First, thank you to Matt Frazier and Christine Frazier for the idea and execution behind this 31-day challenge. It has been a highly rewarding experience in so many ways.
While I have always been an avid exerciser, starting and maintaining a blog is something I have often thought about, but never did anything about. But there was something about this challenge that caught my eye, and so I dove in, with the goal of writing a blog post every day in January. And once I hit the publish button on this post, the goal will have been met.
There were a few nights around 10:00 where I was just staring at the screen waiting for my inner muse to spark some writing. Somehow, something always came to me, and I was able to continue the streak.
While the primary goal of the writing part of this challenge was to push myself to develop creative output, there have been many other positive side effects as well.
It was great getting comments from current and former students, old friends from high school and college, neighbors, members of the #writeandrun31 and #YourTurnChallenge communities, and family. Special thanks to my wife for reading every blog and providing useful feedback before I posted it and potentially embarrassed myself, or at least kept such embarrassment to a minimum.
It was amazing to experience the reach of the web, since the blogging enabled me to reconnect with people I have not heard from in years, even decades. In addition, I feel like I have made some new friends from the #writeandrun31 and #YourTurnChallenge communities.
I’ve learned a lot during the challenge – information about running, exercise, the power of goal setting, how to be a better writer, how to form habits, and the power of community.
And while I certainly have a sense of accomplishment, I also realize in the grander scheme of things, writing for 31 days is not all that impressive. Seth Godin has over 5,000 blog posts (that link is from a year and a half ago, so add another 500 or so to that total) and Fred Wilson has been posting to his blog every day since September 2003.
I plan to continue my daily writing (I’m sure that comes as a relief to my legion of followers), and my new goal is for 100 straight days, which I am almost a third of the way to already.
I think 100 days should help to firmly establish my writing as a habit. While many people have indicated that it takes 21 days, or 30 days to establish a habit, recent research has shown that it takes, on average, 66 days to establish a habit. And it’s no surprise that how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In the research study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.
But before you look at those numbers of 66 days or 254 days, and think that seems way too long, there are some helpful takeaways from the research.
- “First, there is no reason to get down on yourself if you try something for a few weeks and it doesn’t become a habit. It’s supposed to take longer than that! There is no need to judge yourself if you can’t master a behavior in 21 short days. Embrace the long, slow walk to greatness and focus on putting in your reps.”
- “Second, you don’t have to be perfect. Making a mistake once or twice has no measurable impact on your long-term habits. This is why you should treat failure like a scientist, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and develop strategies for getting back on track quickly.”
- “And third, embracing longer timelines can help us realize that habits are a process and not an event. All of the “21 Days” hype can make it really easy to think, “Oh, I’ll just do this and it’ll be done.” But habits never work that way. You have to embrace the process. You have to commit to the system.”
So I view the completion of the 31 days as a beginning. I’m at the same place Seth and Fred were after their first 31 days, and look where they are now. It’s just a matter of taking one day at a time. As Seth puts it, drip, drip, drip…
20 thoughts on “Recap: The 31 Day Writing and Running Challenge and the Power of Habit”
Great post! I have really enjoyed the #writeandrun31 challenge. I thought I’d share this, on the study of “habit forming” — http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/02/how-long-it-takes-to-form-a-new-habit/ I thought this was interesting as we often hear how 21 is the magic number.
Thanks Annie for the feedback and for sharing the article – fascinating stuff!
“Habits are a process and not an event.”
I’ve always thought that. It’s good to read it in black and white and backed by research. I think I’m nearer the 250-odd day end of the range, but it does make a difference what the habit is; a daily habit of eating chocolate would be internalized within a day, I’m sure!
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