by Janet Shlaes, Ph.D.
Today is the day when many generate New Year’s resolutions that are destined to fail. I track this every year at my local health club. For the first two weeks of January, it’s unbelievably crowded. As the month progresses, the crowds dissipate at an alarmingly (and comforting) rapid rate. This tendency is repeated in a variety of personal and professional arenas as well intended New Year’s Resolutions fall apart. Why, you may ask, does this situation repeatedly occur at this time of year? Resolutions, although well intentioned, tend to be overly ambitious aspirational goals rather than more realistic and pragmatic ones. They tend to focus more on the idealized outcome than on the process of building sustainable outcomes.
I recommend a highly effective alternative to New Year's resolutions, a process oriented alternative that facilitates the development of habits that align with aspirational goals. This process is known as a 30-Day Challenge. It takes approximately 30 days to develop a new habit, 30-days for your brain to rewire and shift your aspirational goal into your daily routine. Resolutions tend to be unrealistically grand, while 30-Day Challenges focus more on developing habits that support your aspirational goals. Taking on a 30-Day Challenge around health and fitness recognizes that fitness is a process that requires gradually improving your health and strength over time. For example, if your goal is to improve your fitness level in the current year and you’ve been habitually sedentary in the prior year, your 30-day challenge might be to walk for 15-20 minutes every day for 30 days. Staging your aspirational goal of health and fitness via a 30-Day Challenge results in setting up a structure to increase the probability of success, rather than the likelihood of failure.
The 30-Day Challenge structure utilizes the construct of neuroplasticity to organically restructure your brain. It also facilitates the building of positive self-esteem and appreciation for process. As you stage your aspirational goals via a series of 30-Day Challenges, you will ultimately find yourself accomplishing goals that may have seemed unobtainable in the past. What aspirational goal could you choose to take on as a series of 30-Day Challenges this year?
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