‘You’ll never change your life until you change something daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine’
~ John C Maxwell
One of my passions is examining different techniques used to form habits. I’ve spent the last 4 years experimenting on myself and those around me (with their permission!) to identify the best ways to implement a new habit or to change a habit. One of the things I have found to be highly effective in certain circumstances is taking part in a 30 day challenge.
Most recently I’ve used a 30 day challenge to form a yoga habit. I’ve been trying for ages to get a consistent yoga routine going. Every time I go to a class I love it, but until now, I’ve not been able to stick to a regular routine. That is until I came across the 30 day yoga challenge as recommended by my brother, Dan. OK, so it might be a bit premature to share this as a success story just yet, based on the fact that I am only on day 17 as I type this, but it certainly seems like it’s going in the right direction and I feel like a habit is forming and I’m loving it. I’m at the point where I am waking up and looking forward to getting started as the first thing I do each day.
In terms of forming habits, Gretchen Ruben talks about 4 tendencies. These tendencies distinguish how people respond to both outer and inner expectations. Outer expectations include requests from a 3rd party or an external deadline and inner expectations are those things we set for ourselves like sticking to a new eating plan.
Ruben believes that people fall into 4 different categories when it comes to how we respond to expectations:
- Upholders: Respond readily to outer and inner expectations
- Questioners: Question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
- Obligers: meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
- Rebels: resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
If you’d like to find out how you best respond to expectations, you should take the quiz. I am an upholder. I set goals for myself and then I stick to these goals. Some of my friends think I’m a bit mad setting myself all these goals and rules to live by, but I know it is the most effective way for me to be my best self and it makes me happy.
For an upholder a 30 day challenge works a treat. You have committed to the challenge, there is a clearly defined task that you have set out to complete and so you get it done.
There are loads of debates online about whether a 30 day challenge is helpful or not and whether they can help you to create a habit. They might not be effective for all people in all scenarios but here is how they can help:
1) The goal is really clear
A 30 day challenge is usually a very clear and straightforward goal. The clearer the goal is, the easier it is to stick to. This way you know exactly what it is you are setting out to achieve. Setting yourself a clear and simple goal will help set yourself up for success.
2) The effort required is low
The beauty of a 30 day challenge is that although you are embarking on a goal to implement something everyday, the effort required to do this is usually quite low. If you are setting out to follow your goal every day for 30 days, the less effort required to do this, the more likely you are to be successful.
3) The goal is meaningful for you and what you are trying to achieve
If you embark on a 30 day challenge, to have more chance of success it should be something that is meaningful in your life. Maybe it’s something you have been trying to do for a while but for a variety of reasons haven’t managed to stick to (like my yoga practice) or maybe it’s something you have dreamed about doing, but have never known how to get started. The more meaningful it is for you, the better chance you have of sticking to it.
4) A routine quickly forms which stops taking much thought
The key benefit of undertaking a 30 day challenge is that it usually stops taking much effort and use of willpower and becomes a daily habit. You have committed for 30 days and so you just get into the routine of carrying it out each day without much thought required. The further you get into the 30 days, the more of an automated action it becomes.
This happened with my yoga challenge. The first few days I needed to use all my willpower to get started, but very quickly I got into the routine of just doing it. This is why 30 day challenges can be so beneficial as they remove the amount of will power required to implement a new habit. The idea is that once the challenge is completed, the habit will be formed and you will continue to practice without needing the challenge. I have every intention of keeping a daily yoga practice going once I have finished these first 30 days.
5) If you are an all or nothing person (I am)
I recently carried out Dry January which is a 30 day challenge to have no alcohol. I’ve found that for me, it’s much easier to be tee total than to drink in moderation. I find it easier to eat no meat than less meat, to exercise every day rather than 4 days a week, to do 30 days of yoga, rather than once a week practice. I am a full blown all or nothing person.
If you too are an all or nothing person, you might find a 30 day challenge works brilliantly for you. If you prefer taking more time to build up slowly to things, then possibly you would find it more challenging.
6) The goal can be easily shared and tracked for external accountability
If you need external accountability (for example if you are an Obliger) you can share the challenge with friends and keep them posted on your progress. You can promote your progress on social media. You could share a picture on Instagram each day to show your success. You can track your challenge on the CoachMe app. I swear by this to keep accountable for your goals. You could use an accountability coach to keep you accountable each day for following the goals you have set for yourself.
7) Progress is visible relatively quickly
It can be amazing how far you can come in 30 days. Even after 17 days of my yoga practice I can feel improvements. My breathing is more natural, I can feel greater flexibility and my focus is stronger. I have also done an Ab Challenge in the past and found the same thing that I could see the positive impact of carrying it out for 30 days. This is very motivating and makes continuing with the challenge and beyond much more appealing.
Let me know what you think about 30 Day Challenges and whether you have ever been successful using one to start forming a habit. Are there any good challenges out there worth sharing? Have you found that they help you implement a habit after the 30 days is over?
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