Why 30-Day Challenges Don't Work

Have you ever participated in a 30-Day Challenge? You know the one. Exercise every day for 30 days. Or, eat cabbage soup every day for lunch for 30 days. Okay, that one is a little old. I tried this one a few months ago. Write down 30 things (or people) you love for 30 days. And you can’t have any repeats.

For me, the writing challenge went something like this. I found 30 things to love for the first 5 days or so. 10 days in, my list was down to 5 things. By day 14 I lost my list.

And this is the frustrating thing for so many of us. We get all excited about trying something new. And then, just a few days into it, we get sidetracked. We get waylaid. We get busy with life. And then we quit.

The guilt, the shame! We blame the weather. We blame our boss for making us work too hard and stay at work too late. And then we go back to Netflix or the NBA Finals or the National League Pennant chase. Or playing Dawn of War.

I have to confess right here. I actually love 30-day challenges. They have actually been one of the tools I have used to change my life. I have been able to develop a few good new habits from several 30-day challenges.

Here’s the thing. There is a formula to making a 30-day challenge work for you. I know, there seems to be a formula for everything nowadays. And, no, I did not survive 30 days of cabbage soup. 30-day challenge – FAIL!

So here are the three elements to making any 30-day challenge work for you. You can even make up your own 30-day challenge and start it at any time. Highly recommended.

Element 1:

Why Are You Doing This 30-Day Challenge? You have to have a pretty compelling reason to start exercising or learn a new skill or improve your diet. The gravitational pull of your old habits are way too strong. Two weeks into the challenge, you need to be crystal clear about why you want to complete this challenge. This is the time most people quit. It will get really difficult to continue. You got to go all in and your “why” has to be bigger than your old habit or belief.

Element 2:

Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try If you are going to give this a try, you will find a reason to fail. You need to make a decision. You need to decide that you want this new activity or skill or habit in your life. Newsflash, we are not just talking about 30 days. We are talking about changing your habits and changing your life. We are not talking about trying something and hoping it works out. It won’t work unless you do the work.

Element 3:

Consistency Same time every day. Doing your 30-day challenge every day at the same time each day is going to create a trigger for you. Triggers are automatic associations. If I put on my cycling shorts, I’m going out for a ride. No matter what. Anytime before I put on my cycling shorts, it’s a crap shoot.

Bonus Element:

Miracle Morning Complete your 30-day challenge task first thing in the morning. Yes, get up 30 minutes early and do that challenge activity the very first thing in the morning. This way, the day never get’s away from you and you will always have time to do it. Pro tip; go to bed 30 minutes earlier.

My morning routine sets me up for success every day. I know it will get done no matter what. If I am struggling with adding a new skill or a new habit, once I add it to my morning routine, it gets done every day. I don’t have to think about it or plan it. I don’t have to hope I have time for it (because I won’t, otherwise I would have done it years ago) So I have to ask you, why do you want to change your life?