Why 40 days?

Today I shall write about what kickstarted and sparked my interest into the habit of constant self-improvement. To be honest, it was not a conscious decision that I woke up one day deciding that i’d want to improve myself. Rather, it was more of a gradual journey that cultivated my passion for all these.

I think what really made me want to improve myself and my life were 3 main push factors. (Unfortunately, most of us need push factors/stimuli to kick us off our asses and get to work..me included)

My first reason was good company/friends that I had made along the way. William was a major ‘push’ factor in my self-improvement journey.

I met William in first year of uni, first semester in 2016, but we never really had the chance to talk much. We were sitting at the same table during laboratory sessions with different partners. I could see that this guy put effort into his work and was methodological. When in doubt, was not afraid to ask questions. It was only in semester two that we started getting to know one another better. Initially through us becoming lab partners and talking a lot more, then studying together after lectures in the quiet areas of the libraries in different faculties.

All along, I had been studying my ass off to try my best to enter into medicine. Staying up late till 3am and waking up at 6.30am for lectures at 8am was a norm, pulling several all-nighters till 7 or 8am during the weekends with a couple cans of red bull was not uncommon. It took a whole lot of heart, discipline and work to pull through that, but I was determined to do my best. Despite all that effort, my results were only slightly above average at B+ (Gpa 6.0). I needed an A average (Gpa 8.0) for better chances. I was intrigued, and very curious to find out how my friends who had all along been scoring so well were studying. What their study habits were, what time they slept etc. How and what methods were they using to memorise all these countless facts and points we were given every lecture? I was determined to find out and started talking to them about this.

William was one of the friends I started talking to about this, and he was glad to share. We started talking about other things aside from lecture content, and more about things like food, life passions, habits, aspirations for the future, movies, books and so much more. It was not often for me to I find someone with similar quirks, interests and habits that I had, some better than mine which I was keen to try out and implement into my daily life. For example, I had and still love eating meat. I could never imagine myself in a thousand years enjoying and looking forward to eating a vegetarian meal. William himself was vegan, and ate very healthily. He never imposed his thoughts and ideals upon me or our friends, which I respected greatly. If somebody tried to persuade me and “force” me to eat healthy and give up meat, I would never have listened. Meat was life! Whenever it was mealtime, I would invite him to come along with a couple other friends to hang out in school and eat together, but he would gently decline and say that he would go home to eat instead. This went on for a couple times and made me very curious to see what he was preparing for himself back at home.

What I think brought us much closer was when I first went over to his place to study together. We studied for a while, and then felt a rather peckish. I then used this opportunity to ask him what he exactly was he eating and whether I could give it a try. He was more than happy to oblige, and we went about preparing dinner together in the kitchen. What impressed me was the variety of vegetables he included into each meal. All natural and organic, we cut one type of vegetable after another, and put them in the pot to cook. It looked so colourful and smelt pretty good too! Upon counting the different types of vegetables we had added into this one meal, the number came up to about 14. There were the basic herbs like onions, garlic, ginger, and many others like kale, carrots, broccoli, turmeric etc. Furthermore, to add onto that list of food, we had lentils which I had never tried before. The list of vegetables just went on and on. I have never had so many different types of vegetables in one day, let alone one meal! We topped them with chia seeds, nutritional yeast, dried seaweed, flaxseed oil and several other superfoods that I had never seen before. I was just mind-blown at that moment. The food tasted really good, and was one of the most satisfying meals I had in a long time. Up till then, I had never imagined that I would ever be full and satisfied with just herbs itself. I was very impressed.

Slowly but surely, our friendship grew into one strengthened by constant updates with each other not just on healthy living, but also how to get the most out of life itself. We also constantly shared with each other things that we came across that week that we found interesting and intriguing. This newfound passion and great like-minded conversations were what really fueled our friendship and kept it going these past couple years.

Second reason was the fact that I had just gone through a pretty bad breakup with my then girlfriend of almost 3 years in 2016. As such, I now had to find something to engage my time or more importantly, my mind with. Exercise has always been a place I seek solace and peace in. Being able to push myself as hard as I want and could, to use all that mental tension and frustration out. What’s even better is that this form of outlet is highly encouraged and has never failed to help me feel better after an intense workout. Physically, psychologically, mentally, emotionally, it has helped in all aspects. (If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it guys! You won’t understand what i’m referring to unless you try it yourself.)

Anyway, I digress. So during that period, I drowned most of my free time in exercise, exercise and more exercise, wanting to vent all my frustrations and “improve” my body. By doing so, I started on this “positive vicious cycle” of always wanting to better myself. Instead of investing into the relationship as I used to do in the past, I started putting all that effort into investing in myself. To improve. To convince and make myself believe that the relationship ended for the better, that something good came out of what seemed like a nightmare. Little did I know, I was slowly shaping my personality of always wanting to improve, finding something within me that I could work on, regardless of how small it may be. If I heard or saw something that I knew was highly encouraged for people to do because it was beneficial, I would do it. Anything. The more benefits it had, the more I wanted to do it, and STICK TO IT. Cold showers, waking up early at 4am, getting fit/stronger, making more friends and learning how to be more social and strike up a conversation with anyone. I started reading up and watching anything related to it.

Thirdly, though i’m not proud to admit it, me not entering medical school after first year of Biomedical science was a big blow. I felt somewhat dumber and inferior to all my friends who had managed to get into med school. For sure, I was aware that this was not a positive emotion and thought to constantly have in my mind and heart. But this was exactly spurred me on to want to improve. (Guys, this isn’t something you should aim to have by the way!!) I felt helpless, weak, unable to do anything to change the situation. This, kept me going and wanting to learn from everyone else around me. To copy their study methods, imitate their habits, what they did, how they thought. Anything that I thought might help, I did. This hunger and quest for improving myself, greatly contributed to this passion I have towards investing and bettering myself (if there is such a word!).

I always ask myself now when I hear of something good out there with tremendous benefits, why aren’t I doing it? (Of course, use common sense too! If it sounds dodgy/not legit/dangerous, do more research please!)

The main idea is to do something. Anything small even. Actually, you’d wanna start somewhere small. Do something easy. Something you know you’d definitely be able to stick to and commit. Like what I heard on the Tim Ferris podcast the other day, he doesn’t tell people to do 1 hour of exercise everyday. 99% of us won’t even stick to it the first 3 days. No. What he does is to get them doing something really really simple. Have breakfast. Eat something to fuel you and start the day right. 2 eggs, some wholemeal bread & avocados for example. Just do something easy. From then on when you find that you’re sticking to it, keep going! Keep the habit up. 40 days. Longer. Keep going. Finding it too easy? Add something/another thing that you think you can improve and work on. Again, something that you know you can stick to. Slowly, but surely, you’ll start to notice that this simple habit of just getting the ball rolling not procrastinating, starting the day right, things will start to snowball and will help you gain more and more confidence to achieve and complete challenges that you’ve never dreamt of achieving and completing! Trust me, i’ve been there. I never thought that i’d take a cold shower down in the South Island (New Zealand) in Queenstown during the middle of Winter at 4 freaking degrees. Make my bed everyday for 40 days? Check. No artificial/added sugar and fast food for 40 days? Check check check 3 times. And i’m still going on with all these challenges! I’m finding that i’m having so fun challenging myself, enjoying that deep feeling of satisfaction when I know that i’ve managed to do something that 90% of us would not even contemplate doing. What’s more is the effect i’ve noticed its had on my life! Simple everyday tasks like sitting my butt down to study, do something that I have to do, I just do it now. I’m procrastinating ALOT less. My willpower is waaaaay stronger than when I first started. It’s becoming addictive. My snowball is still rolling and getting bigger, but my journey has not been all roses and no thorns. There have been days when I get affected and regret. But push through. You’d thank yourself. Trust me. We all start somewhere. You just have to START NOW. We all have that little voice in our heads telling us to start later, do it tomorrow, we’re too busy today. KICK HIM ASIDE. He doesn’t care about you. Start now. Seriously, start now, choose something, tell a close friend to stay accountable, write down your challenge, end date and get going! I can assure you that after 40 days, you will consider even continuing and pushing that deadline further back or even cancelling it. If that happens, good on you! Im proud of ya.

Some of you may be wondering why I choose 40 days as the length of my challenges.

2 reasons.

Firstly, i’ve read somewhere that 40 days is the length of time required to cultivate a habit that sticks. It just hits that sweet spot of not being too long that you’d think it’s impossible to achieve, yet long enough to be effective.

Secondly, mentioned 146 times in Scripture, the number 40 generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation.

(In the Bible) During Moses’ life he lived forty years in Egypt and forty years in the desert before God selected him to lead his people out of slavery. Moses was also on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, on two separate occasions (Exodus 24:18, 34:1 – 28), receiving God’s laws. He also sent spies, for forty days, to investigate the land God promised the Israelites as an inheritance (Numbers 13:25, 14:34).

The prophet Jonah powerfully warned ancient Nineveh, for forty days, that its destruction would come because of its many sins. The prophet Ezekiel laid on His right side for 40 days to symbolize Judah’s sins (Ezekiel 4:6). Elijah went 40 days without food or water at Mount Horeb. Jesus was tempted by the devil not just three times, but MANY times during the 40 days and nights he fasted just before his ministry began. He also appeared to his disciples and others for 40 days after his resurrection from the dead.

The number forty can also represent a generation of man. Because of their sins after leaving Egypt, God swore that the generation of Israelites who left Egyptian bondage would not enter their inheritance in Canaan (Deuteronomy 1). The children of Israel were punished by wandering the wilderness for 40 years before a new generation was allowed to possess the promised land. (By having the meaning of a generation of man, I felt that by doing a 40-day challenge, it could also mean that my old worse self would be gone (Hopefully!) and my current better self would be in place).

40-day meaning and info taken from http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/40.html for anyone of you who are interested to know more.

That’s all from me today guys. Stay tuned for more! 🙂

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