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One of the best ways to kick off the New Year is by starting a 30-day trial of a new daily habit or activity. Instead of creating a New Year’s Resolution that probably won’t stick, just commit to a short-term change. Make a January resolution only. If it doesn’t work out, you’re completely free to abandon it on January 31st, but for the first 30 days, use every ounce of resolve and self-discipline you can muster to stick to it, whatever it takes. At the end of the 30 days, you’ll be in a great position to decide whether you want to commit to a permanent change, having 30 days of success behind you.
Since posting the original 30 Days to Success article in 2005, I’ve received tons of feedback (probably hundreds of individual emails) from people who’ve used the 30-day trial method to form positive new habits and break bad habits. Some actual results people have achieved with this approach include:
- quitting smoking
- becoming vegetarian or vegan
- launching a new online businesses and/or blog
- learning to invest
- getting out of debt
- starting a new exercise program
- waking up early
- going to bed early
- practicing daily meditation
- practicing a talent or skill like playing a musical instrument
- learning a new language
- improving computer skills
- improving social/dating skills
- learning to type faster and more accurately
- reading daily
- setting aside time for school work
- completing a thesis
- doing daily organizing and/or cleaning
- giving up TV
- giving up soda
- quitting coffee
- … and lots more
Some people have also written to explain that after testing a change for 30 days, they realized it wasn’t right for them, but they were glad to learn this from direct experience. This was especially common among people who tested different sleep patterns, like biphasic or polyphasic sleep or simply waking up early. Even when the 30-day trial ends with a return to old habits, the trial can still be beneficial. Usually people are grateful for what they learned, even if it doesn’t work out as expected.
I’ve personally used the 30-day trial method to go vegetarian in 1993 and then vegan in 1997. I also used it to wake up at 5am each morning, to exercise regularly, and to install various productivity habits. It’s one of my favorite personal development techniques, mainly because it’s so simple and effective.
I find that I do best when I take time to prepare for about a week in advance. I immerse myself in the new habit I want to install by reading about it, thinking about it, and imagining what it will be like. I hold myself back from starting until I feel a strong internal pressure to begin. This helps me make it through the first several days with high enthusiasm, which helps a lot since the first week is usually the hardest.
In my next post, I’ll reveal my upcoming 30-day trial experiment, which I intend to begin on January 1st. In the meantime I invite you to join me in kicking off your own 30-day trial. This is a popular time for building a new habit or breaking an old one.