30 Day Challenges

I listen to TED talks while I walk for exercise. I used to listen to music to pump me up and motivate me to move faster or even jog, which is still my preference if I’m working out in the gym. However, I’ve found listening to inspirational podcasts and TED talks while I walk in nature makes me look forward to the experience. It feels quite decadent to have that time alone, learning from strangers who’ve braved the stage to share their expertise.

I choose a talk that interests me at the start of the walk and then I just listen to whichever talks the app chooses to play after that. This is how I stumbled across a very short and simple talk yesterday that inspired me to start a 30 day challenge. Matt Cutts is an engineer at Google and this is his 3 minute and 21 second talk Try Something New For 30 Days

Matt felt he was stuck in a rut in life and so started the challenge of taking a picture every day for a month. I’m guessing Matt is not a millennial, as the challenge for that generation would be to limit to one picture per day!  But I digress. He found that this simple activity made him more conscious and focused on his life. Instead of days blurring into each other, he was lively more mindfully. He talks about how every November, tens of thousands of people set out to complete a novel in 30 days by committing to write 1667 words a day. Now that pricked my attention.

At the end of the talk, Matt made a comment that really stuck with me. ‘I guarantee you the next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot?’ It is so true. How many intentions have you set in the past, only to blink and realise six months went by and procrastinationnothing had changed? I think my adult life could be broken into three month blocks of unrealised challenges I set myself. I don’t beat myself up too badly for that, as I consider everything an opportunity to learn. Maybe I was just learning how to procrastinate at an expert level, so I could… wow I just lost fifteen minutes browsing the internet to find a justification for procrastination. I failed. But I did see this appropriate meme.

Last night I mentioned to my family that I wanted us to try something new. This was met with the customary eye-rolls my children give when I make lofty statements like this. History has taught them that these declarations rarely involve things they’d love to do. Surprisingly though, each of them quickly committed to their own challenges. We discussed that it needs to be a realistic goal – running 20 kilometres a day is NOT achievable for any of us at this point! It also needs to be something broad enough that it can’t be easily ruined by outside forces. For example, my husband said he’d walk the dogs every day. However, if it rains constantly, this is not likely to happen. So he changed it to committing to 30 minutes of deliberate physical activity each day, so that if it is raining, he can jump into our gym and do a workout instead.

My fourteen year old son committed to 30 minutes of creativity each day, as he has been dabbling with sketching lately and wants to improve his skills. My daughter committed to 30 days without fast food, a pretty challenging goal for a 17 year old about to finish grade 12 and head off to schoolies! The definition of fast food had to be clarified as the type of food you’d get in a drive-through, because she still wants to be able to eat sushi and kebabs. Fair enough 🙂

My 30 day challenge? I am going to write a minimum of 1000 words a day. I currently have three projects I’m focused on. A fiction novel I’ve been tinkering with for years, a self help book I’ve only recently started the research and development stage for and this blog. This should be enough to keep me busy and not flood tmy website with banal posts for the sake of hitting my target.

Different articles suggest varying time frames necessary to create a habit in your lifestyle (or break a bad one!) but generally between 2 weeks and 2 months is considered accurate. If you make something a part of your daily routine, it will take this long to get past the initial struggle and make it a habit that actually requires more effort to stop than continue. However, even if you don’t choose to keep the new habit going, the benefits of completing a 30 day challenge are worth the effort. It is a short enough to not feel totally overwhelming, yet long enough to have you feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end. It can make you feel empowered, adventurous, more confident and just plain happier.

So, do you want to join me? What is something new you’ve always wanted to try? Don’t be turned off by the diet industry’s hijacking of this concept. I am not suggesting a 30 day detox (your liver does an pretty damn good job of that already) or a 30 days to a toned butt challenge – your butt is doing it’s job quite well right now! There is nothing wrong with committing to being active or being more mindful of your food – just be sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Dropping kilos for a ‘Summer body’ is letting marketing into your head so they can profit. Wanting to feel strong and be active so you can get outdoors and enjoy our gorgeous Summer weather may be a better mindset. Of perhaps you want to try meditating; learn a musical instrument; try vegetarianism; give up coffee; play a board game with your kids each day; spend 30 minutes at the waterfront; go to bed a 9 pm each night; keep a gratitude journal; give a stranger a compliment each day – there are endless options.

Thirty days from today takes us to November 29th, which is the day I head off on a cruise with my family. Perfect timing. So let me know what your challenge is going to be and let’s help keep each other accountable. This is going to be fun!

And look at that – 1073 words done already!

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