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Personal Challenges

The 30-Day Challenge: Waking Up At 6 AM (Week 1-2)

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This is a halftime recap after 14 days of The 30-Day Challenge: Waking Up At 6 AM. I’ll detail how the first two weeks went, my takeaways, and my adjustments going forward.

14-Day Recap

I felt incredible after waking up at 6am the first three days. The newfound energy from the challenge served as a big reason why. Also, I saw the fruits of waking earlier as I was a productive-machine in the morning.

In my new 6am schedule, I regularly accomplished reading, writing new blog content, going through my emails, and contacting other bloggers to guest post—all before 6:45am. Then I had time to do my normal routine (shower, get dressed, and make breakfast). Plus, I felt great the whole morning and rest of the day. This is a big difference compared to pre-Challenge mornings, where I rushed to only shower, get dressed, and make breakfast.

The earlier wakeup also improved my productivity at night. The work I did in the morning gave me momentum to finish a blog post, and more time to workout later in the day.

Statistically, I started strong and woke up perfectly on time the first five days. Then a former housemate in college had his wedding on the first weekend of The Challenge. Because of late nights, I failed to get up at 6am both Saturday and Sunday. And to be honest, I felt I could afford to sleep in because of how much I accomplished during the week.

In week two, nothing as notable happened. I missed the 6am alarm one time on Friday (it was my first paid day off of work for 4th of July). This time I also fell into the trap of feeling content because I was ahead of schedule. I’ll come back to this in the takeaways section. Overall, I improved in week two by hitting my 6am target in six out of the seven days.

For the official halftime-result, I woke up exactly at 6am in 11 out of 14 mornings (79%).

6 AM Challenge Takeaways

The first takeaway, and probably the most important, is waking up at 6am works exactly as I planned. It’s quiet, I’m refreshed, and it’s a breeze going through my tasks. Plus, the productivity in the morning carries over to more productivity later in the day. That’s a big win.

Also, when I missed my three targets on the weekend, my body still woke up hours earlier than it used to, which is a success. For example, I slept in until 8am one day. I unfortunately missed my target by two hours, but 8am is much better than 11am.

But the problem is, since I felt accomplished about my effort during the week, my mental edge wears off on the weekends. All three times when I overslept occurred during the weekend. Plus, I went to bed late every night I missed the 6am target.

So, to maximize the benefits of rising early, I need to correct this weekend struggle.

Adjustments Going Forward

I identified my weekend-weakness, and now I want to learn from those three morning mistakes to improve. My adjustment plan is to mentally reinforce the following truths.

First, I will tell myself that when I go to bed sets the tone for my morning. My friend’s wedding is an exception, but on other nights I will remember the pain of waking up at 6am if I go to bed at 2am. Another move is for me to take a nap during the day if I know I’m going to stay out late.

Second, I need to counter my feeling of contentment that I’ve already accomplished a significant amount during the week. To do this, I will remind myself that I need to be prepared for unexpected busy seasons or unmotivated times. Meaning I can always write more blog posts to build up backup resources when I need them.

Third, when I hear the alarm, I’ll tell myself hard work always pays off—and if it was easy, then everyone would do it. Although these are completely clichés, I believe these mental reminders will help me succeed in The Challenge when I need personal encouragement.

Readers, what do you do for motivation? How are you doing in The 6 AM Challenge, or your own challenge?

Related post
The 30-Day Challenge: Waking Up At 6 AM (Finale & Recap)

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Health & Fitness

30 Day Plank Challenge: Plank For 5 Minutes On Last Day

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Imagine how pumped up you’re going to be after you complete the 30 Day Plank Challenge? You’ll feel like a rockstar, with abs to prove your hard work.

What I appreciate about the plank is that it’s totally a matter of willpower when it comes to who is willing to get on the ground and do it and who is not.

You don’t need to be tall, fast, strong, or have any physical quality to do this activity. It just comes down to are you a hard worker or not?

This choice alone separates successful people from others in this physical arena and all areas of life, honestly—which I love.

It’s also always wise to test yourself every once in awhile. Since the last personal challenge on Take Your Success happened eight months ago (the gratitude challenge), there’s no more time for slacking.

So for this edition we’re going to be tackling the plank exercise for an entire month straight.

Before we get into the specifics of this challenge, you first need to know the many benefits of planking.

Health Benefits Of The Plank Exercise

I doubt you’re informed about all of the various ways your body thrives when you plank on a consistent basis.

Let’s change that and boost your motivation by learning the pros of staying in the plank position.

Strengthen your core – Planks are arguably the safest and best exercise to strengthen your body’s core since it activates all muscles in this area. Do this exercise enough and you’ll build strong inner core muscles that will pay off for daily function and a sexy appearance.

Flatten your abs – Not everyone wants a glorious six pack, but we could all use a more tightened stomach and abs for when we take our shirt off. Of course diet is more than half the battle for a smooth stomach, but don’t discredit the power of planking to flatten your abs and bring you more confidence about your physical appearance.

Better your posture – By planking, you improve the alignment of your spine, joints, and bones. This helps your body move more efficiently and healthy during every day activities. And better posture improves the first impression you give to others, your body’s energy, and, heck, sitting straighter at a work meeting could be the signal of confidence that persuades your boss to give you a raise.

Reduce back pain – We just covered how better posture improves how you present yourselves to others and feel every day. Though a straightened spine also means less back pain. This study finds that almost 80% of Americans will have back pain sooner or later. That’s a warning sign that we all should plank more often to reduce this nagging affliction.

Become more athletic – With a more stabilized core, your body’s coordination increases allowing your athleticism to improve. You don’t have to be an athlete to appreciate some extra athleticism whether it’s needed at the gym, a sports league with your friends, or some random work event that uses your core muscles.

Speed up your metabolism – Want to lose weight and burn more calories? The plank also delivers in this area, and does much better than crunches or regular ab exercises. The best part of this movement is that it forces your body to continue to burn calories long after you’re done with it, so you get to enjoy a sped up metabolic rate the rest of the day—even when you’re sleeping.

Decrease odds of injury – Doing the plank is wonderful from an injury-prevention perspective because it strengthens your body’s core while not putting too much pressure on your hips, spine, and back muscles. Plus a stronger core means your body has a bigger shield, in a sense, to prevent bodily injuries.

Improve your mood – When you exercise your core with a long and hard plank routine, you release stress from the nervous system to improve your overall mood. That’s why planking can ease your mental worries and lighten your depression since it gives your body an outlet for feeling mentally and physically weighed down.

How can you say you don’t love the plank exercise now? Make this exercise a part of your daily routine and all of those benefits come to you.

To help you follow through, follow an official daily schedule for one entire month.

30 Day Plank Challenge Rules

The goal of the regimented schedule below is to both build up the strength of your core and hold you accountable.

Stick with this schedule without missing a day and you’re going to be shocked at what you can physically accomplish in just one month.

Here’s the daily schedule to complete the 30 Day Plank Challenge:

  • Day 1: 20 seconds
  • Day 2: 20 seconds
  • Day 3: 30 seconds
  • Day 4: 30 seconds
  • Day 5: 40 seconds
  • Day 6: Rest
  • Day 7: 45 seconds
  • Day 8: 45 seconds
  • Day 9: 1 minute
  • Day 10: 1 minute
  • Day 11: 1 minute
  • Day 12: 1 ½ minutes
  • Day 13: Rest
  • Day 14: 1 ½ minutes
  • Day 15: 1 ½ minutes
  • Day 16: 2 minutes
  • Day 17: 2 minutes
  • Day 18: 2 ½ minutes
  • Day 19: Rest
  • Day 20: 2 ½ minutes
  • Day 21: 2 ½ minutes
  • Day 22: 3 minutes
  • Day 23: 3 minutes
  • Day 24: 3 ½ minutes
  • Day 25: 3 ½ minutes
  • Day 26: Rest
  • Day 27: 4 minutes
  • Day 28: 4 minutes
  • Day 29: 4 ½ minutes
  • Day 30: 5 minutes

Don’t be frightened by the thought of planking for 5 minutes on day 30. By that point you’ll have significantly strengthened your core and trained your mind to stick in there when things get tough.

The hardest part will be to actually get started and then maintain proper form while planking. The latter is what I’m going to cover next.

What’s Proper Planking Form?

You’ll defeat the purpose of this challenge and lose out on the physical benefits of planking if your form is terrible.

Keep it right and tight to maximize the core gains that are sure to come after you do the following routine, step-by-step for the next month.

This is proper plank form:

  1. Get into push-up position.
  2. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your body weight on your forearms.
  3. Keep your upper body and lower body on a flat straight line.
  4. Look at the floor and relax your head.
  5. Hold this stance for as long as you can while maintaining proper form.
  6. Don’t stop breathing, inhale and exhale at a slow normal rate.

See what I mean that anyone can do it?

It’s a simple exercise when you consider the fact you need no gym equipment, no weights, no workout partner, and no specific environment to start planking and strengthening your core.

Exercises like this don’t discriminate from the poor who can’t afford fancy gyms, so no one has an excuse for why they can’t plank to get better.

Take It 1 Day At A Time

Like any great individual journey, you’ll perform best if you stay laser focused to take this challenge one day at a time.

It does you no good to worry about how you’re going to plank as long as you need to reach next week’s time when today is the only mission that matters. Stick to today, worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.

If it helps, know that I’m going to be busting my tail to complete this 30 Day Plank Challenge as well.

We’re in this together. You got this, I got this, and we got this!

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Personal Challenges

Gratitude Challenge: Spend 7 Days Loving People And Yourself

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I’m extremely pumped about this gratitude challenge.

Why? Mainly because I’ve learned that when you change your mental state into one of gratitude, you free yourself to be happy, do more, and make progress.

It’s this mental switch that turns off fear, disappointment, or sadness. And it turns on positivity, happiness, and a healthy spirit.

The beauty of it is you can choose to be grateful at anytime.

For example, if you get fired from your job, you’re probably first going to be down in the dumps.

However, you can stay there and mope around for the next month.

Or you can change your mental state to gratitude and feel thankful that you have a place to go home to. You can feel thankful about the lessons you learned from this job. You can have gratitude that you have a significant other who supports you and encourages you to get a new job.

And feeling grateful for big or small things in the midst of trial, is what keeps you going forward.

So back to our example. If you’re focused on losing the job and throwing yourself a pity party, you’re not going to get closer to finding a new one. But if you’re grateful for something, you’re more likely to get back on that horse and put in the effort to find your dream job.

And I’m by nowhere near perfect at this, ask the people around me, but I’m getting better at it. And it’s made a world of difference in my professional and personal life.

Just last week, I was down about the early sales of my online course. But I remembered to be grateful for the simple fact that I put together a killer course. Plus, I remembered the other successes in my life, like this blog and my bestselling books.

This gratefulness inspired me to keep going and try new marketing strategies for the course.

As you see, gratitude is the answer. It never fails.

Let’s get into more of the specific benefits of being grateful.

Benefits of Being Grateful

Gratitude gets less attention than other feelings (like fear, sadness, or anger), which is a shame.

So I’m trying to make gratitude famous. And I want your help in this mission, because gratitude helps you:

  • Have a high quality of life. Focusing on the good makes you feel good, and results in you stop focusing on the bad that puts you in an awful mood. Choosing to be grateful relaxes you away from stress, makes your life more peaceful, and produces more rest.
  • Improve life around you. Gratitude is contagious. You telling someone you’re thankful for them, puts a smile on their face the rest of the day. They often feel good so they pay gratitude forward to someone else. Then this person does the same. And your initial act of gratitude becomes the catalyst that indirectly encourages complete strangers.
  • Overcome adversity. As I mentioned in the example above, a feeling of gratitude gives you the energy to move forward. Your self-esteem improves when you recognize the good in your life. So you become more optimistic about the future, even if your present reality isn’t so bright. This optimism leads to more action and positive results.
  • Advance in your career. Being grateful makes a difference in the workplace, too. For example, you’ll build better connections, reach for higher goals, be more efficient, and get more out of work when you’re thankful for the opportunity to work.
  • Build a stronger social life. When you express gratitude, other people enjoy being around you more. That’s not rocket science. This will improve your friendships, build a stronger relationship or marriage, and opens you up to meeting more new people. Gratitude and happiness go together, and people love happy people.
  • Be healthier. The mind and the body are connected. Someone down on life most likely isn’t going to eat healthy, go to the gym, and live with energy because they don’t enjoy life. Living with gratitude gives you energy to make good decisions about health and nutrition. Plus, you get better sleep since you know everything is going to be ok.

How To Have & Show Gratitude

If you live in the US, you already have it better than billions of people. That’s the first reason to be grateful right off the bat.

Don’t believe me? Do this 10 second experiment. Type in your income or net worth in the Global Rich List calculator. This will change your entire perspective about your prosperity.

Now that you understand how blessed you are, it’s time to show it.

Expressing gratitude to people, and yourself, is much simpler than you think.

First, let’s cover showing gratitude to other people.

All it requires is a small, tiny effort to communicate to someone (or yourself) that you’re grateful for them. This can look like:

  • A pleasant phone call to your mom
  • A friendly email to an old friend
  • An old-school handwritten card
  • A big smile or wink to a friend or stranger
  • Stay after work to help a coworker
  • Give money to a local charity organization
  • Shower someone with praise on what they excel at
  • Plan a Saturday doing something that someone in your life has always wanted to
  • Tip 25% higher than you normally do at a restaurant
  • Surprise your significant other with flowers

Next, is what I call internal gratitude to love yourself. It’s when you stop and take a break to reflect on how good you have it, regardless of present circumstance. This can look like this:

  • Journal three things you’re grateful for and why
  • Give yourself an entire day to rest and relax
  • Splurge on an item you’ve wanted for a long time
  • Go on a walk and listen to your favorite music
  • Reflect on how far you’ve come since just five years ago
  • Take a month off to travel overseas
  • Think about all the people in your life and why you enjoy their presence
  • Compliment yourself after succeeding
  • Compliment yourself after failing, for having the guts to try it
  • Wake up each morning thankful for another day to live

Lastly, whether it’s external or internal, gratitude comes down to a choice. You can choose to be grateful.

When you harness this powerful, it’s truly amazing, especially when you’re feeling down and out.

The magic in gratitude is that you get to decide your mood, and you become happier by practicing gratitude.

And when you commit to being a grateful person through tried and true practice, eventually it becomes natural to get into the grateful mindset.

You become a person of gratitude that blesses others (and yourself) with the way you live.

To make progress toward that, please join me on this 7 day Gratitude Challenge.

7 Day Gratitude Challenge Rules

To avoid any feelings of procrastination or laziness, I like to set up official rules in these challenges.

Below are the official rules for The 7 Day Gratitude Challenge.

1. Start each day (all week) with a text telling someone special in your life that you’re grateful for them, and specifically explain why. You’ll blow them away and they will feel like the luckiest person on the planet. If you want to go above expectations, tell them in person or on the phone.

2. Block off 30 minutes each day (all week) to do something you want to do for yourself. Being grateful for life is as easy as spending time to enjoy it in the beautiful world we live in.

3. Before you go to bed each night (all week), think of three things you’re grateful for that happened that day—or that you have. Aim to think of three different things you’re grateful for each night, meaning don’t repeat anything. You can write this down in a journal, say it out loud, or think it in your head.

Get Excited!

I’m so confident that taking this Gratitude Challenge will be a healthy and special week for you. That’s why I’m extremely excited for you.

When you take this challenge, you’re going to invest in the relationships of your loyal friends and family.

You’re going to get an allotted time to do something you enjoy without feeling guilty about it.

And you’re going to go to bed feeling thankful for all that you have.

What’s funny is this can almost pass as the Thinking Positive Challenge. Because you’re going to feel high and energized about life.

That’s going to snowball a bunch of other powerful thoughts and life-changing actions.

Lastly, I need to get something off my chest: I’m grateful for you!

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Health & Fitness

30 Day Push-Up Challenge: Get A Beefier And Fuller Chest

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Why do a 30 day push-up challenge? Let me first ask you this.

What’s a better way to push yourself out of your comfort zone than a push-up challenge? It’s in the freaking name.

There’s something beautiful about getting in the push-up stance, putting your chest to the ground, and grunting to get the extra energy to go up and down again.

The push-up is old-school. It’s gritty. And it works like a masterpiece to use all of your body weight to get stronger.

You don’t need any machines, free weights, or a trainer. It’s just the ground and your body in rhythm.

Plus, you don’t need any special skills. All the push-up requires from you is consistent hard work—and there’s something to be appreciated about that.

Can you feel my love for this exercise? I want you to feel the same way about push-ups and to join me in this 30 Day Push-Up Challenge.

Push-Ups Are The Perfect Exercise

I dig push-ups. Their unique ability to transform an entire body and core makes them the perfect exercise in my book.

So what are the specific qualities of doing push-ups? Here you go:

Build a fuller chest – What do you do when you first meet someone? After looking at their eyes or teeth, you next consciously or subconsciously scope out their chest (for both guys and girls). Since your chest is front and center below your face, doing push-ups will build a chest that gives off an immediate good impression of you.

Get defined arms –  The wider your hands are in push-up stance, the more you’re working out your chest. The closer your hands are, the more you’re working out your triceps. Anyway you do it, the push-up breaks down and then grows your tricep muscles. Stick with push-ups, and you guys will have triceps busting out of your shirt. And you girls will have defined arms in a dress or sleeveless top.

Create chiseled abs – Maybe surprising to you, the push-up requires hardcore abdominal activation. When gravity is pushing down on your hips and your core during this exercise, your abs are getting much stronger compared to some other weak abs exercise. Got a six-pack on your mind? Start doing more push-ups to get there quicker. (And eat for energy.)

Grow boulder shoulders – Each time you do a push-up, you work out your deltoids—the rounded muscles over your shoulders. That’s why someone who regularly does push-ups is over time going to grow boulder shoulders. It’s a healthy, sexy look in my opinion.

Accessible anywhere – Besides the muscular toning, my favorite quality of the push-up is you can do it anywhere. Literally anywhere! At the office, on the beach, and everywhere on Earth that has gravity and a floor is open to get your push-ups in. This accessibility is the most important when traveling. It’s hard to find a gym on the road, so utilize the push-up to build your chest, core, and shoulders.

Less injury risk than bench press –  A push-up is a natural exercise for the body. With proper form, there’s essentially no injury risk. However, bench press puts a heavy strain on the shoulders and pectoral. That’s why there’s a term named bench-presser’s shoulders. And if you seriously overdo bench press (doing way more weight than your body can handle), you could tear your pectoral. Push-ups don’t have the same injury risk.

Raise your metabolism – Push-ups are a quick, easy way to put your body into burn fat mode and boost your metabolism. Feeling lazy on the couch while watching a commercial you’d rather not? Get on the floor and give yourself 20 push-ups. Make a deal with yourself (temptation bundling) to do this during each commercial and you just did a solid workout in your family room.

Feel good – Exerting your body strength is going to release endorphins in your brain. These endorphins will improve your mood and energy for the rest of your day. When you don’t have time to go to the gym on a busy day, you can avoid feeling guilty by spending 10 minutes doing push-ups.

30 Day Push-Up Challenge Rules

Every legitimate challenge needs rules. Otherwise it’s “everything goes” and the challenge breaks down before it has a chance to get started.

So here are the official rules for this push-up challenge.

1. Start day one doing as many clean push-ups as you reasonably can in one set. For me, I’m going to do start with 40 push-ups. Could I do more? Yes, but my form would start to deteriorate and that’s not the goal. As you’ll see in the section below, it’s all about good form.

2. Add one push-up for each day going forward. For me, this looks like: Day 1 – 40 push-ups, Day 2 – 41 push-ups, Day 3 – 42 push-ups, and so on.

(If you find yourself in the middle of the challenge not being able to do your push-up number in one set, feel free to do it in two sets. The goal is that you keep getting stronger so one day you can do all your push-ups in one set.)

3. Take every fourth day off. Your muscles need rest to properly repair and perform at their best. So this schedule means you would do three days of push-ups, rest, then three days of push-ups, rest and so on.

For example, I’m starting at 40 push-ups on Day 1 so my 30-day schedule looks like this:

pushup-schedule

What’s Proper Push-Up Form?

From gym class to middle school sports, I’m sure you’ve done push-ups before. But you probably got away with weak form and continued to use that same form going forward.

The problem with not doing a clean push-up is you won’t get all the muscle benefits and you can risk an injury.

50 push-ups for 50k followers: … 49, 50. Thanks for the support!

A video posted by Brian Robben (@brianjrobben) on

So what is good push-up form?

  • Place your hands on the ground slightly outside your shoulders, on the same horizontal plane as your chest.
  • Keep your body in a straight line at all times, including your head, torso, hips, butt, and feet.
  • Look slightly forward, not at the ground or your chin tucked in touching your chest.
  • Lock your arms out at the top, and bend them at a 45 degree angle when you’re an inch from the ground.
  • Tighten your abs and your butt as you do your push-ups.
  • Go at a steady pace, not too fast or too slow.

If you can’t do a regular push-up, do all the steps above except have your knees on the ground as you do them. This will be good strength training until you’re ready to do a regular push-up.

That’s all there is to a perfect push-up. See? Not so bad.

Let’s Go!

You could wait until the New Year to take your fitness serious. But who says that you’re not going to make another excuse then to push off getting in better shape?

So start this challenge now, today. Do as many clean push-ups as you can. And start building positive momentum.

Once you get over the hardest hurdle of beginning, you’re going to enjoy get stronger. You’re going to love filling out your clothes better. And you’re going to appreciate gaining confidence in how you look.

These benefits all come from getting in a push-up stance and getting after it. Let’s go!

Related: Other Brian’s Challenges on waking up early, eliminating sugar, being positive, reading, and more.

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