Ep 22: Why Short-term Challenges Don’t Create Long-term Change

People seem to love these short-term challenges where you give up sugar for a week, do 25 push-ups every day for a month, or give up alcohol for SoberOctober. While these can be fun, and an interesting challenge, do they ever actually result in permanent change? In this episode, we will give you a recipe to make the most of them.

Resources mentioned: The 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade

Key Takeaways:

  • Habits aren’t made or broken because we did something (or avoided doing something) through willpower alone, for a set amount of time.
  • Doing short term challenges can actually delay the process of making more meaningful changes.
  • If you want to use a short-term challenge as a springboard for longer-term change, make sure you’re not just counting down the days, but using that time to gain a better understanding of the role that a particular behavior plays in your life.
  • Be sure to think past the end of the challenge: what happens at the end? What do you want to carry forward into the future?

Lab Experiment:

When you find yourself considering joining in the latest 7 day, 21 day, or month-long fad, take some time to ask yourself some questions:

  1. Why is this attractive to me? 
  2. What do I hope to learn from this temporary challenge?
  3. What plan can I put in place to ensure I don’t just return to my previous behavior as soon as it is done? 
  4. Am I using this as a delay or distraction from the deeper changes that I know I want to make? (see episode 6: the hidden cost of unmet goals)

Thinking carefully about these questions before you embark on a short-term challenge can make it more than just a temporary exercise in willpower.