Here’s a rhetorical question for you:
How long does it take to become something or someone, on purpose? If you’ve always wanted to be someone who bikes, does yoga, sends thank you cards, performs random acts of kindness, has a podcast, or anything else… how long do you have to commit to doing that thing before you actually ARE that person?
Just thirty days. Anyone can do anything for thirty days…
Those were my thoughts before my husband and I first started the Whole 30 diet. If you haven’t heard of this diet, the premise is that you eat really clean for a whole month. That means no sugar, pasta, bread, dairy, legumes, processed food or alcohol. There are a few other “rules” but that is the gist of it.
I heard about the diet from my friend, Helen, who was raving about all the energy she had and the weight she’d lost, and I decided to give it a try. It’s only 30 days, I thought. No big deal. Well, it turned out to be 30 days that would change my life and the way I plan to eat forevermore.
You see, 30 days is really an ideal amount of time to commit to doing something. It’s long enough for you to try something out, to see if you like it. And it’s short enough to feel possible and not too overwhelming. It’s one month, just a few short weeks. Yet, long enough for you to form new habits and ultimately to completely transform your life.
After doing the Whole30 diet my husband and I felt so good and had become so accustomed to the whole foods we were eating that we had no desire to go back to our old way of eating. We developed new, healthy habits and made the decision to just keep going. Now we don’t even think much about it anymore. It’s just the way we eat. It’s become part of who we are.
And, having had this experience, I was particularly drawn to a podcast I heard recently about Matt Cutts, the author of a book called 30 Days – Change Your Habits, Change Your Life. The premise of the book, and the way that Cutts has been living his life, is that each month you can commit to exploring or “trying out” a way to make yourself a better person, a person that is more aligned with who you want to be.
If you’ve always wanted to be a writer then embrace that part of yourself and commit to some form of writing every day for 30 days.
Want to become a more loving spouse? Commit to telling your partner one thing you love about them every single day.
Want to become more fit? Commit to going on a walk – long or short – but some kind of walk – every day for 30 days.
Whatever you pick to work on that month, make the commitment to yourself that you’re going to stick with it. Cutts says that he prints out a calendar and marks off each day that he completes his commitment. He says that for him the physical calendar provides an important visual because once he gets a streak going he hates to break it. So, if it gets to be the end of the day and he hasn’t done whatever he’s committing to do that month, Cutts says he usually finds a way to fit it in before bed on a matter of principle.
After listening to the podcast I decided to commit to writing every day for a month. I call myself a writer but in reality there are plenty of days when the only writing I do is for emails. Well, not this month. I’m not going to be too hard on myself as to what counts, except that it can’t be work-related. Therefore, journaling, poetry, blog posts or working on my book are all fair game. Writing proposals or newsletters for work are not.
Those are my rules, of course, but I intend to stick by them. And then next month… well, maybe it will be a month of yoga, meditation or walks. Maybe it will be a month of seeing my horse every single day, or a month without television. I’m not sure yet, but I do think that exploring the different aspects of myself that I’d like to be just a little different is an interesting opportunity and one that I’m excited to explore.
The new habits may or may not stick, but I’m willing to bet that just making the effort to self-commitment for those few weeks will add up to something that will make a lasting impact, and that is well worth a few weeks of effort. Because, how long is it between when you start acting like the person you want to become, until you actually transform into that very person?