When we think of 30 day challenges, we typically think of things like: not eating sugar, exercising every day, writing every day, not smoking for 30 days, etc. It’s usually some concrete habit that we want to either quit or start doing. And these are great! But I actually believe there is a whole different genre of 30 day challenges out there.
These “abstract” 30 day challenges are challenges that focus on changing your mental processes rather than your physical actions. They shift the way we interpret and interact with the world, which can be equally as transformative.
So without further ado, here are 5 “abstract” 30 day challenges that will help transform the way you think about and interact with the world around you.
Journal Every Surprise
I know that I personally am surprised by things that happen in my life on at least a weekly basis. Oh, that girl doesn’t want to go on another date? I thought I was so charming! Oh, that company doesn’t want to hire me? I thought I nailed that interview. Oh, this person is angry with me over something? I didn’t realize I did anything wrong. Oh, this blog post was way more popular than usual? I didn’t realize it was anything special.
See? Things come up all the time that we don’t expect or didn’t anticipate. What does this mean? Well, it typically means that we had a blind spot. Surprises, for better or for worse, means that something happened that we weren’t prepared for and definitely didn’t expect.
By journalling every surprise that happens in our lives, we can start to notice patterns in our decision-making and actions in the world. It helps us be better able to change our behavior to get the outcomes we want in the future, and to get better at realizing something is about to happen.
So the girl doesn’t want to go on another date? Maybe I shouldn’t have set my expectations so high. The company doesn’t want to hire me? Maybe I need to improve my interview skills or maybe it just wasn’t as good a fit as I thought. The person is angry with me? What did I do to hurt them and how can I avoid doing it in the future? This blog post is popular? What makes it that way and how can I duplicate it?
This 30 day challenge is essentially about trying to either replicate good surprises or cut down on bad surprises. It’s a great way to see more clearly into the blind spots of your life.
Send Positive Thoughts to People You’re Angry At
This one is HARD. When you’re in the heat of the moment and full of anger, being kind to the person you’re angry at is the opposite of what your mind is telling you to do. And maybe that’s why this habit is such a great one!
This habit is reminiscent of the old adage about writing an angry letter but not sending it. But it’s even more positive than that!
Here’s what you do: When you’re angry at someone, pause and just wish good things upon them. Wish that they find happiness and achieve everything they want in life. I am personally spiritual and pray for the person, but wishing them well achieves the same thing.
When you do this, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your resentment fades away. That person will no longer be renting space in your brain for free and controlling your thoughts. This doesn’t mean that you have to be best friends with them or even that you have to like them, it just means that you wish the best for them.
I used to have fairly bad anger problems. I would get mad at someone and could think of nothing else for hours and sometimes days. The anger took over my mind. But once I started implementing this practice, I have barely ever held an unhealthy grudge. I do this even when people have egregiously wronged me. I simply wish them well and go the opposite way.
This habit has helped me immensely in the quest toward a more serene, calm life.
Smile at people you walk past
When I’m walking or driving down the street, I often find myself feeling estranged from the people around me. I often don’t feel any hint of that neighborly connection. Then I smile at someone and bam, we are all in this together baby! That’s often all it takes for me to rekindle my feelings of good will toward my neighbors.
So for 30 days, work on smiling at everyone you walk past. Not a creepy smile or one of these half smiles:
Just give them a genuine smile, as if you are right along with them in this journey of life.
It sounds cheesy, it may even look cheesy at times, but it’s a great way to rekindle that sense of togetherness with the people around you.
Set a “no expectation” rule
Have you ever experienced that phenomenon where you’re super excited about something and then it doesn’t live up to the hype? Or conversely, when you’re not that excited about something but it turns out to be amazing? This is a direct result of your expectation setting!
This 30 day challenge is basically about trying to reel in your expectations. When you notice yourself setting big expectations about something, just remind yourself that you’re having no expectations for 30 days.
Try to go into experiences with a completely neutral outlook and you’ll find that you experience them on a much more “real” level.
Also, if you have low expectations about something and are thinking about bailing/not going – GO! Not going because you have low expectations of something would be a failure of this challenge.
Basically, try to experience everything without the bias of your own expectations. I think you’ll find that your experiences become much more pure and probably more exciting as well.
Express your gratitude every day
The final challenge on this list relates to gratitude. One of my favorite definitions of gratitude is this one from Harvard Medical School:
“a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power”
Pretty awesome, right?
I’ve found that practicing gratitude in my life has led to more positive thinking and an increased appreciation for the world (and people) around me. It just leads to being more happy with my life.
So how do you practice it in the form of a 30 day challenge? There are 2 ways that I’ve found helpful.
- Express your gratitude to someone in your life each day for 30 days. It can be friend, family member, author you like, your dog, your cat, anybody (or pet) in your life! It can be through text, email, Facebook messenger, phone call, in person, snail mail – whatever! By doing this, you’ll not only feel a deeper appreciation for them but they’ll likely feel a deeper appreciation for you.
- Write a gratitude list every day and share it with someone. Each day, either in the morning or at night, write 3-5 things you’re thankful for in your life. Share it with someone, maybe someone else who you convince to do this challenge. You’ll find that as the challenge goes on, it becomes easier and easier to find things to be grateful for in your life.
Basically, gratitude can extend beyond Thanksgiving. It can actually largely contribute to a more positive attitude and positive feelings about your life.
Well, that’s it! If you end up doing any of these 30 day challenges, drop me a line! I’d love to hear about your experience and what changes end up happening in your life.