Life as we know it already comes as a challenge to most people. Performing better than your peers, chasing after that big bonus, making sure that big family event goes off without a hitch – the pressure is almost always there. Yet, a push is exactly what's needed when it comes to self-improvement. After all, you won't achieve much if you don't venture beyond your comfort zone! This is a concept that Andy Petranek, co-founder of the Whole Life Challenge, is all too familiar with.
1.Tell us what the Whole Life Challenge is all about.
The Whole Life Challenge is a 6-week online game that you play in real life and online with friends, family and colleagues. The idea is that you work on developing habits that create health and well-being in your life. You score yourself each day for your progress and are held accountable to doing these things based on your commitment to the challenge and based on the fact that you're doing it with your friends/family/co-workers who can see your scores and whom you're also “playing against”. The interesting thing about a challenge like this is that you're not really playing against anyone because everyone wins; as long as you participate and stay in the game, you're winning!
There are seven basic aspects (we call them the “seven daily habits”) that the game is built around – nutrition, exercise, mobility, sleep, hydration, well-being and reflection. All of them (except for nutrition) are “yes/no” – either you did it or you didn't. For nutrition, you start each day with 5 points, and for every infraction of a rule (based on the level you choose), you lose a point. This gives you the chance to manage your eating, to make choices in the food you eat each day based on the answer to the question, “Is it worth a point?”
At the start of the Challenge, you get the chance to choose your nutrition level, set the amount of water you’ll drink each day, and how much sleep you’ll get each night. Then, each day of the Challenge, you score yourself based on having done each of the habits, and, you get a chance to reflect in writing on how each day went. Your reflection gets shared with the members of your team, creating an opportunity to share, declare, and support one another. Every habit is worth 5 points, so you have the ability to score a total of 35 points each day.
2. How did you come up with the concept?
I had been running fitness challenges for about 10 years in my gym (CrossFit Los Angeles) prior to the Whole Life Challenge. The idea of the fitness challenge was to do a workout, train for 8 weeks and then repeat the original workout to see how much of an improvement was made. We had been entertaining the concept of adding nutrition and some of these other elements of health and well-being to our programme at the gym. I had always been frustrated over how I wasn't able to do more for my clients. The question to myself was, “how do I make a bigger impact? How do I get them to start doing things and taking action in their life that gets them better results?”
Our first attempt at this was to create an educational program called “Food University.” It’s purpose was to teach and educate, but it wasn’t fun, enrolling, or making a big enough difference in people’s lives. So we went back to the drawing board, asking ourselves the question, “How can we make this fun, actionable, inexpensive, and life changing.” The solution we came up with was very close to the Whole Life Challenge today - combining daily habits, with a scoring system, a leaderboard, and a reflection feed… and putting all the onus on learning and taking action into the hands of the participants..
When we introduced it to our gym community, it changed the landscape Clients started taking responsibility, talking to each other and solving their own problems. Since we believed that every person needed to take responsibility for their own journey, we set it up intentionally to not provide all the answers for you. To figure out what to do, you had to research, problem solve, and come up with your own answers. That still holds true to this day.
3. What is it about gamification that people find so appealing and why does it work so well with health and fitness?
On the surface, it's pretty superficial – we're only talking about points - they don’t actually mean anything. But what points do is create a meaningful context, and put decision-making right in front of your face each day, forcing you to make a decision, and more importantly, giving you the chance to immediately see the impact of the choices you make. It’s just the sort of leverage that people need to get over themselves.
4. From having a background in classical music to a career in the United States Marine Corps and as an adventure race athlete, you've certainly led an exciting life! Do you see your life having any sort of parallel to the Whole Life Challenge or have in any way influenced its development?
I definitely do. My background in classical music showed me the power of daily practice. “Cramming” doesn't work when it comes to playing music. When you're playing solos and performing live, you don't want to go up and embarrass yourself. With my ass on the line, I HAD to put in the daily practice. I think that really had a profound impact on my life as I got more athletic.
When I joined the Marine Corps, I moved into a completely different phase of my life. That also had a strong impact on me – I understood that quite early on. Some of the other things that I've learned as a Marine and as an adventure racer – the development of daily habits and taking adventurous steps into the unknown – these are very powerful tools. You can align your life to your goals, using your objectives as a kind of “lure”.
With the Whole Life Challenge, the emphasis is on daily actions but these long-term goals are great to have. These are the things that give you direction, like wanting to get in shape to run a marathon within a year's time for example. You might want to lose some weight, change your diet, make sure you're stretching, focus on the stress that your stress that your body will be subjected to as will as the additional time commitment training-wise – these are the real effective elements of the Whole Life Challenge. Implementing changes on a smaller scale is crucial to achieving these bigger life events.
The other big thing worth pointing out is that a lot of times, people think that they need to take big, bold steps in order to make real change. They get all excited about their resolutions in the New Year - and they decide that they’re going to turn their life around… in January. Well, with all of the experiences I’ve lived in my life, long-term persistence always wins out over intensity, motivation, an enthusiasm. It’s the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, slow and steady wins the race. And in the case of the Whole Life Challenge, the race is our lives. it’s long term - really, really long term. And to “win” requires a regular willingness to show up, day in and day out. No excuses. Do the work. There is no finish line. Each and every day, especially when you don’t feel like it.. Small habits, practiced every day over long stretches of time are what ultimately change your life. That’s what we practice in the Whole Life Challenge. ,
5. What can players expect to walk away with after completing the 6 weeks of the Whole Life Challenge?
That's going to be different for every player. It really depends on their intention going in to the Challenge. If they stick with it, they will find that they have successfully completed 42 straight days of things that most people never done ever, consecutively, in their life.. That by itself is a big accomplishment. Results could be things like weight loss, improved fitness, decreased blood pressure and stress, improvements in your internal health biomarkers. The Challenge also helps many increase increase their inner confidence, certainty about where they are and what they’re doing with their life, their their ability to believe in themselves. A change like that can have a ripple effect that that doesn't end with things like fitness or weight-loss. It continues down the road into seemingly unrelated areas of your life - family, job, relationships, spirituality, kids. . It’s both the immediate life improvements and the unmeasurable life results that keep people coming back time and again.
Life is a journey. There is no finish line. We’re all in it for the same ultimate objective - expansion. The trick is to find a way to leverage yourself into taking action each day that will lead to your long term success. It sounds simple, and, in fact, is. But it’s not easy. Finding a community of people who are committed to expanding (in whatever area that happens to be) is a great way to keep you on your path. The Whole Life Challenge is just that sort of community. Being that its focus is on health and well-being, it’s at the foundation of a strong and healthy life. The next Challenge begins on January 19th, 2019. Sign up today!