30-Day Challenges Take Me Years to Complete

I finish most 30-day programs in about a year, sometimes more than one. I used to pummel myself over my “slacking,” until I realized I’m not a slow learner. I’m an applied learner. Maybe I adopted this trait after a few decades in the fitness industry. The it-takes-21-days to change a habit attitude. Somewhere between counting crunches and lunges, I started focusing on the change, not the numbers.

True habit-changes live within micro-movements and value-system shifts, not exterior physical acts, which can often become, well, an act.

We’ve all gone through the motions.

We’ve lived the fake-it-til-you-make-it movement.

We’ve also faked-it-to-get-through-it; those sappy dates, the bland entrées at friends’ dinner parties, the bad hair days (or weeks or months).

Stressful hair at the start of the pandemic, 2020

I argue that faking cannot bring lasting change. When I masquerade, I feel I’m bluffing. Like I don’t really mean it. Plus, I found that in my impersonation—the faking-it—I often merged into a shape-shifter—a chameleon, really—altering myself for approval or a sense of belonging, me pretending to be (or not to be) my truest self.

This is not the change I seek.

I’m talking about fostering values as you form a new habit or as you quit a less-than-good one, which often requires more than 30 days. I like to quip, Fitness is an inside job. Emotional Fitness. Spiritual Fitness. Family Fitness. Career Fitness. And yes, Physical Fitness.

For example, I’ve maintained a kosher diet for almost 30 years, but I kashered my kitchen for the first time in 2017. For decades, the dietary principles of kosher living made sense:

  • Don’t mix meat with dairy.
  • Avoid pork.
  • Avoid shellfish.
  • Hand-wash and recite a blessing before consuming bread.
  • Recite a blessing for various food types/groups.

…and so on. I applied these almost overnight, mostly as a desperate attempt to control my Bulimia and Anorexia while serving in the military. Going Kosher meant un-doing self-harm. It also meant a false sense of control in one area of my life I felt utterly out of control.

Surface change.

And yes, this works, but with limits. I’d fall away from my new habit in times of weakness and stress and boredom. I’d fall away because I lacked conviction regarding this habit.

Seven, maybe eight years ago, my Rabbi gifted me Going Kosher in 30 Days. It took me a year to read the book. And another year after I lost the book and was gifted a second copy. And then one more year to digest the concepts (pun intended).

My two copies of Going Kosher in 30 Days

Why avoid shellfish?

Well, shellfish are bottom-dwellers. If you are what you eat—the nutrients and the nature—you become the substances you consume. Got it. I don’t want to be a bottom-dweller.

Piece by piece, a deeper understanding of my WHY created conviction, and this conviction revised not only a habit, but a lifestyle and a belief system.

I could dive into every Kosher-keeping concept for you, but I’ll save that for another blog because it’s fun and fabulous. And though I’ve practiced a kosher diet for nearly three decades, it took three more years to keep kosher in my heart.

I’ve read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way six times, each time took close to a year. Each of Cameron’s recommended weekly challenges lasted at least a month.

Do I really need a caption for this?

In January, I launched into a 31-day Mindfulness Challenge. As summer approaches, I’m on day eight.

Driving my sons mad through the mindful art of smelling everything, every day, all the time.

These mindful movements feel more challenging than keeping kosher. And this one, sitting with smell, which, as a writer, is triggering significant memories and doubling my journal entries in the morning.

And there are the 21-day Mindful Meditationhttps://www.oprah.com/inspiration/deepak-chopras-21-day-guided-meditationss from Deepak and Oprah I’ve spliced into my yoga and meditation schedule over the years, each one demanding, well, at least a year.

The 30-day “program,” if you want to call it a program, that works for me is Commit 30, which is really a motivational Day Planner. With this tool, I commit to a micro-movement (see how we return to this little thought from the beginning of my rant?). A micro-movement is smaller than a movement, smaller than a step or a blink. It’s more like a quarter-step or a half-blink. It’s a concept from the incredible SARK.

Love me my Commit 30 Day Planner!

In my Commit 30, I might commit to drinking eight glasses of water every day for 30 days. That’s it. That’s my big goal for the month. I’m well aware of the benefits this habit brings. I know the value of drinking more water. I already carry the conviction. I need not realign or re-inform my belief system to garner a deeper understanding.

What I need? I need to REMEMBER to drink the damn glass of water.

I move through my year in this micro-movement dance – drink more water, no coffee after two, cook for the week on Sundays – all habits I’ve formed, but tend to slide away when schedules turn dense, or a medical crisis arises, or perhaps, a pandemic. And while I micro-move, I slowly, slowly ingest something larger— the 21- or 30- or 31-day challenge that takes me years—creating an abundance mindset, engaging with my senses, opting out of certain foods, opting in on my best life. Through this gradual absorption, there is an ingraining, a re-blueprinting on a cellular level. A resolution beneath my skin, offering a conversion of my essence rippling into the world.

Published by Rebecca Evans

Bio: Rebecca Evans is a memoirist, poet, and essayist. In addition to writing, she teaches Creative Nonfiction at Boise State University and mentors high school girls in the juvenile system. In her spare time, she co-hosts a radio program, Writer to Writer, offering a space for writers to offer tips on craft and life. She served eight years in the United States Air Force and is a decorated Gulf War veteran. She’s hosted and co-produced Our Voice and Idaho Living television shows, advocating personal stories. She’s also disabled, a Veteran, a Jew, a gardener, a mother, a worrier, and more. She has a passion for sharing difficult stories about vulnerability woven with mysticism and hopes to inform, in a new way, what it means to navigate this world through a broken body and spirit. Her poems and essays have appeared in Narratively, The Rumpus, Entropy Literary Magazine, War, Literature & the Arts, The Limberlost Review, and a handful of anthologies. She’s co-edited an anthology of poems, WHEN THERE ARE NINE, a tribute to the life and achievements of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Moon Tide Press). Her full-length poetry collection, a memoir-in-verse, TANGLED BY BLOOD, will be available in 2023 (Moon Tide Press). Evans earned two MFAs, one in creative nonfiction, the other in poetry, University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. She lives in Idaho with her sons, her Newfoundlands, and her Calico.

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