The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result every time. As cliche and overused as this definition has become, it’s still a cornerstone of self-innovation. I know you’re like me and almost every single person after new years: you have a resolution that you’re able to keep to for about a week before you’ve already failed. But what is it that makes us fail every year?
I like to call it the pain period.
It’s that moment when you lose focus because the motivation and pain that comes from trying to follow through on your resolution hits its peak. It’s why people who go all out at the gym the first week of the year, just seem to vanish in thin air by the following week. It’s not because you were “busy” with something and you’ll just pick it up at a “later” time.
It’s because doing your resolution is something out of your comfort zone. It hasn’t become a habit yet.
The Power of Habits
In 2016, I made a different kind of resolution for myself. I’ve decided instead to find ways for me to have something stick so I wouldn’t fray from it later on. Enter, the habit formula.
The habit formula is the concept of making things into a habit. But before I explain how to make a habit, I need to explain why habits are so important. Human beings are run and controlled by habits; we are habitual creatures. We do things all the time without thinking about it because it’s ingrained in our brains as habits. For example, the next time you feel dirty and need to take a shower (and you have the time to take a shower), try instead, to go the rest of the day without taking a shower. See how weird and uncomfortable that feels? Our bodies are accustomed to a certain field of comfort, to the point where we don’t think about it unless it’s disrupted. The reason you quit the gym after a week or go back to doing what you were doing before, is because your body’s comfort zone is being disrupted.
30 Days of Insanity
*Disclaimer: Countless research has been done on finding the best ways to make things into habits, but I wanted to share what’s worked best for me.*
Ok, I might have lied to you a bit. I actually do have a New Years Resolution. I want to be a completely different person from last year. This means I need to completely get out of my comfort zone and push for things I want. But that’s much easier said than done.
I also learned that trying to make major changes to become a habit is also the wrong way to go about it. The key to making anything into a habit is to have, a gradually pushing comfort zone plan, and most importantly, sticking to it for 30 days so it sticks with you.
Making the small things more significant so that the big things don’t seem that big anymore.
But how does this work in action?
My 30 day challenges for this year would focus on getting my biggest bad habit out of my life: my anxiety. So I started with a small change, such as improving my mentality. So for 30 days, I’ve written in my notes app one positive thing that happened during my day at the end of the day. After 30 days, my mindset changed from one of constant negative thoughts, to one of fairly positive thoughts.
My next 30 day challenge was to help my mind in the moment, so I decided to meditate for 5 minutes each day as soon as I woke up. This challenge proved to be difficult by the second week as the motivation to stay with it started to dwindle. So I decided to spice things up by doing different forms of meditation every other day. Such as using an app or checking out a video on meditation. But the key to staying consistent is to make the challenges fun so you actually look forward to doing them. By the end of this challenge, meditating has turned into a habit and I meditate everyday to clear my mind so I stay in the present moment.
Using Habits to Your Advantage
Once you start getting in the hang of doing the 30 day challenges, you’ll start to realize that you can use habits almost like a cheat code in your personal life. For the longest time in my life, I didn’t think change was possible. I believed that I just had to accept my life as is and I was just an unlucky guy. But once I’ve started to change my habits for the better, I realized just how much people are missing out.
Seriously, the most successful people on the planet do challenges like this every single month to better improve themselves.
In the book “The power of habits”, there’s a story of a woman who hit rock bottom in her life. As a mother who was a smoker, overweight, divorced and indebted heavily, she didn’t want her kids to remember her as what she referred to as “a loser”. She learned about the power of habits and decided to start small: quitting her nail biting. After she successfully got rid of her bad habit, she increased her changes in habits and started creating new ones.
So what did this actually do for her? Two years later, she quit smoking completely, she ran in the new york marathon after losing over 80 pounds, she rid herself of debt and is what most people would call, “successful”.
It’s not rocket science, it’s habit science(insert laughter here).
The Epilogue of Habits
So what’s the real beauty of the habit formula? The simple fact that it’s end is also the beginning of another challenge. Every month is very exciting to me now as I get to do another 30 day challenge at the end of it. As of this writing, I’m actually doing two 30 day challenges.
One is a fitness challenge to get me in the habit of working out. As I’ve mentioned before, the problem with trying to get into working out is losing motivation to do so after a week due to the pain period. So this challenge involves a daily theme for the workouts to make them fun to do, while getting me in the working out habit. I’m currently in week two(as of this writing) and I can honestly say I’m looking forward to working out the next day.
The second challenge is the next step to get over my anxiety and it’s a big one: comfort zone social challenges. Everyday involves a new challenge to help me become more social as a person and have fun in public places. Six months ago, I would’ve been terrified to do something like the high five challenge(day 7), where I need to high five 15 random people. But because I’ve done the other 30 day challenges to get my mindset in a better place, I’ve come to embrace my comfort zone challenges.
I highly recommend you at least give the 30 day challenges a try for something you want to change in your life. Remember to keep the challenges easy enough to do while keeping it exciting to make you want to actually do the challenge for the day.
The best part? You can do a 30 day challenge for literally anything. So pick a challenge for yourself and start reeling in the benefits. Good luck.