Contemplating Change: The 30-Day Challenge

I don’t really like change. I enjoy drinking the same brand of OJ each morning. I never stray very far from Raisin Bran. I’ve been known to contemplate a haircut for at least six months before committing to the chop, and I’m still working up the courage to buy new glasses despite the fact that I’m blind as a bat. I attribute this characteristic to my upbringing. After all, my family only moved once in my life and that was a gigantic trip from house #3 to house #9 on the street where I grew up. I like the status quo.

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But I also recognize that change – whether big or small, whether we like it or not – is important for everyone. That’s why I got rather excited when a friend of mine told me about a TED Talk she’d come across that discussed the 30-Day Challenge. The idea behind the challenge is to try to make changes in your life in small, manageable ways. According to the research, it takes about 30 days to change your habits. If you try something for 30 days and really stick with it, you are more likely to keep doing it after those 30 days as well and make it a part of your life.

Thirty days of something new – this sounded like a change I could definitely handle. So, I gave it a try. I started with exercise: 30 days of either push-ups or sit-ups everyday. I would do about 25 reps before going to bed each night, and it worked well for those 30 days. After I completed that challenge, I moved on to my next 30-day focus: journaling every day. That worked, too, so I just kept going. I tried reading at least a page of a book each night. I tried meditating every day. I even tried going to work early every morning – that one did not work so well.

As I was tackling various challenges, I found two things to be true. First, I was actually enjoying change. A period of 30 days was very manageable for trying something new. Second, while I didn’t continue with my sit-ups each day or my journaling each night after the challenge was over, I did find that I continued to live an active lifestyle, and I did make writing more of a priority. The habits from the challenges were staying with me in one form or another.

I think I kept doing different challenges every 30 days for almost a year before I got sidetracked and stopped coming up with new ones, and that’s actually why I’m writing this entry. I’m trying to get back on track. I want to start a new 30-day Challenge, and I’m focusing on my health – specifically my caffeine intake. As you may recall from a previous blog entry, I like tea – a lot. I drink so much yummy, highly caffeinated, black tea that I sometimes find myself wide awake at night when I should be sleeping. That’s not always the most helpful situation to be in. So, I’m changing that.

I definitely don’t want to give up tea entirely, but I think 30 days of cutting out caffeinated tea might be a good thing. So, my next 30-day challenge will be the first where I focus on taking something away from my daily routine instead of adding it. And since Lent also happens to be right around the corner (starting today, in fact), I will stretch my 30-day Challenge into 40 days and go without caffeinated tea for all of Lent. I will still allow myself to drink herbal or decaf tea, but black teas are definitely out of the question.

To be honest, I’m not so sure how this is going to go. I really love Earl Grey, and I’ve been drinking a lot more of it in preparation for going cold turkey – probably not my smartest idea. In fact, I feel fairly confident that this challenge might completely cement my distaste for change, and I may never change anything else ever again. But we’ll see. I will blog at some point over the next 40 days about how it’s going, and in the meantime, I’ll leave you with this TED Talk about the 30-day Challenge. What would you change for 30 days?

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