Monday, 18 January 2021

A Month of Being Brave: Summing Up

In November I set myself the challenge to follow Liberty’s example in A Winter’s Dream and spend the month of December being brave (I wrote about it here). I invited friends and family to set me challenges that would push me out of my comfort zone or encourage me to try new things.

How did I get on?

I’m pleased to say that I:

  • made a quilt
  • climbed Kinder Scout
  • ran 10km
  • learned how to knit
  • made the 13 desserts of Christmas

You can see videos for each of these challenges on my YouTube channel here

I was also set the challenge of reading the classic French novel, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. Unfortunately, I didn’t complete this one in time, but more about that in a moment.

Climbing Kinder Scout
The physical challenges (a run and a hike) were a very different kind of fear from the others, and the thrill when I completed them was equally physical. I found completing these challenges life-affirming, invigorating, and they gave me a real high. 

I’m very keen now to take part in organised races and to test myself with faster times or longer distances.


The crafty challenges (quilting, knitting) were time-pressured, but in normal circumstances would have been relaxing and mindful. 

Like with the physical challenges, they’ve made me want to carry on knitting and make more quilts for charity. 

I’m more confident now that I can machine-sew, and I’ve added to my skill set.

 And the baking challenge brought unexpected drama (see the video), but it was great fun and the results were a bonus! I’ll never serve Christmas pudding again now I’ve tasted the delicious 'buche de Noel' (chocolate log). 

Les 13 desserts de Noel

What didn’t work?

The novel, Les Misérables, is over 1200 pages long, and I simply didn’t allow enough time to read it. I kept a week free between Christmas and New Year, but with hindsight that wasn’t enough. However, even if I’d started reading it earlier, I was so busy with the other challenges I’m not sure I would have completed it. But I’m around halfway through and enjoying it, so I’m planning to finish it in my own time.

The downside of doing these challenges in December was that I had less time to prepare for Christmas. Fortunately, Christmas 2020 was a low-key affair so I think I got away with it.


What did I learn?

Planning is key for most things, but especially for those we find scary or difficult. I broke each task down into small stages, for example, running a bit further each day, and this quietened the voice in my head that wanted to tell me I couldn’t do it. I could and I did! 

I repeatedly underestimated myself, then was surprised by what I achieved.

Would I do it again?

Definitely! All my challenges required energy and dedication, but the rewards were huge.

And having a purpose during the lockdown and Covid restrictions was wonderful. While everyone around me was feeling down and dreading the prospect of a quiet Christmas, I was getting up early to run, and my evenings were filled with baking and knitting. It gave me a positive focus in dark times.

One reviewer of A Winter's Dream said, I recommend this as a January read, as its themes include confronting fears, shaking things up, trying something new.” And I agree.

In fact, I recommend challenging yourself at any time of year. I’m definitely planning to push myself more in future. There’s no better way to give yourself a confidence boost than by surprising yourself with your own achievements.

Have you challenged yourself recently? If so, how did it go? I’d love to hear from you.


PS: A huge thank you to my friends and family who set the challenges, and also to Anna Caig, who gave me the idea.