I don’t remember the last time I did a pushup before three weeks ago. In an attempt to educate myself about positive masculinity, I followed a programme from a book called 31 Days to Masculinity and started doing 100 pushups every day. Focusing on that daily ritual gave me some kind of determination and conviction to develop other habits. For the first time in my life, I really feel like I’m levelling up.
One hundred pushups and reading
Three weeks ago, I decided to take up the challenge of doing a hundred pushups every day from the book, 31 Days to Masculinity. The challenge was simple enough: for the next thirty-one days, do 100 pushups before I sleep. I decided to do 20 sets of 5 to make it easy, manageable and low in inertia. I spread out the 20 sets across the entire day.
I came up with a way to track the number of pushups. I used 3M 1-inch Post-it Flags and wrote numbers on them to see which set I’ve done for the day. Every completed set had a sticker shifted to a different place.
I used to hurt my wrists because I was doing them wrong. So this time I made sure I changed the position of my hands and elbows. I just needed to complete 100 every day easily and without hurting myself. Below is a picture of what I used to do (left) and what I do now (right). I don’t care if it’s the wrong way. My muscles are engaged and I’m not hurting myself.
As part of the programme, I also had to consistently read a book. No minimum number of pages, no minimum amount of time. I decided to finish my notes for Stick With It by Sean Young PhD and bought an e-book called One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I’m a tsundoku (someone who buys too many books and finds it a challenge to read them) and I’d like to start reading more seriously.
10 pushups and a bullet journal.
After two days, I was curious to see if I could push myself further to do 10. I found that it was a pretty satisfying challenge and began doing sets of 10 instead. Soon, I started shifting two stickers instead of one. Woohoo!
It was a great feeling moving two stickers at a time instead of one. A small improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. Apparently, setting up small wins can contribute to a growth mindset and also help beat against procrastination. To make tracking easier, I did a set of ten pushups every hour from 10.00am to 7.00pm. At this point, I had enough confidence to do a set 10 pushups anywhere and that made it easier to do it every hour.
Interestingly, I was overcome with a need to organize my life more. I had once attempted to organize my life through a bullet journal but gave it up. I just wasn’t as determined as I am now. This time, I felt like I had more conviction so I decided to give it another try. (This was also after several attempts to purchase ready made planners but none gave me what I needed.)
Having a bullet journal allowed me to customize my organizational and planning needs. One of the things I wanted was a simple hourly plan every day. I stumbled upon the Daily Time Bar which was an absolute Godsend.
I made many mistakes in the bullet journal when I started. I was tempted to revert to my old habit of disowning notebooks and getting new ones. But I told myself that I was going to at least try to finish using all thirty pages of the B6 5mm grid Muji notebook which coincidentally matched the programme’s plan of thirty-one.
I wondered at this point if my determination was motivation spilling over from completing hundred pushups every day.
To track my progress of the challenges, I made a simple tracker in my bullet journal for the ten sets of ten pushups and for my reading goals.
I got greedy.
Two weeks went by and I was tracking my pushups regularly. After four days, I found myself trying to gradually push for twenty pushups. I kept at twenty and gradually became comfortable. I would do ten if I was rushed for time, but when I could, I tried to hit twenty. It was easier that way to finish a hundred when I only had to do a couple of sets of twenty.
Then I got greedy.
Something drove me to try for 30. But my first attempt only brought me to 25. I was almost disappointed, but quickly lowered my expectations and tried to do 25 whenever I had the time, energy and focus. I marked the 5 with a fraction and then half a tick, making it full with the next set.
This was when I noticed something else.
I hadn’t been reading.
When I observed my progress from the start, I noticed that I hadn’t been reading as regularly as I would have wanted. Disappointment loomed at the fringe of my thoughts and I tried to reflect my previous days. My mind, I noticed, was also quick to think of coming up with excuses.
But you were really busy!
You had so many things to do!
I told myself that there was definitely a way to improve my situation and daily routine. And my mind also found a silver lining.
I had formed several habits from trying to form a habit.
- Almost every morning (I’ve been sick the past few days), I would find time for myself to prepare the day’s entry.
- I would draw out the Daily Time Bar, write down the tracker for my pushups and write down the tracker for my reading goals.
- I realised that I was more aware of maintaining a better handwriting by changing the position of my arm and wrist.
- I would spent time thinking and planning out my day first thing in the morning.
These were the habits I had formed from trying to establish one routine every day: 100 pushups.
My bullet journaling also became more developed and tidy. And I really can’t imagine a day not writing my day out.
All I need to do now is to figure out when and how to stack my habits so that I can achieve my reading goals more regularly. My current attempt is to wake up early, freshen up well and start my reading off.
The three lessons.
First, just do it. Now. There’s absolutely no reason why you should be ruminating about it. In the words of my best friend, “Go jer” or “Just try it.” I guess that’s the wisdom behind Nike’s motto “Just Do It.”. Seriously. Stop reading this. Go improve your life.
Second, if you’ve already started, keep going. Be curious about how far you might go. T. S. Eliot, a poet and a Harvard alumni in philosophy, once said, “Only those who risk going too far will know how far they can go”. What you’re afraid of has not existed yet. You will deal with it when it comes.
Last, if you’ve already started, and you’re trying not to give up over a mistake, try something else! You can be flexible and you should. Listen to what you like to see and be true to yourself. Learn what you like and what you don’t like. Then, move on.
I hope you’ve found this post to be beneficial. See you next time.