There’s hidden power in setting great goals for yourself, but none of that power can be unlocked until you take some form of action.
On January 1st, I decided that I was going to set a new challenge for myself every 30 days.
Because I realized I had all these goals — some big, some little, some old, some new — that were just sitting in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t actually doing anything to move myself forward.
And if I was taking action in an attempt to move myself closer toward my goal, it was scattered and stagnant and just lacked proper planning and persistence in general.
I would complete one small task on a day that I felt inspired, then I’d ignore it for two weeks and end up setting myself back even further by having to spend time relearning what I did, having to catch up on lost time, or halting progress all together and having to start from square one to get it moving again.
Even when you do decide to take some form action to move you close to achieving your goal, all the “stuff” you need to do can get really overwhelming.
When I get overwhelmed, fear or failure or rejection often sets in right after.
It can make goals that are totally doable and within reach seem to be anything but easy.
When fear and overwhelm begin to distract you from moving forward, you have to really take a step back from all your feelings and all the things you’d say you’d do.
You have to get your shit together.
And by that, I mean you have to really break things down into very small chunks of doable actions and reasonable timeframes.
There’s an art to doing this, I’ve found.
The next 30 days is when it will happen.
30 days is ideal for committing yourself to a daily challenge, because it’s a long enough period of time for you to develop good habits and see progress, but short enough that it’s not completely overwhelming or never ending.
I understand that for some goals, maybe a week is all that you need.
But let’s face it — if you’ve got big goals to go for, chances are they require a lot of work and a big time commitment.
One of the biggest reasons why people fail at achieving their goals is that they’re too obsessed with the big picture, the end goal.
Sure, it’s good to remind yourself of that goal, because the fact that you want it so badly is a main source of motivation for you to get it done, but when that’s all you see, you’re setting yourself up for failure without realizing it.
A 30-day challenge doesn’t mean you have only 30 days to get to your goal.
It’s not meant for that.
Maybe you will, or maybe it will take months or years to get it.
The point of a 30-day challenge is to simplify, build habits, and persevere even when times get tough and you want to quit.
Firstly, a 30-day challenge has a limit, so on day 30, you can look back and evaluate your progress and decide whether or not you should continue.
This can provide some relief to people who get too caught up in how much time something is going to take to achieve.
You don’t need to think about day 31, or day 42 or day 116.
Focus on getting through 30 days.
It’s not that long.
It’s totally doable.
When you realize this, sticking with something every day doesn’t seem as daunting as it does when you’re focused on the bigger picture, because you know you have a way out when the time’s up.
Even so, when you stick to taking some action every day for 30 days, by the 30th day you’ll realize that the things you’ve been doing have basically become habits.
Getting something done isn’t as difficult to force yourself to do anymore, because you’ve conditioned yourself into doing it every day.
What if, for 30 straight days, you decided to work out for two and a half hours to work toward your big goal of losing 20 pounds?
The wrong way to go about your 30-day challenge would be to try and do something completely unsustainable over the long-run.
Anything that you already have major trouble doing for two days straight is completely out of the question.
So no, you’re not going to kill yourself in the gym every day and do everything you can to bulk up or slim down.
Here are the “rules” you have to work with for setting your daily to-do list for your 30-day challenge:
1. Commit to setting aside at least one hour every day to work on something, or
2. Make three small changes to achieve on throughout the course of your day.
I’ll give you a couple of my real life examples to explain what I mean.
In January, I thought it would be a good idea to write and publish 30 new long-form articles on my trends column by the 31st, because I needed to increase traffic, so I made it my goal to do exactly that.
I wanted to do this because I often let this part of my work fall by the wayside when I’d get distracted by other projects, or when I just procrastinated too much.
I knew I had to discipline myself, and I knew that I could publish at least one a day, so 30 seemed challenging but still doable for me.
Every day in January, I woke up with the intention of hitting publish on a brand new article, and every day I kept track of how many I had completed and how many were left to go.
“All I have to do is get to 30,” I told myself.
And you know what?
Even when unexpected events came up, or when an article took way more research and editing than I had anticipated, I still found a way to get it done.
I even ended up hitting publish on my 30th article one day early before the end of my 30-day challenge deadline.
That’s the power of a 30-day challenge.
The best part?
I developed a habit out of finding a way to always commit at least an hour or two of time every weekday and sometimes weekends to work on it.
What do you do when day 30 comes and goes?
When you get to day 30, first, congratulate yourself.
Next, decide where you want to go from there.
You may continue doing the exact same thing, or you may build off of the habits your developed, or you may try something completely different.
Whatever you decide, if you did it right, it’s likely that some of those habits will stick with you, even if you decide to set a completely new challenge for yourself the next month.
For example, I now know that I can persistently dedicate at least an hour a day to my trends writing and pump out at least 20 long-form pieces in February.
It may not be 30, but 20 is still a lot more than I used to make myself write, and I can do it now because I worked hard to make it a habit.
In February, I set a brand new challenge for myself to get serious about losing some of the weight I gained over Christmas.
For goals like getting fit, or becoming a more compassionate person, or watching less television — committing just one hour a day to honouring that goal doesn’t really work.
I have no problem with working out.
I work out six days a week because I love it and I need the activity because I have a sedentary job.
My big problem is food — especially snacking.
If you take generous food portions, eat a lot of carbs, are susceptible to emotional eating and also graze kinda mindlessly a lot throughout the day — like me — you’ll know what I mean, even if you lift weights and do cardio every day.
So for 30 days, I committed to making three small changes to my eating habits.
- I would track everything I ate using the Lose It! app.
- I would completely stop all mindless and emotional snacking.
- I would lay off the starchy carbohydrates — bread and crackers in particular.
These are all things I have to be conscious of sticking with all day.
But they’re only three things, so I’m not killing myself here.
And guess what I’m going to do when these 30 days are up?
You guessed it — eat cake or something to celebrate.
(I don’t believe in diet restriction anyway, and I’m a huge advocate of letting yourself indulge in anything you want once a week.)
I’ve made good habits out of those three food rules before, but like many people tend to do, I fell off the wagon for too long and all of a sudden my habits faded away.
I’ve done this before, though, and really well too — so it’s at least easier to get back to it compared to if I was a complete beginner.
And with that said, I want to point this out:
You might skip a day.
You might see the habits you developed over the last 30 days diminish over time.
You might fail.
It’s a great feeling to know that you stuck with something hard and challenging and even a little scary every single day for 30 days straight, but let’s get real — things don’t always go according to plan, and that’s just life.
Even now, on February 3rd, I already know I don’t feel the same passionate drive for committing to publish a trends piece done every single day, especially now that I’m focusing on a new fitness challenge.
In many cases, you’ll need to refresh the way you get things done so you can feel excited about it again.
Sometimes, you’ll need to backtrack.
Other times, due to life circumstances, you will absolutely need to take time off.
But whatever you do, don’t give up and undo what you’ve accomplished.
The longer you go without committing to your challenge and the daily habits you develop throughout them, the harder it is to get back at it.
Listen, you can get some serious shit done in 30 days if you commit to doing just a little every day.
You can change your habits for the better.
You can move yourself toward that big goal of opening your own business, losing 80 pounds, finding a partner, paying off your debt, learning how to tap dance, or whatever else you dream of doing.
And by the end of the year, with 11 or 12 different 30-day challenges under your belt, you’ll be a changed person.
It doesn’t take someone who’s super smart or rich or lucky or likeable — it starts with the smallest of changes to your daily routine.
So tell me, what will your next 30-day challenge be?
Set a date, mark it on your calendar, and be prepared to be blown away a month from then.
Photo via Israelavila
- 30 glorious snippets of wisdom worth knowing by the time you’re 30 (or any age, really) - December 31, 2016
- The divided self: Why we care way too much about what other people think - August 14, 2016
- What everyone gets wrong about “being authentic” - July 3, 2016
- 7 eye-opening ways to forget about your goals so you can let happiness flow - June 20, 2016
- Why you won’t do all the things you want to do this summer - June 13, 2016
- 50 everyday things you can give up to make time for more important stuff - April 30, 2016
- How to go from waking up miserable to exhilarated every morning - April 18, 2016
- How to align your mind to get exactly what you want - April 3, 2016
- Why we’re so bad at sticking to good habits (and what to do about it) - March 19, 2016
- 6 useful tips for dealing with an all-around bad day - June 30, 2015