I recently finished a 30 day no alcohol challenge and most people were baffled at why I was doing such an odd thing. Self-imposed challenges are mostly seen in the fitness world where it is more popular.

Yet the power of a 30-day challenge can be immense in many other areas of life.

I was also a sceptic at first. How can 30 days change my life, how can it even make an impact? But what I learned was fascinating and definitely a method you can add to your arsenal to improve facets of your life.

*Video – Be sure to check out Matt Cuts, former Google employee talk about doing something new for 3o days

 

The way I see it and have been using it is a way to experiment with different aspired changes to my life. How would I feel being a vegetarian, or how about no social media for a month? I did that last year and that was an eye-opener.

The beauty of it is that you can test it for a small amount of time and see if it suits you, if not you drop it but still feel accomplished as you did complete 30 days of it.

It’s just short and long enough to test any change.  Let’s look at the benefits you can get from attempting a challenge like this.

 

Why do a 30-day challenge? [Benefits]

It is a great way to create improvements in your life small steps at a time. Have that list of things you always wanted to do. Well, this is a way to test them all out and not dread the thought of not succeeding or that it will take long.

Small changes make it easier. 30 days is not that long, but it is long enough to feel the effect of changing something in your life. All you need to do is start.

It calls for experimenting and fun. The best part that it is actually fun to challenge yourself and see what you are capable of.

It’s Social when you get everyone involved. You are not alone. Trust me if the thought crossed your mind it has also done the rounds with your friends. Why not get them involved and get a price for the best effort at the end of the 30 days.

Its chunked thus it easier to comprehend and structured so you can make a success of the 30 days. Its easier to plan and think of what to do for the next 4 weeks rather wonder what to do in 3 or 6 months time to achieve a yearly goal.

You will have an increasing confidence and feeling of accomplishment. Once you have done it and learned more about yourself you will feel more confident about yourself.

What is next and what else can I accomplish. The follow-up idea that will pop up in your mind but what else can I do and achieve.

It makes for a great story. Looking for a great story to tell at the next braai, well it will surely provide for that.

It’s great for adding or subtracting habits which we will look at later on. In the last piece of this article, we go deep into how you can use challenges to change habits and ultimately your behaviours.

There is a saying that says I think it is from  Archilochus a Greek poet “We do not rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”. This means that in difficult times you are not going to rise to what you think you are capable of but you fall to the level of what you trained for. So training for tough conditions (cold shower, fasting, gratitude etc.) will prepare you for when such difficult times.

It can empower you to show that you are not dependant on something, caffeine for example.  Just in case you end up in “Lost” (TV series) stranded on an island and there is no coffee. It will not be that easy if you have not trained for it.

 

via GIPHY

 

The Aftermath of a successful challenge.

The biggest questions would be, what did you learn and experience from it?

Was it good, bad and did it have a positive change in your life? Write all of this down.

 

List of 30 Day Challenges Ideas to help you get going!

  1. Write gratitude journal entries for 30 days.
  2. Exercise 30 minutes every day for 30 days.
  3. No sugar
  4. No social media for 30 days
  5. Take a picture for 30 days.
  6. Speak to someone new every day.
  7. Slash TV for a month.
  8. Get rid of the News and current events for a month.
  9. Negotiate every day, this one is from Noah Kagan asking discount when you buy coffee.
  10. Cold showers for 30 days.
  11. Write for 30 days non stop
  12. No complaining for a month.
  13.  Write down 7 ideas every day for a month. That’s 210 ideas you can do something with.
  14. Go vegan for a month.
  15. Start a hobby or side project you always wanted to.
30 day challenges to change your habits
Why not get started to day with your own 30-day challenge?

How to get started with your first challenge!

  1. Decide on what your challenge is going to be?
  2. Decide if you are inviting other people and if you will make if public?
  3. Decide what happens if you make a mistake? (What did you learn and make sure you will continue and complete the challenge)
  4. Decide on a celebration for a successful completion! {victory dance}
  5. Choose the rules and guidelines of your challenge and write it down somewhere.
  6. Make sure there is some form of measurement.
  7. Hit the red start button and get started.
  8. Check in daily and tick off the successful days.
  9. Keep a journal of how the change impacts you and your life.
  10. At the end reflect and think about what you learned.
  11. Decide if you are going to keep the change as a habit or discard it. ( will it make you happier in your life better?)
  12. You are done congratulations, what will your next challenge be???
  13. Let me know how it unfolded, would like to get your perspective.

If you like this approach you can seriously use 30-day challenges to change your habits and live the life you always wanted to!

 

The Extremely Effective way to Change your Habits and become a better YOU!

 

Developing habits is an intricate part of our existence.

We have the power to consciously select activities to perform on a consistent basis that we want to grow into habits. We also notice the unconscious formation of habits when we start doing activities, and before we know it they become an integrated part of our schedules.

Habit formation is fascinating because it can be one of the most powerful or most destructive pieces of human nature.

Letting ourselves slip into habits that are a danger or detriment to our emotional, mental, or physical health is just as easy to fall into, if not more so than taking the time to build positive habits that are beneficial for our everyday lives.

We are going to take a deeper look into habit development in both the positive and negative sense. We are going to explore how you can use strategic challenges to effectively build or break habits.

 

So What is a Habit?

A habit is technically defined as a regular practice or tendency in human nature. A practice or activity that can be particularly hard to break or give up. You have probably heard before that person is creatures of habit, and you have probably seen this first hand in your life.

What are some of the good habits that you participate in every day or every week?

What are some of the bad habits that have started to seep their way into your life?

Examples of Good Habits

What are some of the good habits that you are proud of? If you are having trouble thinking of some of them, here are some of the most common examples

  • Having a set bedtime every night
  • Getting to work early
  • Exercising daily
  • Eating a healthy breakfast
  • Paying your bills on time or ahead of time
  • Taking time every day to be thankful or mindful
  • Smiling more
  • Listening and asking questions before you speak

You are probably already practising some of these in your own life.

Examples of Bad Habits

Examples of bad habits span a wide spectrum as well, and can include

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating too much fast food
  • Being negative and critical
  • Procrastinating work
  • Showing up late to work and social events
  • Putting off your bills and expenses
  • Racking up credit card debt
  • Neglecting your friends or family

 

What a plastic surgeon can teach us about figuring out how long it takes to form/break a habit.

You have probably heard differing opinions from experts on exactly how long it takes to build a habit.

Unfortunately, building a habit doesn’t take as short of a period of time as we use to think that it did, and breaking a bad habit can be even more difficult and take even more time.

With developing good habits, there is a risk considerable burnout and dropping off that can happen very early in development. With bad habits, some people can spend the rest of their lives in risk of relapsing and revert back to their old ways.

So how long does forming or breaking a habit actually take?

Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon back in the 1950’s and noticed that most of his clients and patients would have an adjustment period of about 21 days before they got used to a new look to their bodies or a change in how their bodies function.

He noticed that with everyone from patients who got new nose jobs to those customers who had limbs amputated, and would suffer from phantom pains on average for 21 days after they lost their limb.

Now, these aren’t really adjustments to forming new habits as much as they are getting used to a new situation, but it prompted Doctor Maltz to think about habit formation.

Maltz went on to write a best-selling book titled “Psycho-Cybernetics” which discussed behaviour change in detail. In his work, he stated that people need at least 21 days to perform a new habit or create a new behaviour.

We have now found that time frame is on the absolute low-end, and represents more of the minimum amount of time that it takes someone to form a habit.

Through extensive research, we have found that a more reasonable amount of time that we can expect to form or break a habit is an average of 66 days. At very least it takes 2 months.

 

The Value of Challenges in Building and Breaking Habits

So what do we mean when we propose something like using a challenge to build or break a habit?

The concept of using challenges to build and break habits has been around for years. On the internet, we see examples of habit-forming challenges all of the time.

You can find thousands of habit challenges online that include challenges that cover a massive spectrum of forming positive habits and breaking bad ones.

Challenges are valuable because they give us defined parameters and deadlines for building a habit. They can create competition to encourage and push us to develop a given behaviour.

We can use stakes and incentives to push us to be successful at building the habit, and to keep us from falling back into our old habits.

 

Important Components of Habit Challenges

So what are some of the key components of creating a challenge that will make you successful in building a positive habit or breaking a bad one?

  • 1) Setting a Time Frame and Deadline

How many times have you said to yourself or others “I’ll get started when work or life slows down a little” or “I’ll get to that someday or eventually?” Did you ever make time for it?

If you don’t set a timeframe and a deadline for starting your habit challenge and finishing it, ‘someday’ will never come. You need to first set dates in which you are going to work diligently on building your habit. Set a start date and a deadline and stick to it.

  • 2) Competition and Accountability

Most of us need some sort of competition or accountability to get us to stick with our habit goals. Get a friend or a group of friends to join you in building or breaking a habit to create competition and accountability.

  • 3) Rewards and Consequences

If there aren’t any rewards or consequences that you have for meeting your habit goal, you are going to significantly raise your chances of failure. Set up a system of rewards and consequences with yourself or your friends to encourage you to build your habit, and keep you away from backsliding.

 

Let’s look at real-life examples. [Case Studies]

Enough talking about it what does this look like in real life. Let’s take a look at three case studies and examples of some people who were able to build better habits and get rid of unhealthy habits.

Case 1) Emotional Eating

Erika Kendall
Photo by Erika Kendall

Erika Kendall had been struggling with extreme emotional eating for 13 years before she finally decided that she needed to make a change. Erika worked out even while she was gaining weight, and would spend every night on the elliptical.

Her goal for every workout was to keep riding until she hit 700 calories burned.

Then immediately after, she would go to Taco Bell as a reward for exercising. That, along with her propensity to keep eating out of the comfort that she felt in food eventually made her clinically obese.

When Ericka hit rock bottom, she became very sick and the only thing that she could keep down was raw vegetables.

It was then that she started challenging herself to eat healthy every day. Her meals began with vegetables with a little bit of rice, and she challenged herself to eat clean every day.

She changed her perspective so that she no longer looked at keeping a healthy diet as something that was restrictive, but as having a lot of options that were empowering and would allow her to get to her goal.

She eventually lost 77kg by challenging herself to eat clean.

 

Case 2) Understanding an Unhealthy Habit

Charles Duhigg
Photo credit charlesduhigg.com

Charles Duhigg, an employee at the New York Time, delved deep into his habit to discover the cue and the triggers that were causing it.

Every day between 3 and 4 pm at work, Charles began going up to the cafeteria in his office to get a cookie. Before he knew it, he had developed a habit. Every day around that period of time at work, he would start craving a cookie and head up to the cafeteria to get one and socialize with his coworkers.

He decided to go talk to an expert to get a better grasp and understanding of this compulsion to get a cookie at this time during the workday.

His therapist gave him several tests to identify the source of the habit and the craving.

They eventually found out that Charles’s craving didn’t come from a sweet tooth, sugar cravings, an afternoon slump, or the need to eat. The cookie became the vehicle in which he used as an excuse to go upstairs and socialize with his coworkers.

Once he and his therapist discovered the source of the habit, Charles changed his ways. Now around that time every day when he craves his cookie, he goes to socialize with coworkers on the office floor, and no longer craves the cookie afterwards.

By getting a deeper understanding of his craving, he was able to get rid of his habit and substitute a healthy activity in for it.

 

Case 3) Getting Your Morning Right

Adam Dukes, creative director of Social Synergy, wanted to totally change around his mornings so that he could accomplish his goals and get more done during the day.

He decided to read a couple of books on successful habit development including The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 AM), and it completely turned his day around.

Now, every morning Adam blocks out time to

  • Take some time to enjoy the peace and quiet of each morning
  • Write down unique things that he is thankful for each day
  • To exercise
  • To write down his goals and stay accountable to them

He has applied the same habit building routines and methods to better his sales writing craft, to quit smoking, to stop eating sweets, to quit eating fast food, and to help him read seven books per year.

So what are you Waiting for?

Hopefully, you know have a better understanding of how new habits are formed and how old unhelpful or unhealthy habits are broken.

You also have several excellent ideas on how you can use some simple and effective methods to start building new habits in your own life.

What habit are you going to challenge yourself to build?

 

Mat Cutts on trying something new for 30 days.
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