As the season changes from dreary winter to the brightness of spring, we start to think about changes we want to make in ourselves as well. The thought of change can often feel overwhelming. You may ask yourself, will I be successful? Can I really do this? What if I lose commitment or struggle with self discipline? All of these questions make sense. Change can be difficult and sometimes our worry about sticking with a goal can keep us from ever getting started.
This worry is one reason why I was encouraged by a TED talk that I recently found which focused on a 30 day challenges for change. Matt Cutts originally talked about this in 2011 for TED and it was revisited on the TED Podcast last month; discussing that while we may believe we are hard wired one way, we are capable of change. In 2009, Cutts challenged himself to identify a new goal or habit each month and stick with it for those 30 days. He stated that from his perspective, the idea of having a time limited goal helped him remain motivated and not become overwhelmed as we often do with long term change. If he enjoyed the change or found it to be beneficial, it was something that he could continue doing following those initial 30 days. If he didn’t, he was able to feel accomplished while also not feeling obligated to continue in a goal that was not for him.
Now ask yourself, what would you like to try if you knew that you only needed to stick with it for 30 days? What can you accomplish in one month? Maybe you like to be more intentional about reading each day, or perhaps you want to change something about your diet. In his experience, Cutts found several benefits to his 30 day challenge model including:
- Time: Cutts found that by intentionally focusing on one thing each month, it felt as though time slowed down. This practice can encourage us to be more aware of time and how we are using it each day. Rather than being in March and wondering how you got there, you begin to track time through your goals such as practicing a language in January, eating a new food each day in February and reading for 20 minutes each day in March. The daily goal gives time more purpose.
- Self-confidence: When we accomplish our goals, our self-confidence grows. Shorter goals allows for more victories and more opportunities to feel accomplished in ourselves. Taking one thing on at a time and only committing for 30 days provides realistic room for self-growth, positive feelings and improved self-confidence.
- Sustainability: In his talk, Cutts found that the changes that he wanted to keep after the 30 days were more sustainable than goals he had tried before without the 30 day caveat. Taking it one month at a time allowed for slow, realistic change that became habit.
As you take on these challenges, work to be mindful about making small changes rather than huge goals (i.e. walking for 20 minutes every day rather than running a marathon in 30 days). Give yourself space to dream, accept yourself in a non-judgmental way and believe that you are capable of trying something new for 30 days.
Change can be difficult, sometimes even making it hard to identify the first step. Today, take a few minutes and think about something you have always wanted to try, do or begin. Then ask yourself if you are willing to challenge yourself to do it for 30 days. For me, that has been practicing Spanish and I’m currently on a 16-day streak. What will it be for you?