I’m a big fan of short term challenges that give me the opportunity to try doing something differently and achieving a goal quickly. 30 day challenges are a great way to get worth while results in a short amount of time, and they’re based on a simple premise: Do something differently for 30 days.
You can use 30 day challenges to:
- Introduce a new habit
- Break an old habit
- Learn something new
- Try something different
- Reach a short-term goal
- Work towards a larger long-term goal
At the moment I’m close to the end of a 30 day challenge to buy nothing except groceries. This is partly to break the habit of emotional spending, and partly to contribute to a year long challenge I’ve set myself to live more sustainably in 2022.
You can set yourself any kind of challenge you like. Here are some tips and ideas for how to set yourself an inspiring challenge, stick with it through the full 30 days and learn as much as you can from the experience.
- The right goal can help you grow. Before setting a goal consider what you really want to change: What do you want to experience more or less of in your life? What would help you to feel more happy and confident?
- Don’t take on too much at once and keep things manageable. This way you set yourself up for success as you’ll be channelling your willpower with focus.
- A good way to do this is to aim to introduce one new good habit, or end one bad one. Set yourself the goal of doing it for just 30 days. This gives you the opportunity to try on something new for a few weeks, like you’re taking it for a test drive.
- When you’ve chosen the habit you want to start/stop or the goal you want to reach, learn everything you can about how to do it right. Read about it, watch videos, listen to podcasts, talk to people who know about it; really do a deep dive into it to educate yourself and become an expert.
During the 30 day challenge
Think how you can keep going with your habit once the initial burst of motivation wears off. You could try:
- Habit stacking. This is when you add a new habit to something you already do eg. If you wanted to get into the habit of walking every day you could decide to go for a short daily walk as soon as you’ve eaten lunch. If you wanted to write a book you could decide to write for 20 minutes every day whilst you drink your morning coffee.
- Buddying up with someone else making a similar change.
- Refocussing on your Why. What is it about this new habit or goal that you want? Why does it matter? How will you feel when you achieve it? How will your life be better? How will to feel if you don’t stick with it?
- Don’t Break The Chain: On a calendar or diary put a big red X through every day you stick to your new habit. Your aim is to keep it as a continual chain. It sounds simple, but as those red X’s build up you’ll want to keep them going without a break.
- Actively tracking small wins. This is a major confidence builder as it gives you evidence that you’re the kind of person that actually does this new habit, and does it well. In fact you can use this evidence to…
- …Build the new habit into your identity. Remind yourself regularly that “I’m the kind of person who exercises every day/actively practices my art/makes healthy food choices etc” – whatever your new habit is, you’re now the kind of person who chooses to do it.
- If you’re interested, learn about the psychology behind change. We all have certain deep held, limiting beliefs about ourselves that can trip us up, like “I’m a slow learner”, “I’m lazy” and so on. If you’re really struggling with a new or old habit it helps to know what hidden beliefs about yourself they’re linked to.
- Plan for obstacles with an If-Then strategy. Things will happen that make it hard to stick to your commitment – life happens and you can’t control everything. But you can choose how to react. Plan ahead by asking yourself what you’ll do if something makes it hard to stick to your new habit. eg. “If my friends want to go out for a meal I’ll choose a restaurant with healthy options on the menu.”; “If I’m too tired to go for my morning run I’ll go for a run at lunch time instead.”; “If my kids disrupt my morning writing time I’ll write in the evening after they’re in bed before I settle down in front of the TV.” This is something most people don’t do when they’re starting something new and is a coaching trade secret!
After you’ve reached your goal or done your new habit for the time you committed to, do a spot of reflective learning by asking:
- What worked well?
- What didn’t work so well?
- What might you do differently?
- What will you keep on doing?
…If you’re trying to decide whether to set yourself a 30 day challenge ask yourself this: If you don’t set yourself a challenge where will you be in 30 days? Probably exactly where you are now. But if you do set yourself a challenge you will have learnt something, done something, got significantly closer to where you want to be.