This year I decided to take on a challenge. It was not much different than the last several in that, I started the year disappointed in my progress. Was I really becoming better? Was all my efforts leading me to something? Was all the books I was reading and seminars I was attending doing anything more than making me feel inadequate? I was tired of thinking the same things all the time and tired of feeling like my goals were this huge mountain I had to climb.
If I focus on people who are doing better than me, I can not be proud of my own achievements. I found it hard to be grateful for the achievements I was making, when I see someone doing what I dream of doing. "They are no different than me" I thought. I still think this is true, but I had to stop concerning myself with others. Life is a journey and the goal is no more important than the person I become in the journey to get there.
With this new mindset, I set sail, so to speak. I set a new course philosophy. This course, I call the The 21 Day Challenge. Nothing I am doing is revolutionary, but it's a whole heck of a lot easier on me stress-wise. You see, every year I set goals, LOTS of goals. I want to do this, see this, have this, buy this and achieve this. The problem was, I was getting some, but not all. Then I'd develop some habits, but when I failed at others I became discouraged.
This feeling of failure, lead to a complete lack of motivation. I would tell myself "If I can't work out today, then I won't eat right either." We all do this, I know. Instead of stressing myself out with a bunch of goals, I created a new plan. This plan was to set 21 day goals. Why 21 days you might be asking?
Well, I chose 21 days because scientifically, it takes about 21 days to create a new habit. That does not mean it is set in stone, but at this point your mind and body are used to the habit, and starts to crave it a bit. One day at a time you build up your strength like a tree digging it's roots down farther day by day. The habit will not interfere with starting a new goal at this point. With those 21 days down, you start a new habit the day after and add this new habit in with the last one you started.
Now, you DO NOT want to start with something difficult, as much as you are desperate to lose weight or start your new work-out schedule. Working out is a HUGE commitment if it means getting up earlier, sleeping longer, drinking more water, eating better. NO, NO, NO! Do not start with this. I promise you, it will mess you up. What you want to start with is something, somewhat ridiculous and seemingly insignificant.
Here are some ideas for GREAT habits for your first 21 days:
Eating an apple every day
Making your bed every morning
Putting your clothes for tomorrow out the night before
Reading 10 minutes a day
There are plenty of other easy first habit ideas you can go for, but I think you get the point. The idea is to pick something that you know you should be doing anyway and is so easy, you have no excuse not to do it whether your sick, tired, or feeling your best. This habit is not going to change your life, it is going to be a confidence booster. The ease of the habit will raise your self-esteem and make you feel like you're ready to take on another challenge, by the time the first 21 days is up.
The second 21 days should be something like first 21 with the exception that you continue the first one and add another easy habit. At the end of the second 21 days you are ready to take on something a little more difficult. This will be just 6 weeks in to your 1 year transformation.
A good habit for the third period is something like these:
Walk for as long or as far as you feel comfortable with each day
One less cup of coffee per day or a smaller cup
Eat a salad with dinner every day, but eat the salad first
Spend no more than 10 minutes a day working out (easy stuff: push-ups, leg lifts, squats using a chair, etc.)
After that, you've done it. You've mastered the process. Now you have time to do this 18 times a year. It does not have to start January 1st. Start it now. Today, when you read this. You will be a better person 1 year from now if you do. No Excuses! This is the start of a brand new you. If you like, you may document along with me. Join me in the process and we'll get through it together. You'll look back and realize that you barely recognize the old you.
Lastly, I know some of you might be wondering why I call it The 21 Day Challenge instead of the 18 Habits Challenge or something else. The answer is rather simple actually, the idea of having to just make it 21 days makes this whole thing more appealing (for me at least). I don't think about the next goal in the roster, I just think about doing that ONE thing each day for 21 days.
Personally, I don't want to focus on the 16 habits being made, because that is a bit more daunting. I sort of think of it like a spider, you build the strength of your resolve, by daily building on to your core fundamentals. I keep focused on that day's tasks and continue building. Over time you'll have a big web, incredibly strong and able to discard any negative influences that latch on to it.
What do you think? Are you ready to take on the challenge?
Martin J, Glennon