Committing to something for 30 days – one month, from start to finish – is a fun thing to do. It demonstrates an ability to commit, to withstand temptation, to resist pressure. The valuable parts are that you learn something about yourself and you develop some muscle – self-control, self-regulation, willpower, call it what you will. The useful part is that you might learn some new skills. The safe part of it is that 30 days is really not very long.
In 2014 I decided I wanted to develop a herd of new habits – meditation, daily yoga, pushups, flossing, brainstorming – and so I started tracking these with a habit-tracking app. I did far more than 30 consecutive days for these new hoped-for habits: meditation (117 days), pushups (110 days), brainstorming (61 days), yoga (37 days), flossing (still doing). But eventually all these habits became non-habits except for flossing. As I write this, I haven’t done any of the other so-called-habits for a long time.
I realized that I enjoyed the commitment to them, but didn’t really care if I did them forever. So I decided to start doing 30 Day Commitments. Interestingly, although the habits I was trying to develop were all positive things – do something – my first few 30 Day Commitments were all negative things – don’t do something.
February, 2015. I’ve often thought I drink too much. I like to drink because it removes inhibitions: it makes me feel sociable and able to talk comfortably with people. Drink also helps time pass without boredom. But I don’t like having to rely on drink. I also admire people who have given up drinking. I wouldn’t necessarily want to spend an evening with them, but I do respect the accomplishment.
Since we were leaving for New Zealand at the end of January, I decided to go without alcohol for the whole of February. My last drink was around 2 a.m. on January 31, just before taking a sleeping pill for the long flight from LA to Australia. Yes, I know February has fewer than 30 days, so I waited a few extra days for my next drink, which was a glass of wine on March 4.
It was pretty easy because we didn’t socialize with other people in New Zealand. The only tricky point was on February 25 when I got an email from my cousin saying she and her husband and daughter were in Wanaka and would we like to get together for a drink. We met and I ordered a diet coke, feeling very self-conscious. It was difficult to not drink and aroused feelings of guilt, of not fitting in, of being an outsider. I didn’t like it and wanted to explain. Which probably explains why it’s so difficult for me to not drink.
Since then I’ve had a drink most evenings.
April, 2015. As I wrote about in a blog post, I find it very easy to waste time on the Web. I also have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Facebook. So I decided to go without Facebook for the month of April. We were in New Zealand for the month and it would have been easy to keep posting photos of places we visited and things we did.
But I decided not to go on Facebook. This meant I also had no idea what my friends were doing. That’s one of the fascinating aspects of Facebook – it keeps you in touch with what people are doing, even if you don’t ever see or talk with them. So it makes you feel connected, even if that connection is somewhat unreal.
Another thing that Facebook does is show you articles and news items that friends think are interesting – it acts as a sort of filter for the overwhelming quantity of interesting pages on the web. My Facebook friends don’t tend to link to interesting articles, but Tanya has friends who do, so she was able to tell me about interesting news items or articles.
Anyway, it was no problem to go without Facebook for a month. Since then I go on Facebook, but don’t post nearly as much as I did before.
May, 2015. When we were in New Zealand, I would eat chocolate every evening. If it was up to me there would never be chocolate in the house but Tanya likes her after-dinner piece of chocolate. I like my after-dinner bar of chocolate. So in NZ I ate far too much chocolate every day. I decided to go a month without chocolate.
I made it by fudging things a bit. My goal was to not eat chocolate bars – the lovely, creamy Cadbury’s milk chocolate that is so delightful to melt in your mouth. Or Maltesers, which I like even more. But then the question arises – what is chocolate? Well, while we were in Paris I ate chocolate croissants twice and had a cup of hot chocolate, so I decided that they didn’t count as ‘chocolate’. So I made it through the month. In June I’ve had Maltesers a few times after dinner – Tanya doles them out to me – 12 a day.
Links and Other Clicks
While I like the idea of Commitment rather than Challenge, you’ll find more on the web if you search for 30 day challenges.
You can do a Google Image search and you’ll find 30 day challenges to work out every part of your body: back, butt, arms, abs, etc.
There are web sites that list ideas for 30 day challenges. Here’s one that has 30 ideas. Here’s one that has 100 ideas.
And here’s a page where Matt Cutts asks for 30 day challenge suggestions.
My blog post about wasting time on the Web.
My blog post about not using Facebook for a month.