I just completed my first 30 Day Flat Abs Challenge.
Surprise: I do not now have flat abs.
But that wasn't really the point. I gave myself the challenge because I wanted to get into the habit of exercising daily. I've tried many 30 Day Challenges, but I've never finished. (Or, more accurately, I usually "finished" about 10 days in.)
So what made this challenge a success, and
how can I replicate it for future habit-building?
I was attracted to this challenge because the first 6 days looked really easy. On Day 1, I only had to complete 3 different ab moves, at only 5 reps each. It took me less than 1 minute.
This challenge wisely set me up to succeed by requiring little time and effort at the beginning.
Too often, we set goals for ourselves and then jump right into the deep end of trying to accomplish them. We quickly get overwhelmed and discouraged when we don't succeed, but the real failure was putting too heavy a load at the front end of the task.
Instead, try breaking your goal into baby steps. It was easy for me to find 1 minute a day to do fairly simple exercises. The entry level was so low that I quickly built confidence in my ability to see it through to the end.
By Day 30, I was doing 22 reps each of 5 different exercises. This was a far cry from where I started, but I barely noticed the increase because I built up to it slowly each day.
I've tried a similar tactic when changing my morning wake time. When I want to wake up one hour earlier than usual, I start working toward this about 30 days in advance by setting my alarm only 2 minutes earlier each day.
For example, if I currently get up at 7am, but want to wake at 6am instead, I set my alarm for 6:58 on Day 1. By Day 5, my alarm is only ringing 10 minutes earlier than usual, at 6:50, but by Day 15, I expect to wake up at 6:30. At this pace, in only takes a month for me to gain that extra hour in the morning, and the increments were small enough that my body adjusted easily.
In case you're wondering, for that first week of alarm setting, I usually hit snooze (though I make a rule to only hit that button once). Eventually, as the alarm gets earlier and earlier, my body adjusts to being awake and is ready to get out of bed. The trick here is to keep setting the alarm 2 minutes earlier each day so that even if I hit snooze on Day 15, I'm still getting out of bed 20 minutes earlier than I was on Day 1.
What would it look like for you to map out small increments toward your greater goal? How small can you grow at a time ~ so small that you barely notice?
Track Your Progress
Though I usually reject meticulous systems, I forced myself to print out the Ab Challenge Calendar and taped it up on my wall. I looked at that calendar every night before I went to bed so that I could mentally prepare myself for what was coming the next day. Then, in the morning, as soon as I completed my exercises, I checked off all the boxes for that day.
not gonna lie -
I did receive a certain sense of satisfaction when I saw those days getting crossed off.
The closer I got to finishing the 30 days, the more determined I was to keep going. Seeing my progress - being able to track those piddly exercises from Day 1 - kept me motivated to stay on track.
Try printing out a calendar or having some sort of check system that physically records your headway toward your goal. The best accountability is actually finding a real person to check in with you!
I had previously purchased Jon Acuff's 30 Days of Hustle Challenge, but I had never even opened it. I thought I could use Jon's encouragement alongside my ab challenge, so I tried to watch his videos each day before my workout.
I quit Jon's plan after 7 days, but I did have one big takeaway that was important for my ab success: reviewing my calendar.
Jon suggested that I look at all the commitments and responsibilities that would take up my time over the course of the challenge and plan ahead for days that might be difficult to complete. This helped me prepare for days that were busier, more stressful, or just out of the ordinary - and I was still able to get my workout in!
Rather than set an unrealistic daily expectation that can never be perfectly completed, plan for the difficult days. It might mean skipping a day toward working on your goal, but it's easier to plan for that break rather than feel you're behind when you inevitably miss a day.
What's Your Goal?
If you've been struggling to build a good habit, change directions, or grow your business, check your methods. Did you -
- Start Small
- Build Slowly
- Track Your Progress
- Plan Ahead
No matter what goal(s) you're working toward, having a PLAN and a PERSON will better set you up for success.
I offer FREE 90-minute coaching conversations for any mission-driven leader who wants a jumpstart on creating a plan or accountability to see it through.
Don't waste another day feeling defeated or uncertain about where you're headed! I'd love to help you reach your goal.