Journal entry 091511: 30-Day Challenge

September is a great time to start something new. The energy from the beginning of the school year is contagious even if you haven’t been in school in decades. And the change in weather stirs up hope. Last week I ran twice in the 70s, after months of 100+, and it made me happy. This week the temperature climbed back up to 100, but even that was more hopeful than 100 in July

I’ve already made one big September change in my life; I reentered the workforce as a contract engineer for a large independent oil and gas producer, the first time I’ve worked regularly for someone else since 2004. I’m even wearing Dockers every day instead of my favorite jeans, and tucking my shirt in.

And if that isn’t enough, I’m considering more changes since listening to a TED Talk by Matt Cutts, search engine optimization guru for Google. He encouraged his listeners to try something new for 30 days: “Try something you’ve always wanted to add to your life but were afraid of the long-term commitment.”

He gave himself a different 30-day challenge, back-to-back, for one entire year, and blogged about his experiences. One of his challenges was “30 days of being thankful.” What a great idea! He also decided to: learn 30 new words; write a 50,000-word novel (he finished it, but says it’s awful); take a photo every day; and meditate every day.

After all that work he learned a lot about how to make this project more likely to succeed. For example, don’t make your challenge too exotic or difficult. Simply try something you’ve always wanted to try but didn’t have the time or courage to sustain it over the long haul but might be able to push through 30 days. Consider this to be a series of 30-day experiments, and start with an easy one. Some will work, some will stick, and some won’t.

Cutts says, “It’s easier to add a new habit than to remove a habit, so don’t begin with a challenge to stop doing something. And remember, “small sustainable changes are best.”

Well, as you might imagine, I could not listen to a talk about 30-day challenges without deciding to give it a try. At first I thought it might be a good idea to ask other people what I should do … maybe even ask Cyndi. But most of us won’t stick to something new for 30 days because someone else wants us to or because someone else thinks we need it. I certainly won’t. I think a good 30-day challenge has to come from yourself.

However, it’s still a good idea to ask for suggestions, if for no other reason than to move your thinking outside your box.

It’s a good idea to tell people what you are doing, for encouragement, and for accountability. But only tell people who will help and encourage you, not people who will make fun of you.

Here are some more suggestions from Matt Cutt’s blog, with a couple of additions of my own:

Be thankful about something every day

Ride your bicycle to work every day

Run 5 miles every day

Read the Bible through in 30 days

Pray every day

No sugar for 30 days

Learn one new word every day

Take a photo every day

Eat vegan for 30 days

Eat on <$10.00 per day for 30 days

No TV or radio
No eating after 8:00 PM

No computer after 8:00 PM (or 10:00 PM?)

No soft drinks

Get up at 5:00 AM every day

Do 100 sit-ups every day

Do 100 push-ups every day

Cycle 10 miles or more every day

Write 1,000 words in your journal every day

Write a note to someone you love every day

Write a letter to friends or family every day

Fast for 30 days

Write a thank you note every day

Complete one home project every day

Draw a sketch every day

Don’t complain for 30 days

Write in a blog every day

I intend to pick something from this list and get started. Maybe you have some additional suggestions. Even better, maybe you will commit to joining me in doing a challenge or two. It will be fun to share our stories. And 30 days might lead to a lifetime. Who knows what sort of people we might become.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


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