Approaching the Challenge with an Abundance Mindset

AbundanceJust like Primal eating flies in the face of any typical “diet,” so I think the 21-Day Challenge leaves most similar events in the primordial dust. Despite my penchant for boldness, why do I say this? For many reasons really. For one, because the Mark’s Daily Apple community never disappoints. Every year it blows the previous Challenge out of the water in terms of engagement, creativity and enthusiasm. But there’s something else – something more fundamental to the 21-Day Challenge – and the Primal Blueprint – themselves. Primal living doesn’t have need or patience for deprivation. It’s about enjoying the full measure of health, happiness and contentment. It’s about living the good life in every sense of the word – where your vision and values intersect with genuine well-being. The Challenge can be the ultimate kickstart to initiate or deepen or more fully personalize this possibility in your life. My vision for everyone: approach this 21-Day Challenge with an abundance mentality. Abundance? As in more than enough, plentiful, profuse, copious, bountiful, you ask? Yes to all of the above.

It can seem like a bit of a mind bender – a health endeavor centered on abundance rather than deprivation. After all, our culture tends to come at weight loss and health challenges with a white-knuckle, nose-to-the-grindstone mentality. While the montages of screaming, grunting and suffering in made-for-T.V. competitions represent the extreme, even the everyday run-of-the-mill challenges typically preach a rather meager picture of moderation.

Oftentimes the images and messages behind these challenges revolve around being conscientious, sacrificing and sensible. They play to what is assuredly our good sense of discipline and temperance. They flatter our sense of virtuosity. Am I the only one who cringes a little at this, who bristles against the insistence on temperance, who balks at the concept of “sensible”? Sensible to me suggests small. For instance, a sensible, measured existence feels like a small life to me. I don’t know about you, but I want a big life. And a big slab of grass-fed red meat for dinner.

Likewise, I’m not promoting a small, sensible Challenge here. Sensible is what people claim when they choose to eat a single piece of bacon. Personally, I call that a blatant and sad act of self-imposed scarcity. Scarcity. Let’s hack away at that notion like a hungry homo erectus on a wooly mammoth.

When we buy into the idea of scarcity, we allow ourselves to be taken in by the false promise of deprivation. By depriving ourselves, we believe, we can have what we want. The problem with the logic is this: we’ll never get to abundance by embracing the lack of it. There could be at least a hundred dozen great conversations around the concept of abundance alone. Suffice it to say here, abundance encompasses our grateful attitude toward what we have and our generous openness to what can come. When we seek control by parsing out the good of life – whether it be flavor, fat, time or joy, we trap ourselves in a myopic mental cul-de-sac. What’s worse, it can become a whole lens by which we see (or don’t see) every opportunity in life. We spend life looking through the wrong end of the telescope, and our vision (and self-concept) are distorted for it.

When you embrace the paradigm of abundance, however, the question becomes, “How good are you willing to let it get?” That’s the pertinent inquiry for this Challenge. That’s what I’d like everyone to ask about the aims and interests they’re bringing to these 21 days. How good are you willing to let it get? How good are your willing to feel? How much are you willing to enjoy? How much change, success and momentum are you willing to experience?

First, ferret out all manner of deprivation focused assumptions. Forget any diet or health and weight loss challenge you’ve done in the past. Let go of any and all thoughts of controlling your experience through self-imposed scarcity. Switch out your mentality. Use a new language. From the perspective of abundance, imagine what you *get* to try, what you get to do, what you get to eat, what you get to enjoy, what you get to rediscover. Tell yourself you’re taking on a grand life experiment – because you are. Tell yourself this is your time – because it is. Tell yourself you’re worth it – because too often we believe we’re not. Abundance doesn’t buy that.

Consider these suggestions for thinking abundantly this Challenge month…

  • Look in the mirror and love what you see. View yourself generously. Believe this body in front of you is worth nurturing.
  • Create daily menus with the best Primal food you can afford. Take time to make indulgent meals and snacks.
  • Dine as you eat these meals. Give them their due. Drop the rushed, I-don’t-have-time-to-enjoy-my-food fixation. Make time. Give up 15 minutes of T.V. or web surfing to do it.
  • Sleep luxuriously. Make your bedroom a clean, cool cave haven. Set your alarm to go to bed on time. Use your best sheets. Sleep naked. Do whatever feels luxurious to you.
  • Take time out for a favorite hobby. Carve out the “me” time that somehow got sucked away. For 21 days, you get that time back.
  • Create serenity in your life. Simplify a favorite space at home for relaxation. Commit to yoga, meditation and/or time in nature. Sign up for a class or schedule hours for it.
  • Keep a celebration book/board/blog. There’s something to celebrate every single day. I’d argue we could easily find dozens of things each day when we’re open to them. What made you laugh/smile? What did you accomplish?
  • Try something new every single day. Maybe it’s a new vegetable or piece of gym equipment, a meditation CD or a different hiking path.
  • Fill your life and newsfeed with humor and positivity. Ditch the scary cable news and downer Facebook/Twitter feeds.
  • Exercise and move every day in ways that inspire you. Have fun. Be spontaneous. Indulge in some training assistance. Meet up with friends to work out or play. Take a new fitness class. Dance. Run like you used to when you were seven.
  • Relish these last weeks of fall. Do more than sit in the backyard or rake. Design actual outdoor adventures for each weekend. Do one thing each weekend you always mean to do in the great outdoors.
  • In other words, act as if you’re worth living abundantly for 21 days and beyond. Guess what? You are. And, trust me on this one – you won’t regret it.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I want to hear and see how well you’re living, how much you’re thriving, how sumptuously you’re eating, how boisterously you’re playing, how extravagantly you’re relishing the Challenge to transform your health – and your life in these 21 Days.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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91 thoughts on “Approaching the Challenge with an Abundance Mindset”

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  1. Mark, you’re going to change the world. How’s that for abundance?

  2. I was just sitting at my desk thinking how hungry I was and how there was nothing for me to eat. This came at the perfect time, going to buy me some olives and savour!

    1. Plus the boyfriend just told me he’s planning an adventure for us on Saturday – a whole day of surprise playtime!

  3. This is a great approach to turn things positive, thanks Mark!
    On a note that I will probably live to regret I am asking the MDA crowd for a little support… I have been working to post images on twitter of every meal that I eat (and sometimes selfies after workouts) as an accountability marker. And I have always discouraged anyone from following me as this is pretty much all that I post. But now I am asking for someone to follow and comment, positive or skeptical, about whether I am maximizing the ABUNDANT potential that I have been blessed with. Because I believe that we are all blessed with abundant potential.
    If anyone is willing (and I get brave enough to push the “submit comment” button), I am @HeyDianneHey on twitter.

  4. I started my challenge with a 24 hour fast. Boy, lunch (salad with lots of olive oil and hard boiled eggs) tasted good today!!

  5. Mark, I’ve discovered a new hobby, and even though I thought it was silly at first, I remembered what you said about the importance of play and I decided to not only dive head first into it, but to drag others with me! Its called geocaching (, and its a world wide game where people stash hidden items, known as “caches”, and others try to find them using GPS coordinates. It’s great fun! I the past week I’ve run all over my home town hunting down caches, exploring natural and urban environments that I may or may not have been too familiar with. And what’s even better, I’ve gotten my mom and my best friend obsessed too! It’s great exercise walking, climbing, crawling, and the ultimate modern hunter/gatherer experience! Thank you for reminding me that it’s still ok to play, and that I deserve to have an abundance of play in my life!

    1. Cheers to another cacher! Been geocaching for a few years now. 976 finds to our name. Some of the BEST times I have had with my kids have been while caching. It takes you to places you never knew were there, and you start every day of caching knowing that there will be an outdoor adventure of some sort, you just dont know exactly what kind! LOVE it!!!

      1. Was hiking once, became interested in some cool looking mushrooms growing in a tree. Upon further look I saw a tiny geocache container hidden up in a branch. I had to Climb the tree to get to it! Best surprise geocache ever!

  6. Great post, thanks Mark. I’m planning some playtime in the great outdoors this evening! I will play abundantely!

  7. I’ll be focusing on making time to practice piano. 30 minutes a day for a skill is totally worth it. Its all about perspective and sticking with it!

    1. i do the same with guitar and hell even 10 minutes a day is good, just making sure you touch the instrument routinely i think does alot for ya!

  8. When I quit eating sugar, flour and processed foods my weight dropped to lower than when I was 25 and doing the crazy starvation mode fad diets. My weght has held for over 1.5 years now and I eat like a hog. People don’t believe I eat until they see it. I am an official member of the clean plate club. Plus
    I don’t feel the need to snack anymore.
    I did this for my overall health which went down the tubes suddenly a couple years ago. I am not totally primal…probably never will be because I love high fat yogurt. But I will attest to the power of healthy food. Good luck everyone…abundance is GOOD.
    By the way I will be 65 in Dec…tip the scale at 125 and have a crazy job that makes healthy eating a massive challenge. YOU CAN DO IT.

    1. Cate
      #1 – What’s wrong with high fat yogurt? and #2 – Where do you find it? All I find is low or non-fat -aaaaaack!

      1. I can often find Fage Total ( with full fat) at Whole Foods, if you have one around town. But that’s the only place I’ve found it so far.

        1. Thank you, I will look into the WF store in my area. I bet it is rich and creamy.

        2. I oddly found it at my Walmart… But usually expired since majority of folks are sucked into low fat. Bit I find it at my local grocery stores.

  9. I’ve already failed at #1+2 today.. I really need to get my act together. Ah well, if at first you don’t succeed..

  10. We are having a kids party to celebrate fall this weekend. We are going to have primal snacks, play some games and just have some unstructured fun. Can’t wait to celebrate. 🙂

  11. I love every suggestion on that list!! Especially the “try something new everyday”. that is what i’m really hope to accomplish.

  12. I’ll try to enjoy fall, but here in Arizona it’s kind of hard. Going to be 105 today. I’m going have to travel somewhere to really see it.

    1. I’m on the other side of the world, so I’m seeing the days lengthen and the weather improving. Spring is springing here…

      1. Spring is here too!!, We are always forgotten, it’s not Friday’s success stories, it is Saturday’s!!!
        I would like to commit to do sprints (actually waiting for my minimalist shoes to start, I know it ‘s just a bad excuse!) and play more!

    2. I live in AZ too! Just remember that everyone else has to enjoy fall because they don’t have perfect weather everyday from October-May like we do!

  13. even the weather in NJ is cooperating — the gorgeous fall sunshine, the crisp breeze, and the feelings of harvest time amplify this theme of abundance. can wait for my night hike later

  14. “Set your alarm to go to bed on time.”

    What a splendid idea! I always intend to go to bed at a decent hour but get sucked in by the digital sirens singing their seductive songs (“just one more show” sings the DVR; “just check the FB feed one more time,” croons the computer). Setting my alarm to go to bed so I don’t have to set it to wake in the morning is something I never considered before.

  15. I think I am the only person in the world who isn’t into videos…or pics of food…or instagram…or twitter…

        1. +1

          (no facebook or twitter accounts; no tv; get along just fine….)

  16. I think it’s important for anyone new here to understand that making radical changes to your diet or lifestyle is “a process.” I’ve been primal for a year and a half and I’ve come far. It took awhile – a process of learning, accepting and finding abundance – to get off the sugar rollercoaster. I’m so used to making succulent primal meals, I really don’t miss bread, tortillas, chips, pasteries, or sugar-laden desserts. But it took time, for me, to get past those emotional attachments to those foods. Sometimes I would like to dive face-first into cake, but I know I won’t feel like I feel right now – happy, not hungry all the time, not irritated and emotional from a sugar crash. That’s abundance – eating well, feeling good. Excellence comes from your habits. Change your habits, change your life!

  17. Speaking of the paradigm of abundance.Socrates called it bodily comforts.Part of his teachings:”…the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food; and is also liable to diseases which overtake and impede us in the search after truth: and by filling us so full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies, and idols, and every sort of folly, prevents our ever having, as people say, so much as a thought.”

  18. I ‘get to have’ a great slab of roasted pork, seasoned with rosemary I grow myself! And I can have as much as I want. I get to walk outside, in the San Diego sunshine, all year! And it makes me smile, helps me sleep, and I’ve discovered hidden places all over this town.

    I am getting a beach cruiser! And I get to have fun like a 7-year old AND smaller my ass in the process. I get to have fresh sashimi, like salmon, and not only is my mouth happy but all those Omegas are making my body and my brain happy.

    I feel wonderful. I get to feel wonderful! It’s the best gift I’ve ever given myself!

    1. Beautiful goals! I need to stop making excuses and do that too! Although i got myself rollerblades recently. Those suckers are scary when you’re no longer under the age of 12.

  19. I am going to try to draw something everyday for the challenge. I’m an artist, but I get distracted easily — usually by Netflix. So in 21 days, let’s hope for 21 drawings! I’ll post my drawings on my Tumblr:

    Oh and no dairy for 21 days. This summer has been a little ice-cream-tastic. Lots of fall apples instead.

  20. Wow, Mark, you’ve really outdone yourself with this post and that’s saying a lot given your awesome writing style. This is by far the most motivational and inspirational post on lifestyle change ever. And from such a unique perspective: abundance instead of deprivation. Excellent work! Thank you again for all you do!

  21. Thank you Mark for great words of wisdom and your teachings! You are my personal life guru!

  22. “Primal living doesn’t have need or patience for deprivation.” …I have been low carb for over a year and Paleo/Primal for 9 months and I still get pitying comments from some members of my family about what I cant eat (sugar, bread, etc) and I find that I am frustrated by their attitude. I have no time for that kind of thinking. I am healthier, slimmer and stronger than I have been for 15+ years. Eliminating sugar, grains, beans and other allergens from my diet is a source of health and joy, not deprivation.

    1. I’m at the beginning of my primal living lifestyle and I’m already getting frustrated with peoples attitude! I don’t need to be pitied or taunted by friends and coworkers! I’m on day 15 of 21DSD and will continue on to be Paleo because I feel so much better without sugar and bread. I never feel deprived.

      1. Yes I totally understand. I am lucky that most of the family have seen my progress and are either supportive or quiet, but a few of the older ones do say things. And what they say is so far removed from my reality (I don’t miss it, I don’t crave it and I love my paleo food and find it completely fulfilling). I am hopeful that they will understand someday, but whether they do or don’t wont make a difference to my happiness and health

  23. Just went stand up paddle boarding for the first time Saturday. It was amazing! My roommate and I had so much fun we decided to go for a night paddle Sunday (we are new tenants at an amazing lake house…yes, we are very lucky!). Talk about living in the moment. Planning to that for the next 21 days and beyond!

  24. This is a beautiful post.

    When I first went Primal 1.5 years ago it was a last resort, a “what have I got to lose” kind of thing. I never would have known in advance how much better it would make my life.

  25. This was a really great post and I am definately going to try some of the suggestions for living more abundantly.
    I am going to try to head up to the mountains for some hiking each weekend until the weather turns.

  26. This came just as I was wibbling over whether I was *really* going to stop at the gym on the way home. And then I thought, well, of course I am, and then I’m going home to enjoy some slow-cooker chicken and the last of the strawberries and whipped cream 🙂

  27. I plan on learning French everyday for 30 mins.. To exercise my mind.

    1. C’est impressionnant et je vous félicite…par contre…sto dimenticando la lingua italiana da giorni…Time to exercise the mind with taking up Italian again me-thinks!! Language learning feels so much more “abundant” than playing solitaire or doing crossword puzzles on the internet for “brain exercise”…for it leads to enhanced potential for social interaction! Loving all things “gastronomique”..I love to discover cuisines from other cultures..and the primal dishes from France and Italy are greatly enhancing my repertoire of true culinary abundance!

  28. Just went out and picked a bushel of asian pears, a half bushel of peaches, tomatoes galore as well as beans and peppers. I am abundantly blessed and am going to enjoy storing these up for winter in my freezer as well as eating and savoring them now! Thanks for the post. It helps keep me on track.

  29. Abundance begets abundance. Once you start to acknowledge the abundance in your life, you find more and more

  30. Ah, not only is Mark inspiring, so are all the posts! Thanks to all who share their thoughts and goals ~ Wow, I just feel so excited to get out and try some new things. We just ordered our slack line, planning to try paddleboarding, and now geo-caching has raised my curiosity. I’ve been working on my Primal eating for nearly a year and for me it was easy as I had already determined that grains were causing me problems. Now I am working on adding more activity through play! I had a great workout today with our 7 yr old grand daughter ~ monkey bars, swings, a game of tag in the corn patch! Now that is the richest type of abundance!! Thanks all 🙂

    1. Playgrounds and monkey bars are the best! And just plain hanging from things. Really gets your creativity going by realizing how much fun you can have with a single metal bar. I want this in my house for the winter. My gym frowns on people climbing the equipment 🙁

  31. It is amazing how free and abundant we will become after we break away from the chains of SAD. To truly feel in control of our diet will help us to see and feel abundance in so many other areas in our lives- congrats to us all for doing this challenge!

  32. I love feeling so inspired after reading your posts! Just got back from a 75 min long run in the woods, ate some omelet and nuts and tuned in for some more inspiration from Mark´s Daily Apple. Can´t think of a better way to start off the day:). Thanks!

  33. I love everything you said here! It’s funny how people think you must be on some deprivation diet when you tell them you don’t eat any grains, but guess what –
    I’m making butter chicken for dinner tomorrow night with some nice fatty coconut milk, and topped with ricotta cheese and cashews. And I’m looking forward to some crispy bacon for breakfast tomorrow morning!

  34. One of my favorite “deserts” is frozen blueberries swimming in heavy cream.
    Also, just finished a couple of servings of macadamia nuts.
    The SAD diet…….Arggggg
    I find Mark’s 80/20 plan……THE BEST.

  35. Without knowing it I was practicing this “abundance” thing a week or two ago.

    During a trip to England (I’m French), to Dartmoor in Devonshire, to be precise, I did everything abundantly : walked miles in the moor and nearly got lost in the thick mist (but what relief and what joy when I found my way back again, all wet and dripping!), climbed the gigantic granite rocks they call “tors” and felt all-powerful and happy when I was at the top, took in all the new landscapes, plants, animals, tasted the new food, enjoyed again and again the sight of the far horizon that you get only when you’re on an elevation (I never get that at home). I also abundantly enjoyed “Devon cream teas”, and although the scones and strawberry jam were not at all primal I made an exception for this one week, and the rich fat clotted cream more or less made up for it.

    All of this made me abundantly happy!

  36. After almost two years of increasing food intolerances I’ve decided to bite the bullet and do a strict three week elimination diet (followed by food challenges) to get at the root of my food issues. I just got the idea of combining the elimination diet with the Primal Blueprint challenge so I can address overall health and not just food intake. As far as abundance during this process the only thing I can come up with so far is splurging on grass fed steaks and lamb chops instead of hamburger/other ground meats and taking walks outside to enjoy the spring weather and flora. I enjoyed reading the suggestions, but have to admit I am one of those people that get so stressed that I can’t do everything on the list that I end up not doing anything.