How many of you have tried to give up a habit or start a new hobby? Pretty much everyone I would expect. Yet how many people actually follow through with their choice? We see it every year with New Year resolutions. People vow to join gyms, to give up smoking, learn a new language and countless other things that sound like a good idea at the time.
Most people of course fail pretty quickly. It isn’t a lack of desire, or a lack of effort in most cases. The problem is that the vast majority focus on the end game and not the process. If you have eaten chocolate every day for the last 20 years, the thought of never eating it again is a pretty daunting prospect.
The thought of doing something permanently is very challenging and if you are not conditioned to follow a set behaviour for a particular duration of time then it can be near impossible. The more you consider the prospect of permanent change the more daunting it becomes. Often we can psych ourselves out before we have even started. This is why most resolutions only last a short time. It is no coincidence that January sees the number of gym membership’s rise dramatically, and if you have ever been to a gym just after New Year’s then you will know how busy they can get. Yet by February status quo is resumed and most new starters seem to give up.
So how do we overcome this issue?
One way that has worked for me and I know has worked for many others, is a 30 day challenge.
You pick one habit you wish to try out, and do it for just 30 days. No lifelong commitments, no crazy unrealistic changes. Like a trial period if you will. You are simply trying out something for 30 days to see if you like it. Of course it still requires commitment and hard work but at least you know the end is in sight.
What happens when you complete the 30 days? Well you are in a wonderful position of power. You have the knowledge that you have gone a set period of time without breaking. You will have found a new sense of accomplishment and confidence in yourself. The best part is that you have a greater understanding of what you wish to achieve long term with this goal. Let’s say you gave up chocolate for 30 days. Now you know you can go without, as you have just proved it, yet you may decide to go another 30 days to test yourself and see if you can do it again. You may have noticed positive health changes that you wish to continue such as fat loss or better skin.
If you decide that 30 days is more than enough (chocolate is nice after all), then you haven’t failed. You still have 30 days’ worth of positive feedback and experience to take with you into your next 30 day challenge, whatever that may be.
The beauty is that the more challenges you accomplish, the easier it will be to do the next one. You will find some challenges last only 30 days, while others turn into lifetime habitual changes.
A few years ago I wanted to see if I could go a month without eating any junk food. This to me felt like a lifelong commitment already, as I absolutely love junk food. Even though I am serious about training I always sneak in cheeky chocolate bars and the like. What happened was the first few days were very hard, but I knew it was my mind playing tricks on me. Withdrawal symptoms based on the lack of a dopamine hit from the sugar. Once I had completed 1 week it became rather easy. I powered through about 6 weeks before I crumbled.
I had no intention to keep it for ever, so I wasn’t disappointed, but I took that experience with me for future challenges. I am actually in the process of one right now. I plan to write something every day for 30 days. Whether this is an article, a short story, it doesn’t matter. It will benefit me twofold. Firstly it is yet another exercise in will power and motivation. Secondly it will improve my writing standard.
Here are some ideas that can inspire you to make your own 30 day challenge.
- Give up an unhealthy daily habit such as smoking, drinking alcohol or eating junk food
- Do some form of daily exercise, such as going for a run or a bike ride for at least 30 minutes
- Quit watching tv for 30 days. If need be record your favourite shows to watch afterwards
- Every day phone or text a friend you haven’t seen in a while
- Start up a conversation with a total stranger
- Do something every day that scares you
- If you never take public transport, try going 30 days without the use of your car
- Sell something on eBay every day. Get rid of your unwanted rubbish
- If you have a musical instrument lying around. Practice every day for 30 days
- Start a diary or blog and post every day about any subject you wish
- Wake up at an earlier time every day for 30 days.
- Go 30 days without Facebook (now there is a tough one)
You will notice that the best ideas for a challenge are those that can be done every day. For example, weight training cannot be done daily as rest days are just as important. It is also easier to implement a new habit if you do it 7 days out of 7 instead of say 5 days out of 7.
You may wish to just attempt one thing to start off with, but there is nothing stopping you trying 2 or 3 together if they aren’t going to cause too much hassle. For example, you could set your alarm an hour earlier each day and choose to give up tv at the same time. Don’t do too much too soon though as you may lose the motivation to see it through.
So give it a try. You never know what life changing habit you will create out of this!