Prasanna Natarajan

30 Day Challenge Mistakes

Just don’t do these.

Don’t extend the challenge beyond 30 days. You might think you have more willpower to walk for 30 minutes daily for 60 days. But please don’t. You’ll only find out later that you don’t have it in you. Or even if you did, you are only getting that “I’ve won this challenge” feeling just once. If you had done it as 2 30-day challenges, then you’d have 2 wins to celebrate. This is a great psychological boost for you.

Don’t do it for less than 30 days either. Your lazy lizard brain won’t be convinced with this small victory. It would even try hard to forget this challenge that you did for only 7 days. Only do a 7 or 10 day trial if the challenge is extremely hard.

Not tracking it. With no accountability, you are just fooling yourself.

Making it flexible. If there’s just 1 failure after some 10 or 15 days, you might be tempted to ignore it and continue the trial, maybe you’d even tell yourself you’d do one more day to compensate this failure. But this is enough of a loophole for your lizard brain. It will start using it much more often, and soon your trials will be marked by all the days you didn’t do them. If you fail a day, just restart it. This sends a hard lesson to the brain and it keeps the logistics simple. You don’t have to track extra things.

Having gray goals. That is, non-binary goals. It’s like “I’ll develop a sense of urgency for the next 30 days”. What the hell is this? You won’t even know if you did do it on any given day. Instead clearly define your goal and it’s success and failure terms. A better goal would be to set deadline for a few important tasks in a day and do them within the time.

Not using the success break. You are not Budha yet. After successfully finishing a 30 day trial of daily jogging, you can’t simply decide to do it forever. Reward yourself a break here and enjoy it. If you didn’t eat junk food for 30 days, enjoy a day or two by stuffing your face with your favorite junk food, and then start the trial again. But don’t skip enjoying the break. This gives your willpower its much needed rest. This rest will only make it stronger the next time you use it. If you don’t give it rest though, it would one day break due to continuous exertion and all hell will break loose then.

Don’t depend on habits. sheer force of your will, to finish your challenges. This might sound contrary to existing popular beliefs that say that don’t use your limited willpower, instead rely on forming habits which will then not require willpower to execute anything. The science there is fine, but a better way to form new brain groove and simultaneously to strengthen your willpower is to use sheer force in executing the challenges. If you couldn’t jog as usual in the morning today, that’s fine. Don’t fret over missing a habit. Instead run even if it’s now 11 PM. Send a message to your brain that you don’t give a fuck.

Sometimes there’s no reward. Deal with it. The power of habit guy might say that for a habit to last long, you need to have a reward to motivate you. But there are some goals where the reward is just isn’t enough or useless. Reward for not playing online chess is “I get to spend more time on reading books”? I don’t buy that.

That’s all and good night.

(But make sure at least tomorrow you start a 30 day challenge.)