30 day challenges: what do you have to gain?

Are you struggling to make a change in your life? Add some fitness element, change your diet, establish a habit?

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”  ~ Robert Collier

There are lots of tools you can use if you need a boost of incentive. Sometimes I just try to power through and sustain a new habit with strength of will. But I find it’s simpler if I begin with a partner, a game, or something that helps me tally up days of success, and see a pattern emerging, get off to a good beginning.

If I’m trying to add a behavior all on my own, my favorite method is to find a challenge, or even create one for myself, that eases me into the habit. Fitness or diet challenges are all over sites like Pinterest, the idea being that you work up to your fitness goal over time. Or check out a diet challenge that has you eating a specific range of foods for a week or longer to drop a few pounds.

But if you’re all set for diet and exercise, you can still use the challenge strategy. There are challenges for budgeting / saving, for eating down your pantry or freezer, for writing or other creative processes, and many, many other areas of life. And if you can’t find one that works for you, it’s simple to design your own.

Choose a time frame, a goal, and then set incremental targets to meet as you work toward your end-of-month (or fill in your time frame) achievement.

Some challenges build on early targets…you increase your number of exercise repetitions, or the length of time you work out every day or two. Some challenges aren’t about increasing a behavior over time, they’re more about continuing a behavior, like taking supplements or keeping your space tidy…it’s just about keeping on keeping on.

Of course, the opposite of a challenge to add or increase a behavior is to stop doing something, or cut back…smoking, eating junk food, overspending, screen time. Trust me, if you have a struggle, you can bet someone’s already created a plan of action to address it; doing a little research online will probably give you multiple game plans for changing anything you want to tackle. You’ll just need to find what works for you, or tailor the ideas you find to your goals.

I like challenges because I can mark my progress on the calendar, and they’re time-limited…I can either go on to another one at the end of the challenge, or repeat one that’s worked well for me. I like having a goal laid out so I can look at the incremental steps and decide if I want to follow through. I see what I’m getting into before I begin.

Then, once I commit to the challenge, it becomes a game with myself. Can I make it? Can I stay consistent with the daily commitment? Can I keep up the pace of the exercise regimen, or stick with the diet? Can I work through the writing challenge?

I have a few flaws…well, that’s hardly a surprise. If I had to name my biggest failing, in my opinion, it’s my difficulty being consistent. I generally get the job done, but sometimes it’s later rather than sooner, and it’s not always with a consistent trajectory. I tend to have more of a start / stop / start again pattern. Frustrating!

“It’s so simple really:  If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you start something, finish it.” ~ Epictetus

That’s really the gift of the challenge approach. If I commit to a challenge, that’s the push I need to stay with the plan, and once I go through a month of new behavior, the hardest time is behind me.

“What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.” ~ Gretchen Rubin

So how about you? Up for a challenge? Tried a good one recently?

Share if you’d like. I’d love to hear what you’re trying!

~ Sheila



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