“We are what we repeatedly do.” – Aristotle
“Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state.” – William James
How long it takes for something to be a habit is a debated topic and is often dependent on the difficulty of the habit and the individual. Psychologist Jeremy Dean discovered the easy tasks, such as drinking a glass of water in the morning, could become a habit after 21 days. Health psychologist and researcher Phillippa Lally conducted a study, which found the average numbers of days needed to develop a habit to be 66 days (however, the range among study participants was 18-254 days). In motivational and fitness sites, the magic number is often 30. An array of 30-day challenges are just a Google search away.
I incorporated the concept of a 30-day challenge into my writing classes for the first time this past winter semester. The results were inspiring and (unless students were blowing sunshine up my patooty in their final reflections) life-changing. Students lost weight, conducted physical therapy, pursued acts of kindness, and most importantly learned about themselves within the process. Yes, there were failures, students who were too ambitious, goals that were not clearly enough defined, and pursuits that did not have enough intrinsic value to hold students motivations.
I conducted my own small challenges – small because I realized the enormity of my semester obligations, yet significant enough to alter my mindset and body. First, I committed to plank for at least a minute a day. I liked this challenge because it reminded me that just because I cannot get to the gym for an hour it does not mean that I should do nothing. Little bursts of activity make a difference. While I never progressed beyond the minute plank, I did see some more definition in my abs and overall was more conscious of my body.
My second challenge was to write in a journal every day. The benefit of journaling is that it makes you reflect and sort out feelings and issues, which can lead to better understanding of yourself or help you solve problems. However, as a deeply reflective person (i.e. debilitatingly shy introvert), I did not feel the need to get further in touch with my feelings. The benefits I found were that it helped me take a moment to appreciate what was happening in the lives of my children and perhaps let off a little steam.
Now, with my lighter spring load, I am ready to level up to more time-intensive health pursuits. I am also switching from journaling to blogging. I feel this will help me better sort out and deal with the issues of life because I can bring in research, will need to consider an audience, and be pressured due to the public nature to write more thoughtfully. This will also help me teach the 30-day challenge in more depth and perhaps enter the field of life experiments.