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The 30 Day Trial

Forget infomercial guarantees, the 30 day trial is a powerful way to improve your life.

Years ago I discovered that even if I had a surge of willpower, it was really tough to consistently repeat the actions needed to gain mastery of a skill, create a habit, reach a goal, or try out a new system of belief. It was so tough that I was failing at least as often as I succeeded, and I began looking for a method I could consistently and successfully apply.

The 30 day trial - doing something 100 percent every day for a full month -  is an extremely simple but effective method I picked up from self-improvement teachers. It allows me to commit to something while leaving myself an escape hatch, which is extremely important in the quest for change.

Using this method I've been able to make some pretty incredible long-term changes to my life.

The 30 Day Trial - Why Most People Stay the Same

Most people (including myself) get stuck in ruts, spending their evenings in front of the same TV, seeing the same friends, eating the same foods, and working the same kind of jobs. Many of their actions are part of a self-perpetuating cycle, and baring a catastrophe or major interruption, they'll keep doing pretty much the same things for the rest of their lives without making any changes that could set them apart from the rest of humanity. Most likely they'll dismiss any major lifestyle change without seriously considering it. 

The good habits we've developed, like getting up every morning and automatically going for a bike ride, as well as bad ones, like relying on fast food to fill our stomach, just keep rolling forward under their own momentum, carrying us along without our being aware of it. 

If you're happy with the status quo that your habits bring about, then by all means continue. But if you're like me, you want your future to be better than your present. You want to push the envelope of what is possible, improving yourself mentally and physically and seeing what possibilities life has for you.

If this describes you, then you need to bridge the gap between your life now and your goal, whatever it may be. A 30 day trial does this by implanting new habits that serve your greater good.

The 30 Day Trial -The Importance Of An Escape Hatch

30 Day Trial CalendarYou've probably found getting started and sticking to a new habit for the first few weeks is the hardest part of change.

Once you’ve committed yourself, overcome inertia, and gotten used to doing something, it's relatively easy.

So why aren't more of us out there right now doing whatever it is we want to try, whether it be learning a ride a horse or speak Spanish?

The problem up front is that it seems (but generally isn't) overwhelming to make a large change and stick to it forever. Deciding to swim every day for the rest of your life is a huge commitment of time and energy if you're habituated to sitting on the couch. The more you think about the change as something that will permanently alter your life, the more you're going to dig in your heels or vacillate.

The 30 day trial, however, offers the best of both worlds. You get the commitment needed to really test an idea with the flexibility of knowing that at the end of 30 days you're off the hook. You can then decide to keep the new habit, which will by then be pretty easy to maintain, ditch it for what you were doing before, or try something else entirely.

Moderation usually doesn't work, despite the hype. Most people rarely commit to anything boldly new or original, and so they never really learn what going full out feels like. They may say they want to lose weight and eat healthier, and they may even go so far as to eat a salad instead of a ham sandwich for lunch four days a week, but they'll never understand what's it's all about because the rest of the time they're eating processed junk and meat. Going 20 percent of the way doesn't necessarily bring you 20 percent of the potential gain.

You need to commit to something 100 percent to really understand its potential, and with a trial you can go all out without it seeming overwhelming. After 30 days you should have a set of results to help you judge whether it was worthwhile or not.

When you commit to doing something every single day without exception for just 30 days, you can’t rationalize or justify missing a day. You can't make it up later because you've only got 30 days. You've got to get it done to give it a fair shake. 

The 30 Day Trial - Practical Implementation

Consistency is key on a 30 day trial.

Every day you maintain your change or work on mastering your skill. If you're doing a 30 day trial of vegetarianism, all you have to do is make sure no meat passes your lips, but what if your trial is about doing something as opposed to not doing it?

I find the best way to go about these sort of trials is to do your action every day at a set time; just after waking or before bed works pretty well for me. Know exactly how long you're going to do your action for, and exactly what you're going to do during that time.

If you want to write a book, maybe you decide to sit down for an hour every day and write. First you do the outline, then write it, page by page. If nothing is coming to you, just start writing anyway to get the juices flowing, or sit in front of the keyboard for an hour until your time is up.

When trying to implant a new belief, I've had success doing visual meditations where I first see the old belief as untrue and then envision myself going through life with my new belief, viewing how it changes things. Then throughout the day, when it think about something affected by the belief, I make sure I think about it from the new perspective.

I talk about this idea in greater depth in the the raw food lifestyle.

I suggest that you don't try more than one or two 30 day trial at a time, as too much change will overwhelm you. Keep it simple.

The 30 Day Trial As A Testing Ground

Often, I have no idea if something is a good idea or not, but I'm intrigued enough to at give it a shot. Many a 30 day trials has ended up as a permanent part of my life because I like the results so much. Here are a few examples of trials have have been very successful.

Becoming A Runner: In the fall of 2003 I was the possessor of a newly trim body, having shed much of my weight over the previous year. One day I ran three miles on a whim, the longest I'd ever been able to run due to how overweight I'd been, and I felt euphoric and free...and sore. I committed right there to run at least 3 miles every day for a month.

30 Day Trial Running

At first it was a bit challenging because I had to start getting up early to run before classes, and for awhile I was running in an old pair of Vans, but I worked it out. I ran every day that month, and I felt so fantastic doing it that at the end I committed myself to run at least 3 miles every day for an entire year.

I didn't miss my run on any of the next 365 days, running through rain, blizzards, and searing heat. By the end I was truly a runner. I'd laid down the habit so successfully that when I finally took a few days off I felt strange, and quickly retreated to my running habit.

That's how you know that you've successfully implanted a positive habit, by the way - you retreat to it when stressed or feeling poorly.

Because of my running habit, it was fairly easy to ramp up to running a marathon, which I started training for in 2008. You can read about that here.

Going Vegan: In 2004, having spent several years reading about the harm caused by animal protein, I decided to do a 30 day trial of eating no meat, dairy, eggs or processed food to to see how I liked it. I loved it, lost a further 10 pounds, made some modest improvements to my colitis, and stopped getting sick. Not long after the end of my trial I decided to become a vegan permanently.

Stopping All Complaints: I decided to stop complaining about anything for 30 days. I did it (I slipped up a few times, but quickly recovered), and reaped the mental rewards of a more positive life. It's amazing how things cease to be a problem when I can't complain about them.  This trial reshaped how I deal with problems, which I wrote about in The Raw Food Lifestyle.

Standing All Day: I decided to ditch my chair and do all my computer work at a standing desk for 30 days. Read about it here.

Taking Full Responsibility:
On this one I took the success of my 30 day trial of no complaining and went in an interesting new direction with it. I decided I could only blame myself for the vagaries of life, essentially altering my relationship to the world and others for the better. Do I see a problem? It's my fault and it's up to me to fix it, or not, as I see fit. Of course, all good things also stem from me as well. This perspective is a bit of a mind bender, but it's a wonderful one to try out.  I also write about this topic in The Raw Food Lifestyle.

Going Raw:  Looking for a way to get rid of my colitis, I decided to try a low fat raw vegan diet. By the end of the 30-day trial all my symptoms were gone. Although I ate some cooked food afterward, within a year I had to admit to myself these foods were harming me, and I committed to a 100 percent raw vegan diet.

Meditation: 30 Days of meditating 30 minutes a day left me more relaxed and mentally quiet. Currently I don't meditate every day, but generally will several times a week.

No TV: My first few day without TV left me restless because I suddenly lacked society's default time waster. Over the course of my 30 day trial, though, I learned to fill the gap with friends, hobbies, books, athletics, and dozens of other activities. I still don't watch TV (although a few times a year I'll end up watching something at someone else's house because that's what they're doing) and really enjoy the change it's wrought in me.

I few times a year I rent the full season of a show I've heard good things about and watch it all without commercials in rapid succession, but this is the exception rather than the rule. I find well over 95 percent of the TV shows I'm missing are pretty forgettable.

I've written about giving up TV at length here.

The 30 Day Trial - Some Experiments I'd Like To Try In The Future

  • Learn to juggle really well: I can juggle a bit, but I want to get much better.
  • Learn to stand up on a yoga ball: I want to be able to stand up and balance on a yoga ball
  • Recover my back flexibility: I injured my back in September of 2009, and I want to recover all of my lost flexibility.
  • Hold Handstands: I want to be able to hold a handstand for at least a minute.
  • Natural Vision Improvement: I've experimented enough to see certain practices improve my vision, but I've never made a consistent enough practice to really see long-term benefits.

The 30 Day Trial - Some You Might Want To Try

Read an hour a day: You can probably wrap up a book per week or more at this rate. I've been regularly reading for pleasure and information since third or fourth grade, and consider it one of the best things I do. I usually read 1-3 books per week, although I've taught myself to read fairly quickly. Think of it as an investment in knowledge.

Write something every day: Most people who say they want to write a book don't have a writing habit. Start writing a page of whatever you want every day and watch your ability soar.

Learn a new vocabulary word every day:  Studies have shown vocabulary to be a better indicator of the rank a person will attain at a company than any other factor. The higher their position, the better grasp of language that person has and the more words they know. The more words you know, the more nuances of reality you're able to perceive and understand. Makes you want to crack open a dictionary, eh?

Go on a walk every day: Walking, especially if it's through a pleasant environment, is an extremely pleasant way to get the blood pumping. Sure it's not as ambitious as more strenuous exercises, but you've got to start somewhere.

Give Up All Processed Foods:  No soda, packaged foods, candy, chips, or any other junk food. 30 Days of better Health anyone?

Meet someone new: Escape your rut and expand your circle of acquaintances. Every day go hunting for someone you don't know and find out their name, what they do, and strike up a conversation that lasts at least 10 minutes. You just might find a new friend.

Become a great dancer: I have two left feet and don't even understand the concept of dancing in sync with music, but I have a feeling that, somewhere down the line, I'm going to have to make myself learn to tango.

Sleep: Go to bed no later than 8 p.m. every night and don't get out of bed the next morning until it becomes impossible for you to fall back asleep (no cheating with caffeine). See what kind of changes getting adequate sleep brings about in your life.

The 30 Day Trial - Following Up

If you're having success with a 30 day trial, consider an attempt to improve your perception of the world by working on your mind.

Read about a raw food diet here.


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