Why the Perfect Day is Better Than a 31-Day Challenge
A word to the wise:
Whenever we look to improve ourselves we often think about a 31-day challenge. 31-day beach body challenge, 31-days of practicing a new language, or 31-days of being more productive. This is not the strong foundation to build on that we often think it is, but rather a way we unintentionally promote failure. If you truly want to improve yourself, a better way is to continually strive for the Perfect day, everyday.
Why does the 31-day challenges fail?
Sometimes 31-day challenges work as a way to reach a short milestone goal or spice up an existing habit or routine. However, for the most part we often fail to reach the 31-day milestone and quit early on. Why is it that we so often fail at these challenges?
We use them for the wrong reasons:
We all enjoy a quick fix. But the reality seems to always show us that quick fixes do not work. If you open Youtube right now, I am sure there will be a 31-day workout plan that will get you ripped. We ignore the fact that the trainer and the demonstrators have been working out for years to achieve their results. We find a 31-day challenge to master business, ignoring the fact that the person teaching this challenge has spent years in their field to get where they are.
31-day challenges do have a use and can be very helpful, but not when longterm success is the goal. 31-day challenges are great for someone looking to add variety to a habit they already have. They are also a great tool for giving yourself a dead line for a very specific short term goal. For example a 31-day money spending challenge to save up enough money for that new bike you’ve been thinking about getting.
Having a start and end date:
Having a start and end date is basically admitting that it is not long-term success we are striving for, but rather the quick gratification of a short-term goal. By saying I will practice the guitar for 31 days straight, I do not give myself any type of structure for maintaining that goal after the 31 days end. End dates signify that it is a temporary scenario.
For example, which of the two people below is looking for a quick fix and which one is looking for a positive life change?
Person 1 – “I have 1 month to give fit before the summer, so I can look great on the beach! I’m going to jump on the 31-day summer workout to prepare for the warm weather!”
Person 2 – “I would feel much healthier if I ate better each day and did some degree of exercise each day. I am going to start today and aim to do this every day of my life!”
In my opinion, the first goal is a great goal and so is the second goal. The difference is that one is a life changing scenario, while the other is a quick fix. With the quick fix we often miss days and, in the end, just admit that its only a month and who cares if we don’t finish, we were super busy anyway!
The start date can also be issue. People are often saying “Next semester I will start studying harder, I swear”, “This new years I will go to the gym regularly” or “next week I am going to start 31-days of being productive and not watching as much TV.” Why are we waiting until the future to better ourselves? Why are we waiting until the next year of school to improve our grades? Why are we planning to be productive next week rather than starting today?
Prematurely failing our 31-day challenge:
In college I had a friend who told me he was going to start learning Spanish so that he could speak a bit while on vacation. About 2-weeks later I asked him how his progress was going. He told me that he was actually planning to start again next week. He had missed a couple days the past week and had to restart his 31-days over again.
I will admit this has also happened to me as well. I played guitar all the time when I was younger. Once I hit college, I ended up losing the habit because I was busy living my life and focusing on passing all my classes. About a year ago I told myself I would learn a new guitar lick each day for 31-days. Each time I failed I would restart from the beginning and never made any progress.
How does the Perfect Day out perform a 31-day challenge?
The Perfect Day out performs the 31-day challenge because is about consistency, compounding results and permanent change.
The perfect day has no end date, and the start date is now:
Having an end date gives you an opportunity to quit after that date. But having the perfect day is about consistent progress. Every single day you wake up, you will aim to have the perfect day. This does not mean you will be the ‘perfect person’ or you will do everything right. What is means is you will put effort towards what makes you happy each and every day and focus on your goals, rather than letting them get pushed aside.
There is no premature failing:
Obviously, you can’t have the perfect day every day. We are only human, and life has a way of getting us caught up in it. Unlike in the 31-day challenge, when you miss a day in the middle you fail the challenge. With the perfect day you try your best each day and if you don’t complete all your goals, you start up again the next day. Of course, you could argue that you are still failing by not having a perfect day but hear me out.
If the 31-day challenge is not completed, we have failed the challenge. It’s over. You are welcome to start again and keep trying until you finally manage to do it, then you can check it off your list and never do it again. However, in most cases we do not keep trying to complete the same 31-day challenge. We feel that we failed and move on, never to look back at that challenge.
When we aim for the perfect day, it is a continuous goal with no end date. If we miss a day, so what. It wasn’t ideal, but we have been doing great and will be back on track the next day. After awhile it becomes a regular habit and we end up completing our goals without even thinking about it!
What is my Perfect Day?
My perfect day is a mixture of a to-do-list and a not-to-do-list. To create my perfect day, made a list of the factors I wanted to include.
- What hobbies do I have?
- What makes me happy?
- What makes me feel good?
- How can I better myself?
- What are my immediate goals?
Once I had considered each of these questions, I create a list of habits that I complete each and every day. You can keep track of these habits and goals in whatever way you are comfortable with. I enjoy using Habitica.com as well as writing in my moleskin weekly planner.
These are my current habits:
- Get 8 hours of sleep.
- Wake up at 6:15 am on workout days and 7:15 on off days.
- Floss teeth.
- Get to work on time.
- Have my vitamins.
- Eat healthy and cook my meals.
- Tune and practice guitar for 15 minutes minimum.
- Spend some time outside.
- Work for myself (blogging, research, career advancement)
- Complete 1 to-do-list item minimum.
- watch 1 educational video on YouTube. (Crash course, Freakonomics, Tim Ferris, or Thomas Frank)
- Read 15 minutes non-fiction & 15 minutes fiction.
- Complete my habit tracker every day.
- Don’t waste time watching mindless TV until day is complete.
- Don’t spend hours playing video games unless all my tasks are complete.
At first working on the perfect day seemed daunting and difficult. After awhile a got better and better at completing more of my daily goals. I realized that a lot of the time I used to miss my goals was because I spent so much time in front of the TV, zoning out on my phone, or leaving things until the last minute.
Unlike a 31-day challenge that ends after 31-days, my habits continue as long as they are a priority in my life. The benefit of this is I begin to reap the rewards of being consistent. The rewards being the compounding effect of daily improvement. I will be writing another blog post soon that will look at why the compounding effect is so powerful.