30 Day Challenges: Expand Your Mind and Comfort Zone

I’m coming to realize more and more that psychology and habits are more important than knowledge when it comes to making yourself into a better person. Honestly, if I could only observe a single trait that would let me know if someone will be successful in life it would be: Self Control. Wealth, health and fulfilling relationships all require high levels of self control to be successful. In fact, it is difficult to live a truly fulfilled life if you lose control in one of these areas.

challengeThe idea of a 30 Day Challenge appeals to me because a complete, permanent lifestyle change feels like a daunting task. But I can do anything for 30 days! I’m willing to try something extreme when I know I only have to do it for a short period of time. Giving up coffee forever sounds terrible but spending 30 days to break the caffeine addiction sounds both achievable and rewarding.

Lifestyle design is the art of figuring out what you want your life to look like and designing a plan to get there. Often, we have habits that are keeping us from living the life we truly desire. Have you ever identified exactly what you want out of life? How comfortable are you with change? Traditionally, are habits easy or difficult for you to change?

In debt reduction, this is why the snowball method works so well. Weight loss follows the same pattern. In both instances, the psychology is more important than the information. We realize we need small, achievable success that in turn breeds more success! The psychology of personal limitations and fasting has been around a long time. From Seneca to Ramadan to Lent to Vassa, philosophers and religions around the world have understood the implication of intentionally practicing self control.

My wife and I love trying new things. I personally feel that one of my favorite ways to develop my own self control is to break free of bad habits I tend to develop over time. In an effort to make the process fun and less daunting, we often do short term experiments like the 30 Day Challenges listed below. Often, when they are finished we resume parts of our old behavior but many changes seem to carry over even after the experiment is finished.

The three areas where I enjoy challenging myself are: Diet, Lifestyle and Personal Finance. Have you ever thought about trying something for 30 days? What about a spouse, kids or friend? Do you think they could benefit if they did a little experimentation in self control? Here are some of the challenges we have tried or plan on trying:

30 Day Challenges

Diet

  • No Eating Out / No Fast Food*
  • Only Drink Water
  • No Caffeine*
  • No Buying Processed Foods*
  • No Sugar/ Artificial Sweeteners*
  • No Alcohol or Tobacco
  • Buy all Locally Grown Food
  • Don’t Cook with Salt*
  • Vegetarian or Flexitarian (Meat twice a week)*

Lifestyle

  • Bike or Walk to Work Everyday*
  • Buy Nothing Disposable (Napkins, Paper Towels, Diapers, etc)*
  • No Television*
  • No Driving the Car*
  • Car Lite – Share One Car (for Suburbanites)*
  • Use 10 Gallons of Water a Day
  • Make No Trash / One Trash Can Only
  • No Screen Time After 5:00 (TV/Phone/Computer)
  • Buy Nothing Plastic
  • Media Fast / No News
  • No Snooze Button
  • Walk 15 Minutes a Day

Financial

  • Live on Half Your Income*
  • Buy Nothing New*
  • Participate in Only Free Entertainment
  • No Blow Money (Miscellaneous Money)*
  • Track All Your Spending*
  • Use an Envelope for Groceries and Entertainment Money*

*We have successfully attempted

30 Day Challenges are the gateway drug into mastering the art of self control. They can be fun and exciting; especially if you have someone to do them with you. Another fun idea would be to make a bet with a spouse or a friend and whoever gives in first loses! Challenge someone you know to see if they have the ability to change a habit. Even negative rewards can offer motivation: suggest that your diehard republican friend donate money to Obama if they give in before 30 days. My wife and I love to bet 30 minute back rubs on lifestyle challenges. Have fun and let the life change begin!

Let us know in the comments if you have any additional challenges to add to the list. Also, if you want some public accountability let us know which one you will be trying in the comments and we will hold you to it!

Additional Reading on Habit Change:

How to Change Your Life: A User’s Guide:  Zen Habits

A Lifetime of Riches Is as Simple as a Few Habits: Mr Money Mustache

Power of Habit: Charles Duhigg

4 thoughts on “30 Day Challenges: Expand Your Mind and Comfort Zone

    • I could use a caffeine detox myself! I think May might be the month to take a little 30 Day Challenge (for me). I normally try to do the caffeine break every now and then just to mix it up. I’ll be curious to see if I can get Ms. SE on board for this one too.

  1. I agree that the psychology/habits are more important than the knowledge but I think there is a distinction between self-control and discipline that I think you are missing here.

    Self-control is a non action : “control or restraint of oneself or one’s actions, feelings, etc. ”
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/self-control?s=t

    While discipline is a positive action : “behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control”

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/discipline

    I am not a psychologist by any means, but in my life – self-control has been better built by seeing consequences (ie if i eat a donuts I have to donate money for something), vs discipline being better built by rewards and goals. This is very important for our kids as well as we usually don’t take away privileges for lack of self-control because we want them to see the consequences of lack of self-control and not mess with building their discipline in doing activities and things we want to encourage.

    • That is a great point and an interesting distinction. I think you are right that self-control is important but discipline (associated with a behavior) is also extremely important. I think the broader idea of “Self Control” vs “self-control” is would also be a distinction. The ability to control oneself combines the idea that you must control your thoughts and your actions. Thanks for pointing out the distinction between the two. I think I need to work on both my self-control and my discipline!