Thirty days seems to have become the new magic number – 30 days to master a new workout; 30 days to lose 3 kg; 30 days to create a new habit or kick an old, unhealthy one. But is it, really? According to science, it’s not. On average, it takes 66 days for a new habit to feel automatic, according to a 2010 UK study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. So, if you’re buying into the marketing gimmicks of commercial 30-day challenges, stop it! They’re just trying to sell you something. However, don’t dismiss the concept out of hand… You see, while 30 days may not be the magic number needed to create life-altering habits that stick (it might also take more than 66 days), the idea of doing something consistently for 30 days in a row has its merits.
First and foremost, if you choose to follow this approach and cut through all the marketing hype, you could emerge a better person in some small way, be it physically, mentally, intellectually, spiritually, musically, heck, even professionally (depending on the type of challenge you take on). The great thing is, anyone can do it and by stringing together 12 30-day challenges a year, and following that with 12 more, and doing that over and over again, who knows what your life will be like 10 years from now? I’m willing to bet it will be vastly different from the life you know now – richer and more fulfilling.
“By stringing together 12 30-day challenges a year, who knows what your life will be like 10 years from now.”
Break the Rut
At the very least, committing to a new challenge every month has the potential to break you out of a rut and, if you’re choosing wisely, can push you out of your comfort zone on a more regular basis. We’ve written a lot in this magazine about breaking down a large goal into smaller increments to make it more achievable and that small changes over time are also more sustainable. Take a diet overhaul as an example. As the old saying goes: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Well, by breaking down your diet overhaul into 12 30-day periods, you can start by making small incremental changes such as first cutting out sugar for 30 days. Next, cut out after-hours snacking for 30-days, then work on eating five smaller balanced meals each day for 30 days. By the end of six or 12 months you’d have done everything you need to follow a healthful diet – you’d have eaten the entire diet ‘elephant’.
Keep It Interesting
In the context of training, it can make your weekly routine less, umm, routine. This approach also ensures that motivation levels remain high by expanding our horizons and exposing us to something new and interesting each month. This could take the form of a simple 30-day push-up or squat challenge, which normally entails performing a specified number of reps each day (if you’re using an app, for example) or progressively adding a few more reps at each subsequent session. By the end of the month you should have shattered your previous best and you would have laid the platform for even greater potential in your training.
I mean, you squatted every day for a month and can now do 100 non-stop, right? So what’s stopping you from building on that and working towards 100 jump squats over the next month? After that you may feel ready to give plyometrics or gymnastics a try, and a month later parkour might no longer seem like such a far-fetched idea.
And that’s the power of continuous progression. By setting ourselves stretch targets – putting the proverbial goal posts a little further each time we achieve something – we start to build confidence, which is a trait that is often transferable to many other areas of our lives. By constantly setting goals that are difficult but achievable, you also build a broader set of skills and consequently become stronger, which makes you capable of stretching yourself even further. And that is the principle on which the 30-challenge trend should be viewed and why you should embrace this popular selfimprovement trend. You don’t need to become an expert at anything after 30 days, just a better version of your previous self in some small way. And the beauty of this philosophy is that you can do it in conjunction with your other daily activities or regular training. In the context of your regular training, you don’t even have to stop your gym sessions and dedicate that hour each day to a 30-day pull-up challenge, for example. No, you just add it on to the end or the beginning of a session, or first thing in the morning or last thing at night. It can also be a small five, 10 or 30 minute sacrifice in your usual TV-watching time or in the car on the way to work, to do or learn something new that will enrich your life and empower and embolden you to keep making progress. What you’ll likely find is that after certain 30-day challenges, the end result will resonate with you and will become a part of your daily life. Whether that’s learning to play a musical instrument, converse in a new language, learn a new skill or simply take five minutes a day to appreciate what you have in life, all of these little things will add up to make your whole life greater than the sum of its parts.
Create Your Own Challenge
STEP 1: Set a specific goal
STEP 2: Set a start date (starting on the 1st of the month is ideal)
STEP 3: Perform that task for 30 consecutive days in accordance with your goal
STEP 4: If you slip up, start again. A 30-day challenge means 30 days in a row.