Why 30 Day Challenges don’t work (long-term)

Zoe Fagan

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30 Day Challenges are taking over the world. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration but social media sites are strewn with “30 days to a bubble butt“, “extreme 30 day workout” and “bless your husband in 30 days“. First of all, a bubble butt sounds like a flatulence problem and I’m sure a lot of people would prefer “30 days to curse your husband”. Regardless, these challenges have become the “in thing” for all the wrong reasons.

The 30 Day Challenge came about thanks to a plastic surgeon in the 1950s. Maxwell Maltz began to notice patterns among his patients;  after performing surgery he found it took his patients approximately 21 days to get used to their new face. He did a lot of thinking and then wrote a book about behaviour change and forming new habits. As a result of Maxwell’s thinking, we now we all truly believe it takes only 21-30 days to form a new habit and look like a Victoria Secret model.

30 day plank challenge will result in you looking like a plank, not a model. Photo credit - Cyril Caton (Flickr)
30 day plank challenge will result in you looking like a plank, not a model. Photo credit – Cyril Caton (Flickr)

Last year I tried the 30 Day Challenge for myself. I started with the “30 Day Photograph Challenge” over the “squat to work for 30 days” as I imagined consistent squating would result in some sort of bubble-butting. Snapping photographs for 30 days may sound easy but it’s actually a lot harder than you think; taking at least one photograph each day which gives you enough to write about is actually really hard! But, did it become a habit? No; I now take roughly 1 picture every 3 days and let’s be honest, it’s usually a selfie. Did it change my life? Yes but only momentarily; the challenge forced me to look for unusual things I’d miss on a daily basis and made me think outside-the-box, for all of two weeks. Did I have fun? Absolutely!

Being on a high from having completed probably my first ever challenge I decided it was time for a second challenge. This is where the everything came crashing down, dignity and sanity included! Feeling adventurous I decided to try learn the Manx language (native language of the Isle of Man) in 30 Days. I’m not the best at learning languages so I tried to find “unusual” ways to teach myself. This is how it went:

Day 1:

Somewhere in the middle:

Somewhere near the end:

So what can we summarise from 30 Day Challenges? First, they do not form a habit as, thankfully, losing my marbles did not become a daily activity after making these videos. I got my sanity back in check after this challenge and would like to think I’m back on the road to being a normal person. Honestly, I think it takes months if not years to form a habit. 30 days just isn’t enough.

30 day challenges won’t change your life either. You won’t wake up one morning and realise after 30 days of drawing you’re the next Monet. But, here’s the thing, they do change your life for those 30 days that you take on whatever challenge it may be. You become more aware of yourself and your surroundings and, above all, you have fun!

So, if you want to do a 30 Day Challenge to form the habit of becoming the next Arnold Schwarzenegger your wasting your time but if you want to challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone I say ‘all aboard’! A 30 Day Challenge is like going on holidays; it becomes a thing of the past but when you look back you think “wow, that was a great time! Pity I left my dignity behind!”

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Zoe Fagan