15 Unique 30-Day Challenges

Being only two weeks into the New Year, the window of opportunity is still open for those who want to set new goals. Actually, the window never really closes because anytime is the right time to conjure up new aspirations and strive towards improvement.

To help spur new ideas for personal optimization, here are fifteen 30-day challenges designed to help make you a better You:

  1. Avoid words with contractions for 30 days. What contractions do is highlight the negative, such as words like “can’t,” “won’t,” “shouldn’t.” Instead, flip the focus of that sentence around such that you focus on the positive rather than the negative. Here’s an example:

“I don’t want to go to dinner there” (negative) versus “I would rather go to dinner elsewhere” (positive). The purpose of this is to retrain your brain to look for the positive in everything rather than default to the negative.

  1. Set a “no expectation” rule for 30 days. What expectations do you have of yourself? Of others? What new views would you have if there were no expectations? What are the beliefs that constrain your expectations? How would your relationships with others change if you didn’t have expectations of them? Expectations are formed based on personal life experiences, upbringing, culture, religion, etc… When you suspend judgment for the moment, you open your mind to entirely new possibilities.
  2. Start exercising within two minutes of [insert activity here] for 30 days. This could be anything ranging from waking up and putting on your running shoes immediately to checking into your hotel room and heading immediately for the gym. The goal here is to “rest later” by not giving yourself the option to procrastinate.
  3. Create daily white space in your calendar for 30 days. What would you do if you had just an hour to yourself every day? Read a book? Exercise? Play with the kids? More so, how would that single hour impact your life for the better? The point here is that everybody has the same amount of time every day but not everybody has the same priorities. So how, then, do other people seem to have more time and get more things done? The answer is they know what their priorities are and how to stick to them. Make it a goal to set time for yourself and you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel—and how much more you get accomplished as a result.
  4. Eliminate sugar. This was extremely hard for me because sugar is in everything (and it tastes so good!). Studies indicate that sugar rots the teeth, impedes mental acuity, adds to obesity, increases chances of depression and serves as a stepping-stone towards diabetes. How’s that cupcake sound now?
  5. Read everyday. While time is always a constant struggle (see #4), technology isn’t. Wait let me rephrase that. Technology abounds as does time, so leverage the accessibility that mobile apps and e-readers provide by downloading newspapers, magazines and books to your smartphone and reading whenever you can. Waiting in line for Starbucks? Read. Waiting in line for anything? Read. In other words, look for the little slivers of time throughout your day where you can optimize.
  1. Listen intently for 30 days. Let your mind wander during conversation (but not in the “I’m no longer listening to you” way) rather than thinking of what to say next.
  2. Keep a Quid Pro Quo log for 30 days. Keep track of how much you “give” versus how much you “get.” Aim to increase the former.
  3. Journalize your decisions. This is a great way to build emotional intelligence as doing so will shed light on three different areas: 1) what leads to good or bad decisions; 2) what causes you to be decisive; 3) the emotions wielded as a result of your decisions.
  4. Change your taste buds in 30 days. No, the veggie tofu sesame wrap with sprouts doesn’t sound good—nor does it taste good—but there are significant health benefits (mental and physical) to eating for performance versus eating what tastes yummy. Taste buds can be trained; they’ll adapt to whatever you want them to like through repetition.
  5. Keep a surprise journal. Along similar lines of #9, when you record surprises you reveal blind spots; lapses in vision or erroneous judgment. These are extremely valuable as you can reflect upon these surprises and ask yourself, “how could I have anticipated this sooner?”
  6. Build your willpower in 30 days. Willpower is a muscle, and like all other muscles in the body it gets tired quickly if it’s not “in shape.” Start with keeping commitments to people—even the ones you don’t like.
  7. Increase your happiness in 30 days. Studies have shown that sharing positive moments at least three times a day will turn that frown upside down—for the long term. The Happier app allows you to do just this as well as learn from others what makes them happy.
  8. Become a better speaker in 30 days. When you’re speaking to an audience and feel an “uh” or “mmm” coming on, take a breather. Just pause, slow down, and wait for your mind to catch up with your mouth (or vice versa). Taking this extra second will also instill greater confidence as a speaker.
  9. Exercise for 30 days. No, not a 30-day boot camp of non-stop training but rather a month of planned exercise routines. Common exercise schedules are to follow a five days on, two days off or a three days on, one day off schedule.