Do you want to – write fiction for 30 days, or a blog post for 365, post to Instagram for 100, knit every day for a month, or run every day?
Good. Because there is a daily challenge out there for you, and pretty much anything else you might want to do more of.
These challenges are everywhere, they are usually fun and are a great way to develop a regular habit.
It takes at least 21 days to form a good habit (so the boffins who study such things say) and about 10 minutes to form a bad one or so it seems anyway…maybe that is just me.
Anyway, taking part in one of these challenges might just be the kick you need to stick to something.
If it is done well then it has everything you need to do it – supportive, safe place to share; other people who are just like you and enjoy the activity you do; a place to check in or be accountable; and possibly someone leading it who can inspire and keep you motivated. Forming a habit is much easier with those things in place,
Obviously, the shorter ones are easier to sign up to and, more importantly, stick to.
They can be a good way of showing yourself, and your ‘inner doubter’, that you can actually do this thing if you choose.
Why Can’t We Just Do The Things Anyway?
This is the question that other people will ask you is – If there is something you want to do more of, why aren’t you simply doing it? Why do you need the challenge to keep you on track?
As ever, it is all to do with that internal grump/nanny, who doesn’t want you to do things that might hurt you.
The gremlin inside us all.
Having a challenge gives you a reason, a goal, a thing to make you stick to a routine. Oh, the internal grump likes that, a routine, that sounds nice and safe. And because these things are usually small steps, rather than ‘write a best selling novel in a month’ (although there is, of course, NaNoWriMo if you want to try writing a novel, but see what your gremlin says about that!), or paint a masterpiece……you know the things that make the grump get very well… grumpy and agitated – the gremlin nods and says, ‘yes this sounds like a nice small safe thing, you go ahead, I’ll watch out for the scary stuff over here’.
The first step is, therefore, to prove to yourself, and that internal doubter, that you CAN. This enables you to shut that voice down. Or at least reduce it’s power over you a bit. You have just shown that you can do something every day, so why can’t you keep it up? You now have the power to choose to continue. And this my friends, is a habit. A baby one, perhaps, and one that could be easily knocked away, so still needs nurtured and cared for until it becomes a robust thing that you can’t NOT do.
The Hundred Day Project 2
Last year I took part in the 100 Day Project, an Instagram posting challenge. I did it on music where I created an image related to lyrics, and I managed to do it every day, despite some quite major upheavals in my life. So I am doing it again this year on forming a creative habit. Very meta I know.
Now, after last years’ success, I fully intended to keep it up and post daily on creativity, but I made a fatal mistake.
I gave myself ‘a break’.
Not the worst thing to do, a robust habit should withstand some gaps, life does have a tendency of getting in the way. But my mistake was that my habit was not robust enough. Even after 100 days it was still a semi-untrained habit, not yet safe to be let loose. So giving myself an opened ended break meant my habit had run off, and I only posted in Instagram sporadically.
Until now. When I rejoined the 100 day Project.
I learned a lot from last time, and I decided to be a bit more laid back about it this year. I am allowing myself the luxury of missing a few days, not deliberately, but if I do, I won’t feel a total failure. I can do this because I did it every day last year, so I know I CAN – I have lost that particular doubt. I know that the world won’t stop spinning if I miss a day, but, having fallen off it after my break, I also know that if I do miss one I have to jump right back in the following day. My rule is to not let 1 day become 3, become a week….and so on. Because that is how habits wander off into the wild, and it is harder to tempt them back.
Why People Don’t Stick to It
When I tell people I am doing it, they usually say they couldn’t do that, not every day, it’s far too much work etc. But, if I can, then they obviously could, the difference is that I want to and they don’t, not really.
I know that might sound a bit harsh, but I’ve been studying habits as well as trying to form my own ‘good ones’ for the past few years, and it is what I have learned about myself, and others. The desire to do it has to be strong enough to make you keep coming back, to keep trying, even when it seems pointless or it feels too hard.
It surprised me to see that so often it is not the people with the most time who do the most creative stuff, far from it. There are people who have stupidly busy lives who still manage to write books, or create their art. They are the ones who want to do it so much that they have learned to fit it in somehow. They have mastered the ability to by-pass or deal with the gremlin in their heads who tells them that can’t miss that tv show that everyone else watches, or that they are a bad parent if they do their thing instead of the dishes. You know, all that crap that bubbles up in our heads when we think about doing something ‘just for ourselves’.
I’m not saying it is as easy as ‘just deciding to do it‘, for most of us it is not, it takes regular attempts, and often some quite deep soul searching to make changes to our days, routines, or indeed our whole approach to life. That’s why it is usually that thing we just can’t shake off the desire to do, for whatever reason we can’t stop it, despite the negative voice in our head, or all the reasons not to bother.
And that is where these habit challanges can help.
My top tips for sticking to and being a ‘winner’ at these challenges are –
- Plan ahead. Set a time of day when you will do the activity. Or, if you have more time on some days and none on others, create some in advance as backup so you don’t have that reason to give up.
- Join in on the related Facebook page/forum/Hashtag if there is one and interact with other people. Comment on their posts, or updates, be each others cheerleaders.
- Tell you friends and family, if they are supportive. If not, then don’t let those negative nellies burst your fledgling habit bubble. Just do it. Some of us have loud internal gremlins, and some of us have to cope with real life ones too. Prove them all wrong.
- Pick an easy one to start with. I would suggest a month one is long enough. It is do-able, but not so long that you start to lose the will to live, or it feels like it is taking over your life.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day, just do it the next one. Remember the rule of ‘never miss more than 2 days in a row’. Because that baby habit will slip away at more than 3 days and it is harder to re-start.
- Have fun with it. Don’t worry if other people seem to be better at the ‘thing’ you are all doing than you. Who cares, it is all about taking part and if you keep doing it for 21-365 days, by the end you will be improved, practise really does make better!
Come over and join me at The 100 day Project on Instagram, we’re about 1/3 of the way through, plenty time to join in the fun.