The beginning of the year marks for a lot of people a time in which we are open for change and also the most motivated to transform ourselves.
Do you have a habit that you want to get rid of or change? In case you are a human being - chances are pretty high you do.
Let´s assume you want to live a healthier life.
What you can do is getting rid of all your bad habits and only do what´s deemed to be good.
What would that look like? Here a small list just to name a few:
Limit alcohol intake,
Stop eating sugar,
Stop staying up late,
Be more active,
Easily done, right? Well, the truth is: it´s not.
Actually, it is a hell of an effort to even change a single habit sustainable. Habits are called habits for a reason and they are not a device we can simply turn off by clicking a button. Some behavior has literally been written into our code and deleting or re-writing it causes some work.
The question we need to answer is: Is there a way supporting us to transition into what we want to achieve? Luckily the answer is: Yes - 100%.
One of those ways I want to discuss today is a method you can call "Daily Challenge", which not only is a step-by-step guide by design, I also walk you through an example to get you started with your own daily challenge step-by-step.
What are daily challenges?
Daily Challenges are tasks to perform every day that are not part of your usual habit or that cost you some effort. It can be a different task each day or a recurring task you have to repeat daily or even a series of habits that sum up so that you have to perform more new tasks daily.
Which of the options is the right one or the better one depends on two things.
1. What do you want to achieve and
2. what feels doable for you.
I believe the rather important part is that you keep on doing your challenge for a certain amount of time. I suggest at least 30 days because doing something for 30 days shows that it is more than a fad and you have enough time to reflect and deal with the tasks in different situations.
How long does it take to change a habit?
Some say it takes 21 days to build or change a habit, but I am not too optimistic that this applies to all and everything. However, I like the motivational approach that I only need to do something for 21 days to see a change.
My personal definition states that once you do something
without seeing it as a challenge any longer or
without needing a reminder to do it or
without seeing it as something outside the ordinary,
you are on the right path.
Let´s take going for a run each morning as an example:
Once this occurs subconsciously and unnoticed as part of your routine, you are there.
Another point that shows you have a new habit is that once you have the feeling something is missing when you were not running one morning because of e.g. an early appointment.
Step-by-step guide to your daily challenge
1. Set your goal
The first step is the planning phase in which you formulate your goal as precisely as possible.
Simply saying you want to live a healthier life is a good starting point, but we need to go a bit more into the beef. By being as precise as possible, we are avoiding the possibility for us to already have an excuse at hand to not deal with the details and for changing the challenge when it is getting a bit more uncomfortable.
The question you need to ask yourself now is what habit exactly you want to change in your life with the help of the daily challenge. Do you want to incorporate a daily run into your life with the goal of getting fitter again, live a more active life or even train for a half-marathon?
Or do you want to incorporate fasting into your life with the goal of being more focused, have more time and lose some weight?
Whatever it is: Write it down for yourself as precisely as possible.
2. Set your daily tasks
You do not only need to focus on the direct task itself during the challenge. There are also plenty of indirect tasks, you can tackle to take a holistic approach to change.
Let´s take the example of fasting: You do not need to extend your non-eating windows daily for your challenge. You can also concentrate on building a fasting mindset and prepare your environment for a life in the fasting lane.
With this, you focus both on building a new habit and slowly phasing out old habits like snacking or mindless overeating.
I recommend to create a calendar with the tasks for the day and add more detailed instructions to another paper. With this, you have a visual overview that reminds you of the daily task and that you can check off each day. This is especially great for those who like ticking off tasks from a to-do list.
But instead of lingering around the theory let´s have a look at some actual examples for a challenge that focuses on fasting. The examples include the actual task in bold, some additional details, and things to keep in mind. I hope these examples help you create your own daily challenge:
Day 1: Start easy! Sit down and formulate and visualize the goal you want to reach. What kind of fasting habit do you want to build? 16:8, 20:4, or OMAD or ADF? Read more about the different fasting forms here. Day one should also include downloading a fasting app like LIFE that will help you track your progress and schedule. Feel free to already track your "fastings" in the app directly after your last bite to get an understanding of your current eating-windows and hunger-feeling even though you´re not even started prolonged fastings. Don´t forget to stop your fasting within the app with your first bite again.
Day 2: Go into your kitchen and remove all food you do not like anyway: Give it to your family, friends, or to the local Food board. Make sure to only have food in your house that you like - in the best case it is healthy too. During your fasts, you are not eating anything, but when not fasting, you should feast and eat well and make sure to eat to full satisfaction. And that does not work with the food you do not like.
Day 3: Extent your first fasting window. Increase the regular fasting time you tracked in the last days by one hour. How does it feel? Was it hard? Would you even have been able to fast longer?
Day 4: Can you beat yesterday by another hour? Fast again and try to add one more hour. Daily challenges are not only about stretching yourself to a new you, but also about celebrating successes. Why not making yourself a gift and go shopping for your favorite tea?
Day 5: Time to add more activity into your life. Go for a walk during your fast - preferably close to the end of your fast and make your body used to full power even when not being filled with sugar.
Day 6: How long do you fast already? Add another hour to it and find something that keeps you busy when hunger comes.
Day 7: Start reading success stories from people who fasted for a while? Read what they motivated, read what they achieved, and see whether they have some tips for your own journey.
You noticed that we do not go all-in directly. We need to bring ourselves closer to the habit we want to build playfully and step by step. Only when we like what we do, by being challenged and able to experience successes, we increase the chances of reaching our goal sustainable.
And even if we fail once or twice or even more often. We know not only that we can start over but also how.
3. Select a starting time
Do you prefer starting your challenge during regular times or do you want to wait for your next vacation to have more time to focus on the new tasks? It´s up to you!
It might make sense to spend a thought or two on it to find out what feels more doable and comfortable. Even though we want to challenge ourselves - we want to be able to succeed.
4. Start today
The day to start has come. This is exciting! We planned our challenge carefully and with this already prepared our minds for the upcoming month. We know what is lying ahead of us and made sure to treat ourselves respectfully but insistently towards achieving our goal to build a new habit by changing an old habit.
Without further due - our challenge starts today.
Enjoy the time
Yes - I have basically nothing more to say. Enjoy your challenge and I wish you best of luck with it. For sure the goal is to change a habit, but maybe you can get even more out of it like being more mindful, concentrate on yourself, and learn more about yourself.
Last but not least I have a pro tip for you:
If you realize at one point that some of your daily challenges are not challenging enough because you were too careful and restrained when writing your list, feel free to adjust the challenges accordingly. You can e.g. put two hours of fasting on your last fast to challenge you more. Be creative!
But also the other way around: If your challenge is unrealistic and putting too much pressure on you, make it more doable to increase the chances for yourself to keep on following your dream!
It´s better to stick to 30 days of a slightly softer challenge than quitting after day 3.