|08-25-2007, 08:53 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jul 2007
30 Day Trial Reflections
After having successfully completed two 30 day trials (and currently successfully completing a third), I acquired some interesting insights into what makes these trials successful. (My journal on the forum is available here: My 30 Day Trials)
The most important thing to note is that my two completed 30 day trials represent the only objective data I have for my own personal development. By 'objective data' I mean that the changes are such that I could point to them to a third party and he would not disagree that they are real. I have been reading about personal development for over a year (around 16 months) and had tried various things before this. Some changes have accompanied this, but they are mainly attitudinal and so hardly objective.
To those of you haven't read it, I would thoroughly endorse Scott Young's e-book, How to Change a Habit. I had been aware of 30 day trials long before I read Scott's book (which focuses on 30 DTs), but it was this book that galvanised me to apply them. It provides a highly detailed and clear treatment of habit change. Apart from that, Scott's, Steve Pavlina's, and Leo Babauta's articles on the topic are all excellent.
The following things helped me:
It's important that you have a clear statement of your 30 day trial printed out in a large font that is in a goal binder or placed on your wall. Make it look contractual. Mine is printed out in landscape and the page has a thick border. I also have a 3 x 10 table below the statement of my intention, so I can update my progress and make immediate reference to it.
Failure means Failure
If you fail on day 30, you have to start the 30 day trial over on day 1. This seems like a pain, but it's important. By allowing yourself to ignore missed days, you will only create weak habits. You will also have a weakened sense of empowerment due to doubts about the strength of your commitment. There is an exception to this rule and that is where you fail on day 31 or after. To my mind, this doesn't require restarting the whole trial unless you fail a couple of times which are reasonably close together (e.g. failing on day 60 and day 1000 wouldn't be significant).
It is important that you make NO EXCEPTIONS to your thirty day trial. If you say that you will exercise at least 30 minutes for thirty days between such-and-such dates, then you must do this. Exercising for 29 minutes does not satisfy the trial and you would, therefore, fail it. I go to extra lengths to ensure that I fulfil the conditions laid out in the trial. If want to ensure that I exercise at least 30 minutes, I'll be extra sure that I remember the starting time, so that I can be sure I passed the test. If I have forgotten the precise start time then I will err on the safe side and exercise another 5 - 10 minutes.
Why is this so important? Afterall, is the habit going to be less well ingrained if on one of the days you exercise for 29 minutes and 59 seconds? Yes, it is. This is because you will feel as though you have cheated. It's of the utmost importance that there is no ambiguity that if you are on day 30 of the trial, then you have completed the past 29 days perfectly. This is where a lot of the personal satisfaction comes from: you know you set an intention and stuck to it perfectly.
It's perfectly congruent with this to have flexible 30 day trials. You may, for example, set a 30 day trial of exercising at least 30 minutes per day. But, underneath add the suggestion that you exercise first thing in the morning. As a suggestion, you won't fail the trial if you don't do this. If, on the other hand, you want to make exercising first thing in the morning essential to successfully completing your trial then be clear about this in your contract to yourself.
Divisions and Progressive Rewards
Part of the reason 30 day trials work is that the habit changes they involve seem less onerous to the mind than, say, a new year's resolution, where one, in effect, resolves to make a particular change for life. The mind doesn't like this, it seems like too much work, and so gives up. The end of a 30 day trial, however, is always in sight. Yet, even 30 days can seem like too much. I've found it helpful to write above certain points of the table of my personal contract that I will receive a specific reward if I manage to pass it.
When you do this you will find that you only focus on the period up until the reward. This makes the trial seem even easier to the mind. When coupled with the anticipated pleasure of the reward, the period up until the reward is even easier.
It's important to clarify that breaking up the 30 day trial through rewards doesn't mean that if you receive a reward for perfect completion up until day 5, failure on day 6 means you start the trial again from day 5. No: you have to start the trial over.
List of Habits
This is one of my most important motivators. Keep a list of all the habits you may like to do through 30 day trials. I have a very long list of habits. Some of these I will definitely take up; others just sound like fun. Each of them interest and excite me, however. This list will provide you with an important source of motivation. Look, if you don't hurry up and perfectly complete a 30 day trial, you're never going to be able to move on to the next one. Focus and do it and then you can work through your list. At 1-2 trials a month (and an application of the 80-20 rule) you can habituate the 20% most important habits on your list and get 80% of the benefits of your list in a year. How cool is that?
There are two basic kinds of planning that you need to do with 30 day trials. You need to plan when you set your 30 day trial and you need to plan on a day-to-day basis. The planning when you set the trial involves ensuring that there are no significant obstacles in your calendar (or not yet included in your calendar) that could prevent your competing your 30 day trial. If there are, you need to think about how practicable it will be to avoid the obstacle or make your 30 day trial easier so that the obstacle disappears. In terms of day-to-day planning, even with some careful thought at the outset obstacles will crop up the following day. From my experience, the obstacles are often appointments or commitments that mean you're strapped for time. You then need to work out how to fit your trials in. Usually, this means starting early, working late, or both. Obviously, if you decide to leave it until the last thing there is less room for error. So, I would recommend starting early. If it means you're tired for the day, so what? You are one step closer to finishing a 30 day trial (and you can get excited about working down your trial list).
Feelings of laziness are the greatest opportunities
They really are. I'm using 'feelings of laziness' to mean any doubt or fear or lack of desire to completing your 30 day trial on a given day. These do crop up. On day 27 of my exercise trial (after things going very smoothly), I felt a very strong 'I can't be bothered - to hell with this'. The fact is, however, these thoughts ought to be seen as the greatest gifts because they can be turned into very satisfying experiences. I felt this today and, yes, lingered for a while. But, looked again at my contract. Reminded myself of how far I'd come. And, thought, this is a real opportunity to grow by fighting this lack of desire. By the time I got my gym clothes on I was pacing down to the gym feeling very excited. It was a great workout.
So that about sums it up. Good luck.
Last edited by Rod_Smith_1982; 08-25-2007 at 08:57 PM.
|08-26-2007, 02:12 PM||#2 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Sundsvall Sweden Europe
Many good points there. Hey, since you gave me the idea of this trial-working out progress could we keep in touch in any way so we give each other support and hoorrays when we do it. Since your idea (even if it is actually someone else that came up with this programme) triggered me to even start to think that it was possible to make it (me who are having such a hard and bad starting-point since I start from litterly point zero). What do you think of it? Can we who does those 30 DT really be there for each other, since it is easier to tell someone totally into the same thing the goods and the bads...
|08-26-2007, 03:25 PM||#3 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jul 2007
The title of this thread '30 Day Trial Reflections' was intentionally non-specific about whose thirty day trial reflections they were (they may be yours or mine). I'm very keen to hear whether anyone has got any tips to throw into the mix, or whether you disagree with any of mine.
For a start, I notice a lot of people don't choose to restart trials if they fail a day within the thirty day period. I'd be interested to know whether my 'failure means failure' rule is too harsh? (NB: by this I don't mean 'failure isn't a learning experience' only that it means you have to restart a trial.)
|08-26-2007, 03:40 PM||#4 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Sundsvall Sweden Europe
Since some habits are connected to each other, I guess it is a good idea to divide them into smaller peices. If you have bad eating habits, maybe it is good to start out with a goal to always include a green thing to each meal as a starter, and then work from there. It is for some people hard to make it all happen at once.
Failiure is a hard buisness. If you fail to read like 50 pages in one day in a fictional book, and you actually read 50 pages minus 10 lines, then you've done it. I think that to start good habits it is good to have a tiny little ease on the target. Like it is ok to lay in bed 30 seconds before actually standing up if you have low blood-pressure and rising slow will actually be able to do with that thing in mind (if you raise too fast when having low blood-pressure you can actually faint or feel very dizzy which will add to stress of not making the trial). That is just a quick note.
Otherwise I think you are right in so many ways...
|08-26-2007, 07:40 PM||#5 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jul 2007
I totally agree with you about dividing up habits. I would probably work on my diet by meal.
As for your second point, whether or not one should be concerned about slightly missing the target is a personal matter, I guess. For me, I would be tempted to cheat if I allowed myself to get away with slightly missing the target. The consequences of cheating with my methodology are also unequivocal: the trial has to be restarted - this stick has provided me with motivation when I've felt like packing it in. That said, some will prefer a more flexible system, which may be more practical on a day-to-day basis.
|08-27-2007, 07:20 AM||#6 (permalink)|
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Washington State
I am definitely one who prefers a more flexible system. The thought of starting the trial over every time I'm a few minutes short or have an extremely busy day and miss that day makes me feel like refusing to do it at all. When I spend too much time forcing myself to do things I donít want to do, I tend to get cranky. The trick is to find ways to want to do things.
With things like exercise, writing, and playing horn, for me it works best to commit to a small amount of time, like 5 or 10 minutes. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculously short, but that is the point. Even if I am in a rare grumpy mood and don't want to do anything, 5 minutes is small enough that I can get started. Several times I have been tired late at night and thought, "I still need to play horn today. I'll do my 5 minutes and then go to bed." I start playing horn, 5 minutes pass, I decide I want to finish the exercise I'm on, and an hour later I realize I've had a great practice session.
If I occasionally miss a day and only make 27-28 out of 30, I'm still way ahead of where I would have been if I hadn't done the challenge at all. Not only that, but I feel that I'm still forming habits. After completing the 30-day challenge, my day seems "wrong" if I haven't yet spent some time writing, playing horn, and exercising.
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