30-Day Challenges are all the rage

They’re extremely popular in my world of internet marketing and online business. I find them extremely alluring for several reasons:

  • They don’t require a long-term commitment.
  • They offer the promise of some form of self-improvement or progress.
  • They provide instant accountability by declaring your goals to others in the group.
  • They theoretically offer a way to focus on one thing for a short period of time and, in so doing, minimize distractions.

I’m terrific at jumping on the bandwagon and getting fired up for a bit, but invariably, I lose my focus or willpower or motivation about three to seven days into it. This has happened to me at least four times in the last year. Two of the challenges were health related: one was a 30-day healthy-eating “cleanse”regimen for which recipes were provided and my sister and I were in it together. The second was a more general 30-day challenge with other people my age in which we could set our own goals.  The other two were more business-related and had to do with establishing a goal for the month and having check-ins with the group once or twice a week. In each case, there was a facilitator who provided support, encouragement, and cheerleading.

I failed miserably

At every single one of them.

Well, maybe not miserably, but I simply did not (could not…would not?) stay on task more than about a week.

What’s up with that?

Oh, I had excuses. Life happens, right? And it did. A string of social engagements made it too hard to stick to the diet plan. Someone in the family got sick and I had to go out of town—and they didn’t have an internet connection. I had knee pain and couldn’t exercise the way I wanted.

It’s always something.

But here’s the kicker

I was beating myself up every time, because I hadn’t finished what I’d started out to do. I let myself down. I didn’t keep my word to myself. This led to a downward spiral of negative self-talk, and probably plants the seeds for failure in the future instead of success.

I was measuring success the wrong way…for me

Gretchen Rubin’s new book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives helped me realize two very important things:

  1. Most people fall into one of four different “tendencies” that frame how we respond to expectations. What motivates one person to change or improve can have exactly the opposite effect on someone else. So that’s why 30-Day Challenges can be highly motivational for some folks, but not for me.
  2. We don’t need to measure success in hard numbers (e.g., I will lose X  number of pounds, I will write Y number of pages). If we strive, instead, to just be better tomorrow than we were yesterday—better than before—we can get to the same place with less stress and self-judgment involved. This feels much more manageable to me.

Trust Your Own InstinctsSo I’m challenging myself

…and I’ll challenge you too, if you’re game—to stop worrying about someone else’s challenge and start trusting my instincts more. I keep forgetting this, but I just have to remind myself as often as I need to.

My own body knows what it needs in the way of food and exercise. When I take the time to tap into my own creativity—the creativity that God has placed inside each one of us—I begin to get clarity about what I should focus on and what is just distraction.

I don’t need a 30-Challenge

I just need to remember that I’m  a beautiful piece of clay on the Potter’s wheel, and I need to trust that wherever I am in the process of production, I’m just where I’m supposed to be.

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P.S. I’ve written a book review of Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin as well as another book about habits by Dennis Becker. You can find that HERE.

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