Are you familiar with 30 day challenges? These days you can find them in almost any industry or focus that you can imagine. And if it’s not a 30 day challenge it’s a 90 day, or 6 month, or 12 month challenge.
All you have to do is a quick search online for 30 day challenge and you’ll come up with more results than you can possible explore. Links, images, articles…they are everywhere. (Over 30 million results as of today!)
The reason for the proliferation of these challenges is that they work! They are exceptionally effective at getting people to change behavior, transform, and improve. They break large, life changing goals into smaller, attainable goals that are easy to imagine achieving.
I recently “took part” in a challenge that was absolutely transformational for me, and I thought I’d share my journey with you.
I have never been particularly active. I’ve never been truly inactive, but fitting in activity has never been something I’ve had to concentrate on. I was blessed with a fast metabolism from the time I was young, so I didn’t have that as a motivation.
I grew up in a time when we went out to play and were told to come home when the street lights came on. We didn’t watch much tv when I was young, so I was always doing something.
I was an ice skater, on a community swim team, played in the country when I’d visit my dad in the summer, and always found ways to entertain myself.
While I didn’t play sports in high school, I was still active. We rode bikes, walked around the neighborhood, and walked along the beach.
Activity was just a part of my life.
As the years passed my activity level shifted from a focus on having fun with my friends to having fun with my family. I would play with my young daughters, help them practice their sports, and spend time outside enjoying them.
We had a lot of fun and, partly because I was a young mom, we did a lot of different activities. It was awesome!
Again, the years began to pass. My kids got older and started spending more time by themselves or with their friends, I got busier working, and activity fell by the wayside. I stopped being as active, my activities became more and more limited, and I found myself doing less and sitting more.
Whether it was personal stress or outside demands, it seems as though physical activity was the easiest to push aside to make room for whatever crisis or emergency had reared it’s head and presented itself to me.
Over a period of about 10 years I slowly but surely became inactive, weaker than I had ever been, and lost my connection with the outdoors.
As with most people who fall into this cycle, it wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t even a conscious decision. (It was actually the result of a lack of a conscious decision, but that’s a conversation for another time)
Over the last 5 years or so, once I realized what was going on, I wanted to get back to my active self. I was ready to get healthy again, and to get back in shape.
But I had one big hurdle to get over.
I still have a fairly fast metabolism, so even with reduced exercise and activity, it wasn’t outwardly obvious how inactive I actually was. I completed a couple of half marathons during that time, and convinced myself I was doing ok.
So, then I set a pretty big goal. I was going to try out for American Ninja Warrior by the time I turned 45. Not sure why this is the goal I chose, but it felt like a good fit, so I went with it.
That gave me about 4 years to get in shape and ready to try out. I didn’t expect to win as I have a couple of challenges that made it unlikely, but I was determined to get to try out.
The next 4 years passed and, unlike most of my goals I had set for myself, I was no closer to trying out than I had started.
Frustrated and deflated I let go of that goal.
Now, during this time I also lost my father, my stepfather, and my mom. I was closely involved with them during their final days, and watched as they faded away. I was intimately aware of the difference a well taken care of body experienced from a body that was not well taken care of. (My step-dad always exercised and watched what he ate…my parents…not so much!)
Even knowing how important it was for my long term health, and knowing it could impact my ability to be around to watch my daughters get married, see my grandkids and more, I wasn’t able to make that life change to get back to that active lifestyle I had always enjoyed.
Then I saw it. A 30 day challenge someone had posted on my sister’s Facebook page. It was called the Abs, Buns and Guns 30 day challenge. (Have you seen this one?)
It required push ups, squats and leg lifts, and built up slowly. It started out with 10 squats, 5 push ups, and 15 leg lifts on Day 1, and those were numbers I knew even I could do.
So I saved the image on my phone, and completed Day 1.
Okay, this was cool! I was able to do them and I felt good. (I adjusted the push ups to be wall push ups due to a shoulder injury, but I still did it)
I was happy.
Day 2 came and I went for that. Done. Complete.
I continued through the first 7 days, enjoyed my rest days, and was hitting my goal each day. I was up to 30 squats, 9 push ups and 35 leg lifts, and was only slightly sore in the morning.
Then something happened.
I looked at Day 30.
I hadn’t done that before, and wished I hadn’t done it then!
I realized that by Day 30 I would be doing 100 squats, 40 push ups, and 100 leg lifts.
That was overwhelming! Scary! Intimidating!
I didn’t know if I could do it. I knew I couldn’t imagine doing it then, and had very little faith that I’d be able to do it later.
And then I looked at Day 1.
And Day 7.
And I realized how far I had already come.
And I remembered that on Day 1 if you had told me I’d be doing 30 squats and 35 leg lifts I would have laughed at you. I couldn’t have imagined I would have made it that far.
But I did.
And I didn’t stop. Or sputter. Or even consider stopping. (There’s a mental game I play to keep myself engaged, and I’ll share that in deeper detail another time)
So, I went back to focusing on just the day I was on. I didn’t look ahead. I didn’t allow myself to get intimidated. I only did one day at a time.
And now, today, I will be doing 75 squats, 18 push ups, and 75 leg lifts. Something I NEVER could have imagined doing.
And I will do it. And I did it yesterday. And I’ll do more tomorrow.
And, if I really think about it, I know I’ll do 100 on day 30!
So, what was the change? What took me from missed goals and bad habits to making changes in the right direction for my health and longevity?
One of the major presuppositions of NLP is “Chunking. Anything can be accomplished (by anyone) if you break the task down into small enough chunks. ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ ‘One bite at a time.’”
And this is a perfect example of this!
So many times we set goals for ourselves that are huge, almost unattainable.
One name people use is BHAG…Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. You may have heard the term. It’s about the drive, the excitement and the energy generated by setting huge goals that, if reached, will be total and complete game changers!
But then something happens. People forget to break them down. They forget to chunk.
And then they miss their goal. And they get discouraged. And they begin to believe they are not capable of reaching their goal.
When, in fact, that is not the case at all!
They simply forgot to chunk.
I forgot to chunk.
Now, as I am closing in on the final days of this 30 day challenge, I’m looking at what challenge I’d like to do next. There are a ton to choose from, and they will all move me closer to my overall goal. They will help me be healthier and stronger and live longer, something that is important to me.
What is important to you? What goals have you wanted to reach, but missed? What missed goals have continued to bother you, making you question your abilities and your drive?
Take this week and give it some thought. Spend some time looking at your goal, and breaking down into manageable chunks. Weekly. Daily. Hourly if need be.
How small can you break down your goal to make it feel achievable? How can you chunk your goal down so that it is attainable?
Write the chunks down. Write the frequency required to reach your ultimate goal down.
And let me know how it goes. Share your chunked goals below. And I’ll continue to share mine. My current challenge ends a week from Sunday.
I will be continuing with the activity I’ve built up to, and adding a new physical goal. I’m not sure which one yet, I’m considering several. The current front runner is a running challenge. (No pun intended) I’d like to start running daily, and want to build up to it so I don’t get worn out and give up too early.
What’s your current goal? What are your chunks? Post yours below!
For some non physical challenge ideas check out this article with 15 unique challenges that you can use or adapt to fit your larger goals.