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25 March 2009

Could you change your life in just 37 days?

37bingo The compelling question behind my writing on this blog -- "What would I be doing today if I only had 37 days to live?" - came from experiencing the end of a life in just 37 short fleeting awkward painful glorious remarkable difficult scary wrenching days.

In addition to the awareness that life is short (hello? does anyone among us not know this and yet we evidently have daily short term memory loss about it?), I've become interested in the idea that I could significantly change my life in just 37 days.

Can I? Can you? Shall we?

Here's an excerpt from Life is a Verb that gets at this idea:

What would you do with your thirty-seven days?

What are you doing with your thirty-seven days?

Alfred Adler said we should “Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.” What, if you did it consistently for thirty-seven days (and perhaps beyond), would create positive vibes, intentional joy, good karma, fantastic direction, and deep expansiveness in your life? What one thing could you do that would start you on the road to greater wholeness, to your real life? Can you do it for just thirty-seven days? Because, as writer Annie Dillard reminds us, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Perhaps it’s something simple like cleaning out one drawer every day in your house for thirty-seven days. Perhaps writing one Haiku every day for thirty-seven days would break old patterns and help you see more. Or eating five fruits and vegetables a day or writing for ten minutes each day or walking for ten minutes a day or writing a postcard to a friend each week. Or pick one of the 37days Do it Now Challenges at the close of each of these stories and do it for thirty-seven days. Whatever it is, however small, do it. Just for thirty-seven days.

That’s doable. Decide on It, the Thing You Will Do. And then, do it.

Perhaps it is something you will stop doing for thirty-seven days. Stop hiding, stop spending, stop smoking, stop making excuses, stop blaming or judging, stop eating Raspberry Frosted Pop-Tarts® with Sprinkles (purely hypothetical example).

Narrow your focus to one thing. One small thing. Just do it for thirty-seven days. Starting today, not next Tuesday, not after you finish off the Honeycrisp apples dipped lovingly in hot caramel sauce, not after that next trip to Bashkortostan or Albuquerque, not after you finish alphabetizing your canned goods in the root cellar or sharpening your grapefruit spoons, but Right Now. Go ahead—deepen, change, inhabit your life fully for the next thirty-seven days. Then start again. Every day is day one, a gift.

[While you’re at it, answer this question: Why are we so willing to disappoint ourselves by not following through on such an easy commitment?]

As Max Bristol wrote on the back of his jacket in junior high school—a message of great comfort as he ran past me during the mandatory one-mile run in gym class—”a man (and, presumably, a woman, I must add) can endure anything as long as he knows there is an end to it.”

In 2003, the man whose journey sparked this writing was diagnosed with lung cancer. Boyce died thirty-seven days later.

 Make use of the next thirty-seven days.

So here's the deal.

What one thing, if you committed to doing it for just 37 days, could change your life? Walking? Cleaning out closets? Eating fruits & veggies? What?

I asked friends on Facebook (are we Facebook friends? Would you like to be?) and here are some of their answers:

  • Loving fully, completely, with abandon
  • Eliminate the negative voices that nag at me
  • Not eating sugar
  • Cleaning out mental and emotional closets first then the real ones would follow suit
  • Forgive and appreciate
  • I'd try breathing...deeply
  • Prayer, sit-ups, creating art
  • Writing + running
  • Exercise of any kind
  • Cleaning out the physical closets and then the emotional ones will follow
  • I would create one small piece of art a day
  • Seeing everything as a offer ... embracing the inner control freak and noticing more
  • Yoga
  • Get up each and every morning at 6am to breathe the fresh air and have a fighting chance to get things done

Think about it for a few days. The sky's the limit. My only suggestion is that we ruthlessly pick ONE THING, just one. So instead of "prayers, sit-ups, creating art," you focus your whole attention on one of those. Instead of my picking walking 30 minutes a day, decluttering my whole house, and learning Urdu, I pick just walking. You can pick another one next time. And I'd suggest we express our one intention as an action, something we DO. If you want to forgive and appreciate, for example, what one action each day would express that? What does "loving fully" look like in terms of an action?

I think new things will happen for us. I really do.

So think about it for a few days.

I'll get back to you on Friday.

Because Friday is Day 1.

What will you do?

[Image from Leo Reynolds' Flickr stream]


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You're too cool. And a little sneaky! ;) Now, if I can just figure out a "do" for those negative thoughts!

What if life isn't short but rather we choose to live IT late in life?

Thank you for your contribution and challenge! I'm thinking about it...

This is exciting. I'm in.

Damn, there goes my big mouth again...


i'd like to write in a gratitude journal at the end of the day. for 37 days. i have a notebook next to my bed. the pages are a nice size. small. i'm tempted to make lots of rules (can't write the same thing twice in a row, can't repeat, can't can't can't) but i won't. so there. thank you for this invite.

Count me in. As of Friday, I'm lacing up my sneakers and going for a walk a day for 37 days :)

I don't think I have enough money to do the things I would want to if I had 37 days to live.

My life is all a jumble anyhow right now so I might as well add something that is really good for me and will center me -- meditation, just ten minutes a day, that's all, I may do more, I may not. Thanks for spurring us all on on this.

Running. Oo, gosh, can I run every day? I don't even know. God, remember the last time I tried running? I was so sore that first day after! I ran every other day for a month and then quit one morning because it was too cold and never did it again. Hm..I wish I hadn't done that. I can not do it this time. I mean, who can't do something every day for 37 days? That's like hardly any time at all. Less than 1/12th of my whole stinking year. And maybe a bit more than 20/1440ths of my day. But only a bit. Gosh. Running every day. That's sort of serious, don't you think? At least, it sounds serious. People do things every day when they're serious.

What am I getting serious about?
My health. My future. My worth. My life. My heart, real and otherwise. I'm going to take it more seriously, but with a lot of fun.

I'm going to go to bed and get started a day early. I always need a head start when I'm going running.

Ooooh! I'm so excite cuz I just figured out what I'm gonna do! You're the best, Patti!

The one thing I can do every day that could potentially change my life is to write something every day that isn't on my blog that is work toward a book Ive been dreaming about writing for years.

Dont know about having the time or energy to add anything else to my life - but if I want change I have to be the change.

i haven't come to your blog for a while now, but for some reason today. now. i was pulled in... i've been wanting to enter such a process with myself as i prepare to walk through the doorway of my 40th birthday... i've arranged to have an exhibition of my painting work the weekend of, but today was thinking: what do i need to do NOW, EVERYDAY UNTIL THEN, to feel like i'm walking a sacred pathway with myself to mark this time? because actually it's already now. time is just a ritual... a chance to fill ourselves out. guess my birthday: may 3rd. so i suppose you're my amy. i'll have to decide what i need to do soon... here in bern it's almost tomorrow! thank you.

I'm going to walk 10,000 steps. Thing is for the first few days I won't have a pedometer. Hmm, let's see 10,000 divided by 37 . . .


I read this, thought I might do it "some other time" and went on. Then I read the Day Two post, and I had to join in. I wrote my first list of five things that I am grateful for yesterday morning, and I am going to stick to that for 37 days like one of the other commenters.

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