Prasanna Natarajan

Why does a 30 day challenge work?

I think it works, at least for me, due to 3 reasons.

The first one is that each successful completion goes in a list in my computer. That list builds up slowly. But these days nothing make me happy more than seeing that list grow. It’s a log of my life in the past few months where I’ve done something meaningful. It’s a record of things I did to stretch myself out of my comfort zone. It adds to my self-esteem and with each mildly tough challenge that I finish, I get the confidence to stretch a bit further.

Kids get appreciated a lot on a day to day basis (most of which is totally unnecessary I feel. I just hifi’d a friends kid yesterday for saying numbers 1 to 10 incorrectly. He didn’t deserve that). So they have a very positive and cheerful mindset with which they can go face the new world each day. It actually helps them.

But as adults we don’t get much deserved appreciation. That’s either because we don’t do things to deserve them (not doing remarkable work) or because our bar is much higher to be able to truly accept an appreciation (Look everyone, Prasanna is our resident Mac expert! He’s the one you should all go for your “How to cut copy paste” doubts THAT YOU COULD’VE TOTALLY GOOGLED).

The only way to get truly appreciated is to earn the respect of your inner critic. The dude I face in the mirror is pretty hard to please. And he’s upset with my status quo. He’s the only person I can’t avoid or give a finger to. Setting up a challenge for yourself solves both problems of appreciation while being acknowledged by your inner critic. With a challenge, you are about to do some remarkable work, and since you know your level, you can always set the challenge a little higher.

This is another reason I don’t put off on taking up a new challenge, because each day I put off, that’s another day I have to wait after the completion to add the challenge to my life.

The second reason a 30 day challenge works is because it’s 30 days - no less, no more. It’s just about right to make you feel sore at the end of the workout, and still not tear your tendons.

Also it’s a round number.

I made the mistake initially of setting up a longer challenge. Jogging daily had become so easy that I decided I’d do it for 60 days straight. But contrary to what you’d think, it doesn’t give twice the happiness. It just felt the same as a 30 day success. But if I’d done the same 60 day as a two 30-day challenge, I’d have 2 entries in my list.

Ya, it’s a little silly, but remember this. If you earn 6 lac rupees more this year, you’d feel happier, but if you lose 6 lac rupees this year, that sorrow you’d feel is much more than the happiness you felt earning the same amount.

So go for trial that’s no more than 30-days long to feel the ‘small-win victory’ more often.

Doing a 7-day or 10-day challenge is fine too, but you won’t feel you’ve changed that much. But this is good for challenges that you feel are tougher. I did a 7-day challenge to wake up at 5am. Couldn’t do it for 30 days due to office work making me do night work.

The third reason it works is because of its stiffness.

Your challenge is 30 days long. It means no breaking it in the middle and then deciding that you’d add that many days at the end and ‘make it 30 days again’. This is your lizard brain’s blatant attempt to make you not do things. I fell for it the very first time I tried it. I allowed myself to fail in between, reasoning that, I would capture the reason I failed and it would serve me in the future to not make the same mistake. But very soon, in that same trial, the list of “excuses” began to grow at an alarming rate. That’s when I decided this shit doesn’t work.

If you fail on the 29th day, restart the trial and don’t mark it as a success. It’s how you teach a lesson to your weak brain.

So, remember this 3 reasons why it works.