming challenges.

Headphones

The effect of walking is powerful, however be aware that this will not be the same if you walk or run while listening to music or audio books. I found walking while listening to audio books very pleasurable, and I feel like I'm actually using my time efficiently. However, it does not give you the same benefits as it would if you were just walking while being aware of your environment. At least this is how it worked for me. Everyone is different, and some people may find listening to music works better, however since figuring out why walking works on our state of mind the way it does, filling thought gaps with extra sounds does not make much sense to me.

Conclusion

The act of walking is a teacher. It teaches not the things that you want, but things that you need to learn. With regular walking, I noticed accelerated growth in many aspects of my life. I get insights on things I never thought of before. It does not only improve my focus, but the overall quality of life. Most importantly, it will help you put all your focus on one thing at a time, without loosing the sight of a bigger picture.

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Note on Video

I have achieved my goal of posting 14 videos + 1 challenge introduction video. I have found that I had no fear of publishing them, even though content quality was extremely low and I knew I could have done a lot better. 

I found out what making regular videos was like, how much work was involved in technical things, making sure it's watchable and hearable, also learning good bits of my editing program I have never worked with before.

Whilst I was quite successful in recording my videos and posting them on YouTube, I recently decided to delete them. Why?

I loved making those videos! This is the main reason why I removed them. I decided, that video and YouTube channel is something I would love to do in the future, and integrate it as a part of my website. 

However, at the moment I would like to concentrate on quality content that I can create by writing. Once I feel stronger in my current format, I will start thinking of the possibilities in video, and this time I want to prepare some good quality content. My walking videos were just me walking around, talking about nothing. Because of all the rush and unpreparedness, I never even thought of any good topics or absolutely anything that might be of any use to my audience. 

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