Working towards an end result, an aim or completion of a challenge has always motivated me. It seems that I find this the most successful method of keeping me focused – that and using my headphones. It was only about five years ago that I experienced a eureka moment. After many years of denouncing headphones or earbuds as absolutely the worst bit of kit I could ever imagine using when trying to concentrate, I discovered that I could actually mark student’s work and fully concentrate while listening to music in this manner. Put the radio on however and I would fall apart. It was either silence or my headphones. It reached the point where I could not focus at all on working on anything unless I was wearing my headphones. On the flip-side of this, however, I refuse to wear them when walking or running… but that’s a different blog entirely!
Set a challenge
Back to the goals then; setting a challenge keeps me on track and focused. Take away the challenge and it’s like the routine has been destroyed. Without a routine, most humans are lost and unproductive and I am guessing that there is a major proportion of the UK population (and across the globe, in fact), who currently suffer from this trend. No routine often equals zero purpose. Zero purpose can lead to poor mental health, and so the cycle continues. Fortunately, I do not often struggle with my mental health but I do know a great many that do. I am fully aware that I do not want to ‘float’ through my days, although I am not one to get bored as I am always busy; there is always plenty to do. Despite this, it’s still far better for me to ensure I have a daily plan and a target.
Back in January 2018, I realised I was losing sight of being able to focus on my annual adventure challenges, due to my elderly parent’s failing health. As a result, I concocted the challenge ‘100MappyDays’. Over two years, this brought me outside regularly and goal-driven, it ensured I was regularly ticking off new walks as they were completed and excited to start the next one. It fitted in beautifully with the new difficult circumstances I was faced with – it allowed me to be flexible and I adapted well to the new limitations.
Adaptability must be our friend
Here we are in 2020 and now the limitations are national. A pandemic of global proportions, causing grief, stress, and curfews as none of us have experienced before. Adaptability must be our friend then, as we change our daily routines to suit our roles as either key workers, supporting and serving on the ‘frontline’; employed and essential travellers; or ‘stay-home lifesavers’. If like me you are the latter – your lives within lockdown will have likely changed in a dramatic fashion. Following the recommended guidelines of only leaving the house for one session of exercise per day, supporting vulnerable people, essential travel only and limited shopping is not easy for a nation that has taken freedom for granted.
An epic adventure
A new challenge that has been worked towards for months, would have begun on Saturday 4th April. Walking the Southern Upland Way in Scotland would undoubtedly have been an epic adventure. Bigger still was the opportunity to undertake it with two girlfriends who have never been on a long-distance hike or backpacked before. Disappointing then, that shortly before ‘Thundergirls Are Go’, we have to pull the plug on our trip. There I am, floundering in the middle of a partially-filled watery abyss – neither able to touch the bottom or float to the top. There was only one way forward in my eyes and that was to create a NEW challenge that filled the boots of the Southern Upland Way. What better challenge then, than a ‘virtual’ challenge of the same trail?
Inspired by another Virtual Challenge
Thankful that I have been following Rory Southworth on Instagram, I roared with laughter at his dry humour and witty posts. Carefully selected images speak a thousand words, leaving little need for long, wordy posts. Aside from keeping me entertained during some strange times, last week, he began a virtual challenge, climbing the ascent to Everest Base Camp, using stairs or steps and engaged a team of thirty others to join him. This got me thinking. The very same concept could be used to cover the full 8450 metres of ascent from Portpatrick to Cockburnspath, a 215 miles national trail; and I too would aim to enlist a team of intrepid adventurers on my expedition, using the hashtag, #virtualSUW.
Challenges don’t have to be big to be beneficial
As a result, my Corona Days are not, by any means, full of dread when I wake up in the morning. I have never sat with my head in my hands and claimed to be bored. I have a list on which I never seem to tick off all the entries (so not unlike my past life in teaching then!) Above all, I feel great and I hope that others are consuming this challenge like medicine too. Challenges don’t always have to be big to be beneficial. Our circumstances are different now but not unmanageable. Our health and the personal safety of all lives are paramount and that is why I subscribe to the guidelines and will stay at home as much as possible.
In the meantime, as I listen to such artists as Pokey LaFarge and the Foo Fighters on my Jurassic MP3 player, I feel reassured that as long as my head holds both a challenge AND my headphones, all will be okay in my world. One day, it will be permissible for us to Head Right Out once again. When that day comes, the new me, alongside a nation of other newly-transitioned humans will emerge as butterflies. We will surface from our hibernation of sorts, with fresh perspectives, greater tolerance and a deeper love and pride of our immediate community and national assets. We will be ready for a new world, or at least our old, familiar world, full of people with new mindsets.