What would a 100-day challenge unleash in you?

As hundreds of our facebook fans already know, a few weeks ago, our seven-year-old decided he wanted to practice his guitar for 100 days straight.

It was a sweet moment — he announced it very quietly before practice one evening. There was no gusto. No fanfare. Just the simple statement, “Mom, I would like to practice for 100 days in a row.”

Notice: it wasn’t a question.

It wasn’t a promise.

Just, “Mom, I would like to practice for 100 days in a row.”

When I heard it, I wanted to leap out of my skin. I blurted out, “Of course!

We dove headlong into practice #1 after that, the tantalizing concept of a 100-day-straight victory spurring us on.

In fact, the concept kept him practicing enthusiastically for the entire first week.

But I knew we were in for a long journey.

There would be times when we’d both want to skip it. There would be times when he’d kick and scream and tell me he HATED guitar (and me). There would be times when we’d be on break from school, traveling and it would be so much easier to leave the guitar at home. There would be times when I’d be tempted to catch up on work instead of guide him in practice.

No matter. He told me what he wanted to do, and it was my job as his (Suzuki parent) partner to hold him to it. I resolved to be impervious to the inevitable tantrums. And excuses — including my own.

And yes.
There have been tantrums.
Plenty of tears.
Some stonewalling.
At least a dozen cries to be released from his self-selected challenge.

Yet we kept on.

We reached day 26 last Thursday — and all of a sudden, the daily steps he’s been taking gelled into something bigger. He reached a breakthrough point for one song in particular after struggling with the tempo and fingering for nearly two weeks.

On Thursday night, his face lit up like a thousand suns, “Oh mom! Mom! MommomMOMmomMOOOOOOMMMMMM. Listen. ListenListenLISTEN.”


He played it beautifully.

Day 26!

I asked him what elements of daily practice he thought had the most impact on his breakthrough. He thought a bit and then zeroed in on a particular approach (a dozen repetitions of “difficult” phrases before playing a whole line or the whole song). We agreed to do more of that when he was struggling with something in the weeks ahead.

Two things in particular blow my mind about his progress. The first is how quickly the days passed. It seemed like we arrived at the one-quarter mark in the blink of an eye. The second is the progress he’s made in spite of being only 25% of the way there.

It will be exciting to see where he is at the 100-day mark.

It also got me thinking about the power of a 100-day intention. If you made a decision to do _____ for 100 days, what difference would it make in your life?

What would your _____ be?

Our roadmap for success (so far)

1. State your intention.
If you can, commit to another person. If you cannot, write it down on an index card and commit to yourself. I am not sure if the phrasing of my son’s intention made a quantifiable difference, but based on this thoughtful guide to creating powerful intention statements, it looks like he instinctively had the key elements in place.

2. Enlist a Coach / Become a Team.
The way Suzuki Method works is that the parent works in partnership with the child. Whether or not my son knew that when I agreed to help him achieve his goal, he would have a coach that would hold his feet to the fire is not really relevant. What is relevant is how our joint commitment to each other (student-to-coach, coach-to-student) kept him on the path even when he wanted to abandon ship. As his coach, I also organized the content of his practices. He didn’t have to figure out what to do — he just had to follow a program that was sketched out for him (although he frequently riffs on it and actually adds to it).

That last point about not having to invent the path on your own is a really important one to consider if you decide to do a 100-day challenge of your own.

Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success. ~Author Unknown

3. Track your progress daily.
We have a little composition book that serves as our record for practices. Each day we write down the date — and Day #____ at the top of a page. Before we start we celebrate the progress we have made. Then we celebrate again at the end. It’s a simple little thing, but it does wonders for energy and momentum. Plus he always knows how many days he has left to reach his goal.

4. Reward the little steps taken in daily practice.
A typical practice is divided into four or so “sets” of work. We celebrate each set successfully completed — sometimes with a silly dance. Sometimes with a Hot Wheels race. Sometimes with a Tic Tac (or three). And sometimes he bargains for 5-minutes of iPad time per completed set. The point is, we constantly celebrate progress.

How often do we fail to do that sort of cheering for ourselves? I know when left to my own devices I almost NEVER to that. And I also frequently reach burn-out…

5. Connect the dots on how your work changes others for the better
Last Friday on a whim, I decided to post about his progress on Facebook — noting how it inspired me and asking others what they might accomplish if they did the same thing. I had absolutely NO IDEA how utterly happy it would make him to see that his 100-day challenge was “liked” by 149 people and shared by 62. “Mom, literally, I got like HUNDREDS of likes!” His blue eyes danced when he read the comments about how his work was inspiring others to do something good for themselves.

And then he asked me what my 100-day challenge would be.

My reply was simple, “I would like to trade my typical bowl of breakfast cereal for a healthy green drink 100 days in a row.”

I’ve made it 14 days and counting…

How would your life be different if you took a 100-day challenge? What would you take on?