30 Day Habit Challenge: How to “Test Drive” a Habit Change
Starting a new habit is hard.
Breaking a bad one is even harder.
Eliminating our negative habits is something we often try. Unfortunately life usually gets in the way. We might be good for a few days, but something always stops us from forming a lifelong habit.
So why do we often fail?
The problem stems from that scary word – permanent.
Deep in our subconscious, it’s hard to mentally “let go” of a habit forever. We also don’t like the idea of following an unpleasant activity for the rest of our lives. The problem with forever is it seems like…forever.
For instance, let’s say you’re a smoker. Most people can’t break this habit because it’s impossible to commit to never having another cigarette. Most people don’t have the willpower to go “cold turkey” like this.
A better solution is to concentrate on forming a new habit for a few weeks. Basically you’re taking it for a “test drive.” Instead of committing to a permanent change, you’ll try a habit for awhile and see if it works.
That’s the idea behind the 30 Day Habit Challenge (30DHC).
About the 30 Day Habit Challenge
I first learned about the 30DHC from Steve Pavlina’s website. He compares this concept to a trial version of software. You don’t actually “buy into” the habit change until the end of the test period. Only then will you decide to keep it or not.
As Pavlina said, it’s hard to get past those first few weeks of a habit change. That’s the time when most people succumb to their impulses. Once you get past this critical period, it becomes easier to stick to a new routine.
In a way, the 30DHC tricks the mind into forming a new habit. It’s easy to do something unpleasant if you think it’s only for a month. And when the time expires, you’ll be close towards making a permanent change.
The 30DHC gives you an “out” if you don’t like the new habit. At the end of the month, you can decide if it’s worth continuing. What’s funny is your average habit is easy to maintain once you’ve done it for 30 days.
What I really like about the 30DHC is it gives you confidence. You know what it’s like to follow a habit on a day-to-day basis. So you know both the positive and negative triggers. This information becomes invaluable when you try to tweak and improve this new ritual.
How to Get Started with the 30 Day Habit Challenge
It’s not hard to get started with the 30DHC. I have done it since January 2013, starting four new habits. The secret to success is to focus on a single change every month. Don’t try to do everything at once. Instead make the commitment to start a new habit every 30 days (or 31/28 days depending on the month).
Also it helps to track this new habit. Buy a journal and make an entry for each routine. Include the following pieces of information:
#1 – Reason Why
Give a specific reason why this habit is important. It doesn’t matter what you write here. The important thing is to know why you want to to make this change.
#2 – Description
Write down an overview of this habit, with the step-by-step actions that you’ll complete. Be sure to include any tools or environmental cues that will help/hinder your completion of this new routine.
#3 – Obstacles
Every habit has a trigger. This is a thought, cue or action that creates resistance to this change. Your job is to identify any trigger that pops up.
Use your journal to track obstacles. Write down them down whenever they occur. Include important information like: Where are you? Who is with you? What are you doing? What thoughts are in your head?
This data is very important for discovering why you do the things you do.
#4 – Results
Track your success with a daily metric. The tool I use is the Habits Pro app, which tracks all my current habits.
You can track a habit in a variety of ways:
- Yes or No (Did you do it today or not?)
- Quantity (How many times did you complete the habit?)
- Number (Are you over or under a set quota?)
- Time (How long did you spend on this habit every day?)
The daily metric is the key to forming a permanent habit. There will be days where you’ll fall off the wagon. The important thing is to track these lapses and carry on.
#5 – Verdict
You’ll need to make a decision at the end of the month: Should it stay or should it go?
Analyze this habit. Did it help your life? Can you improve the process? Did you have time to complete it? Should you keep it? Or should you eliminate it? Should you try it for another 30 days and see what happens?
It’s important to make a decision after 30 days.
I recommend doing one of three things:
I. Keep It: Continue to track this habit on a daily basis. Try to turn it into a permanent change.
II. Ditch It: The habit didn’t work for some reason, so stop doing it!
III. Tweak It: Some habits didn’t work because you created a bad process. So you can change the routine and try it again.
My Challenge to YOU…
The 30DHC can create a dynamic change in your life. Remember, it’s not permanent. Instead, you’ll promise to do one thing for the next month.
That doesn’t sound very hard, does it?
So I want you to do three things right now:
- Buy a journal for tracking a habit. (I recommend the Moleskine notebook)
- Commit to one habit change – starting today.
- Follow this habit for 30 days – even if you hate it!
You can make a significant change in a month. Just commit to a single habit in the next 30 days and you’ll be one step closer to making a positive change in your life.