I got the idea from Steve Pavlina (who wrote about it here), who in turn got it from the computer industry. Companies often offer 30-day trials of certain games or softwares for you to try out: if you like it, you buy it. If you don’t like it, you stop using it and try something else. It can effectively be applied to habits. You might be familiar with the idea that it takes 21 days to install a new habit. I’m not sure if it’s exactly true but if there is one thing I know is that forming a new habit takes time…and can be really hard.
Human beings are wired to have habits take up as little mental capacity as possible. This is most effective if you look at it on a day-to-day basis; we often repeat behaviors, and if they take up as little brain space as possible, this leaves more cognitive capacity for other things. However, if your habits are ineffective, such as eating junk food, always saying ‘yes’, browsing the Internet for hours and watching countless television shows, your day-to-day functioning becomes incredibly limited, and the worst thing is: breaking the patterns will take up an incredible amount of cognitive energy.
Basically what you do is you do something differently for 30 days straight. You commit to doing this certain thing fr 30 days, nothing more. You don’t have to give up cigarettes for the rest of your life, you don’t have to visualize every single day for the rest of the year: you just have to do something for 30 days. After that, you can always decide to go back or to use a different approach. You commit to 30 days of doing something and see where it leads.
30 days is completely do-able and yet it’s plenty of time to really see the benefits of a new habit. If you don’t drink coffee for a few days, you can’t really tell any difference — except for maybe withdrawal, which wouldn’t give an accurate idea of what life wihout coffee really would be like anyway. If you exercise for three days in a row, that’s not really going to change anything.
But 30 days? That will actually show the real benefits (or disadvantages). That might actually make a big difference in your life. Anything can be done for 30 days in a row.
It’s also a great way to install habits you may not want to continue to do daily, such as exercise. By committing to doing it every day for 30 days, it becomes a daily habit. And those require very little cognitive capacity, remember? Therefore much, much easier to maintain than forming it by doing it a couple of times a week. You can always cut back after the thirty days.
If you can’t think of anything, this is the list of Steve Pavlina’s suggestions in the article I linked above.
Now, last year I did two of these, sort of. One was in March, with a limited Internet time. This was quite a succesful one, definitely cleared my mind. Then I did a Bikram Yoga Challenge in April: I took a 90-minute yoga class for 30 days in a row. That 30-day trial was for charity, which is why it was a good thing on its own, but that challenge was also responsible for how I look today. Nothing has changed my body quite the way that those 30 days of yoga did.
But you know what? You don’t have to just read this and believe it. I’m going to do 30-day trials and write regular reports. After all, if I didn’t, what kind of Self Help Hipster would I be?