A Year of Monthly Challenges

A weakness for sugar. An erratic sleep schedule. Procrastination. These are the kinds of bad habits that nag gently and constantly at our consciences. I should be biking to work, calling my family more often, pushing through the stack of books on my nightstand…

The trouble is, these adjustments tend to fade quickly as we gravitate back to our defaults. Without a deliberate plan, it’s difficult to make lasting lifestyle changes.

In his TED talk, “Try something new for 30 days,” Matt Cutts talks about his systematic approach to self-improvement:

The idea is actually pretty simple. Think about something you’ve always wanted to add to your life and try it for the next 30 days. It turns out 30 days is just about the right amount of time to add a new habit or subtract a habit — like watching the news — from your life.

This resonated with me, first, as a great way to test-drive new habits and second, to divide my year into more memorable and meaningful life-chunks. I decided to try it out for a full year, starting October 1, 2017.

The Plan

  1. Pick one challenge per month. Each challenge has to be something that I can feasibly do every day.
  2. Record successes and failures. I’ll print out a paper calendar and stick it on my fridge. For every successful day, I’ll mark the calendar with a nice green checkmark. For any failed days, I’ll give myself an angry red “x”.
  3. Post a monthly blog entry. Not because I think anybody cares, but to hold myself publicly accountable (even though nobody cares) and provide a space for reflection. Each post will recap my past month’s experience and set the challenge for the upcoming month.

Month #1: Lunch with a different person every day

For my first trick, I’m taking on my social anxiety.

I get a little nervous about spending 1-on-1 time with people I don’t know very well. It’s nothing debilitating—I just worry I won’t have enough interesting things to say to fill up our time together.

Partially as a result, I end up eating lunch with the same group of close friends and coworkers pretty much every day. I love these people very much, but I spend most of my time with them already. By expanding my lunch horizons, I hope not only to become a more comfortable conversationalist, but to get to know some cool people a little better in the process.

Note: It doesn’t have to be lunch. My goal is to share a meal, a drink, a coffee, etc, with a different person every day. It only counts if it’s 1-on-1. If at all possible, it should be in-person, however, I will allow myself phone calls if needed as fallbacks.

Next blog entry to be posted on November 1st.
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