For the past few years, I’ve done a ton of mini challenges. Whether it’s for 30 days or longer, I’ve completed a variety of things: fitness challenges, no sugar challenges, Whole30, no caffeine, training for my half marathon, etc. I attribute them to being a huge reason why I’m always so motivated and interested in improving my life for the better. These self-directed projects have always been an effective way to change my behavior or spark some personal growth. And here’s exactly why I love doing them.
- It forces me to prioritize. How will I fit this new activity in my life? What things do I need to do first to achieve my goal? This helps me better understand where I have free space in my schedule and how to use that time more effectively.
- They create a sense of control. Creating a challenge for yourself builds momentum to create new habits. Say I want to focus on going to the gym for 30 days. While my goal may not be to go every day, I make a clear plan when I am going, and how often. At the end of the 30 days I have created a momentum that is very likely to push me into the next month, even more successful than the last. Perfect example: In December, my barre studio held a challenge that included going to class at least 12+ times. I went 19. Guess what then happened? In January I wanted to go more than 19. I went 23!
- They make big goals seem more approachable. In January, how many of us have a lofty goal of working out more? I bet you’re shaking your head in agreement right now. Well, how about not set a year-long goal, but a monthly goal like I mentioned before. 30 days doesn’t seem so bad compared to a year, right? Set it for a month, see how well you do, and improve from there. Again, it creates momentum without being intimidating. A short-term goal is more likely to create a long-term change because you aren’t setting yourself up for failure.
- They create structure and standards. When I set a challenge, I have a clear vision of what the expectations are. In January, my coworker Kim and I did one together: no sugar for the entire month. We set the expectation that we would not consume any added sugar the entire month, with the exception of honey and maple syrup. Natural sugars were fine — desserts, obviously, were off limits. We would read all ingredient labels but we wouldn’t panic at the idea that, if, when dining out, a salad dressing or meal might have trace amounts of sugar in it. But the expectations were clear: do not consciously decide to consume any add unnatural sugars.
- They go by fast. 30 days seem like a lot when you’re giving up something that you enjoy, even though it may not be a great benefit to your life (ahem, sugar/caffeine/booze). But 30 days out of your life? Psshh that’s nothing. Counting down those 30 days is equally excited as counting UP on the days you’ve been successful. Towards the end of Whole30 as the days left got smaller, what was more important to me was the days I had already completed. It felt so good.
- They make a transformation. In addition to creating momentum, mini challenges always positively impact you in some way. Maybe you toned up from extra days at the gym, lost a few pounds from cutting out sugar, or are sleeping better because you nixed your daily coffee fix. Whatever it is, if you’ve created a challenge that you know will truly benefit you, I guarantee you will have changed for the better by the end.
In the past, my mini challenges have been pretty randomly placed. But when Kim and I started off January with our no-sugar challenge, it really got me thinking. Why not do a new challenge every month? Why not focus on improving myself in a new way…12 different times in 2017! Giving up sugar was a breeze, and at this point, neither of us really have the desire to add it back in. We’re not going to freak out if there’s a small amount in something we eat, but we also don’t have the dessert cravings like we did during the holidays. And that feels awesome!
Because I am still riding out the barre challenge pretty strong, and because I gave something up in January, I wanted to add something positive in for February. I had this discussion with a coworker who is very similar to me in that he is constantly creating goals for himself and our business. He gently reminded me about that time I was going to learn Italian. Oh. Whoops. The answer was clear. Study Italian again! So to set myself up for February, I pulled out my old notebook, flashcards, and bought some SparkNotes cards from the bookstore. Here we go!
Do you create mini challenges for yourself? Any favorites that you’ve done?