These days, I look at 30 days in a calendar differently than I used to. What used to just be a mechanism to measure time through simple units of days, weeks, and months has become a metric that I now use to try new things or push myself.
Every 30 days I set my sights on a new challenge. Sometimes these challenges are physical like exercise goals that increase my fitness, improve my flexibility or target a specific type of work out. Sometimes the challenges are dietary which may be experiential to expand my palette or cooking spectrum or just become more health focused. Still other challenges have been financial or lifestyle focused to try and hone in on a way to spend less, enjoy more or be more present. And others have just been random and silly that have been designed for my own amusement (and probably no one else’s).
To say that my experience with my 30 Day Challenges has been a journey suggests that there is some grand intended outcome, which in all honesty would be giving me far too much credit. That being said, I have loved the clarity that these 30 Day Challenges have provided me. With now having completed 10 of my 30 Day Challenges, I want to take some time to reflect on some of the challenges that have provided me with the most growth, benefit, and reflection.
In the Beginning- The First 30 Day Challenge
I never intended to spend my spare time concocting random challenges to do every 30 days. I didn’t set off with a grandiose plan. Initially, back last year in October, I just wanted to feel slightly healthier than my current state. I started with 30 Days of No Junk Food to restrict my diet by avoiding anything that could be categorized as ‘Junk Food’. Namely: cake, cookies, pastries, ice cream, chips, fried food, fast food, soda and candy. That challenge felt achievable. By the end of 30 Days I felt like I did something, and I didn’t need reinforcement from my scale or clothes to tell me if I achieved it because sticking through to the end of the challenge’s thirtieth day gave me that crystallized feeling of accomplishment.
Where did (30) 30 Day Challenges Come From?
After my No Junk Food experience, I realized that 30 days carried a comfortable commitment of time that could be spread to many other challenges and experiences. A single week was too short for me to see any consistency or improvement while an open-ended challenge or one with an end date that felt too far out (like 90 or 120 days) made it feel too looming and unachievable.
For me, 30 days was a perfect sweet spot to dive into something new, try it out and know that if I hated it, there was an end in sight. Beyond that, there is some research out there that suggests it takes 21 days to create new habits. As I started thinking about what I wanted to work on, I made a list of different 30 Day Challenge ideas, eventually that turned into a list of 30 challenges.
Where Have I Been? Where Am I Going?
In full disclosure, not every one of my 30 Day Challenges have been a ‘success’. Some I do not count as completed as they were abandoned well before the 30 Day mark for one reason or another. Others had marginal outcomes or limited success and nearly all had some pitfalls, slips and general hurdles that I attempted to jump over and/or just run into. Here are my 30 Day Challenge Superlatives:
My Most Challenging 30 Day Challenge (to date)
Trying out the Paleo Diet was surprisingly challenging for me. While I managed to stay pretty on track with the dietary requirements outlined in the diet (i.e. focusing on lean meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts) it made me really long for the things I couldn’t eat like bread, pasta and rice. In the end, the diet made me feel healthy, and I am sure I will revisit this challenge again in the future.
My Most ‘Life-Changing’ 30 Day Challenge
Upon my initial purchase of it, I didn’t think much about Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up but when I set forth on my 30 Days of Minimalism, it guided much of my challenge and changed my entire outlook. This challenge lightened everything in my life (both physically and mentally) and is something that has stayed integrated in my daily life choices.
My Most Surprising 30 Day Challenge
I was nervous about trying to spend 30 Days as a Vegetarian. I had always wanted to try to have a meat-free diet but had never been successful, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the challenge. Admittedly, I was also happy to return to my carnivorous ways upon the completion of the challenge.
My Most Enjoyable 30 Day Challenge
When I opened my closet up to the Styling of Others I had no expectations for what would happen. This was a fun and enjoyable challenge because it let me see my closet and its contents in a totally different way, but the real enjoyment came from connecting with friends and family as they poured through my closet.
The Easiest 30 Day Challenge to Integrate into Everyday Life
I have always found Capsule Wardrobes kind of mysterious, fascinating and really efficient but after actually spending 30 days with a capsule wardrobe, I also find them pretty low maintenance*. I plan to continue using them every season.
*The only (kind of major) downside to the capsule wardrobe is when your washing machine breaks down and you need clean clothes, but such is life.
My Abandoned/Revisited Challenges
I was very excited about trying 30 Days of Hydration where I would drink an entire gallon of water every day. The first 10-12 days were pretty successful and I managed to be pretty diligent, but eventually I got sick of peeing every 2 seconds and just stopped the challenge altogether. I also have tried several iterations of Exercise/Workout and Get Fit Challenges and have had a lot of failure in this department. The majority of these failures stem from just general lack of motivation/interest. These 30 Day Challenges are fun for me, but have certainly proven to not be impervious to my own laziness.
I continue to love these challenges. They are fun and they force me out of my comfort zone and into new experiences every 30 days. At this point, I have come up with over 60 different challenges I want to try. The upcoming challenges I will do over the next few months include: everyday adventures, 10,000 steps a day, making movie inspired meals, exercise (again), composting, and more capsule wardrobes. Stay tuned!