We all want to improve our lives. We want to get in shape, make new friends, feel happier and finally finish that big project we’ve been putting off for years.
But all of these desires can be overwhelming. It’s much harder to change everything in your life at once than it is to focus on one single thing that you want to improve.
That’s why challenges are so helpful. Instead of tackling everything at once, we focus on just one area of our life for 24 hours, 7 days or 30 days.
At the end of the challenge, we’ve made progress and accomplished a goal—and had fun in the process!
If you’re ready to make big progress in your life in a short period of time, here are 21 challenges to try:
1. Unplug from technology.
We’re all addicted to technology these days, and unplugging for 24 hours can do wonders to help you connect with your community and get back in touch with yourself. The official National Day of Unplugging is March 1 – March 2, but you can take a 24-hour digital fast whenever you want (or need) to.
2. Say hi to everyone.
Give everyone you pass on the street, in the halls at work or standing in line at the coffee shop a warm smile and a hello. It feels great and it makes other people feel great too!
3. Be present.
For 24 hours, remind yourself to stay in the present moment. Have conversations with no distractions. Take a bath and enjoy how wonderful every moment feels. Chew your food slowly and savor each bite. Don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future.
4. Say yes to everything.
I don’t normally recommend this, because I think that it’s important to sometimes say “no” to opportunities that aren’t right for us. But sometimes we get into a rut and we say “no” all the time. We say no to social invites because we’re tired, we say no to playing with our kids because we’re too busy, we say no to going on that vacation because it’s too expensive … and on and on. So, challenge yourself to say yes to everything for 7 days and see what happens. Shonda Rhimes wrote a whole book about what happened when she said “yes” for a year. You can do a week!
5. Meditate every day.
We all have people in our lives who constantly talk about how great meditation is, how it reduced their stress and anxiety, helped them cope with challenges and even cleared up their skin. You may have thought to yourself, “I should meditate.” But then … somehow it’s so hard to actually do it and stick with it. Start with the small goal of meditating for 10-15 minutes every day for 7 days. If you like how it feels, try it for another week. It may feel weird at first but then you may come to really like it. And if you don’t, that’s okay too! At least you tried it!
6. Do something that scares you every day.
It’s so crucial to really challenge ourselves and try new things—even things that scare the crap out of us! That’s where the real growth happens. Do something that scares you every day for 7 days and you will emerge stronger, more confident and more daring. You won’t regret it!
7. Don’t complain.
Frustrating things happen sometimes, but complaining can be detrimental to our mental health—and the happiness of those around us. No one likes being around someone who complains all the time. It drains the energy out of the room and brings everyone down. For 7 days, challenge yourself to not complain about anything—not to yourself and not to anyone else. You may find that you feel more positive and upbeat—and those around you will enjoy your company even more!
8. Go TV free.
As a society, we watch a shocking amount of TV. Some studies have reported that Americans watch more than five hours of TV a day on average! Woah! Even if you only watch 30 minutes to an hour of TV a night—that’s time that can be spent on other things. Challenge yourself to go TV free for 7 days and see what you do with your extra time!
9. Play a game every day.
Invite friends over for game night, play Words with Friends or do brain teasers like Sudoku or crossword puzzles. Whatever you do, have fun!
10. Contact a new friend every day.
Sometimes we get stuck in our bubbles where we see and talk to the same friends and acquaintances every day. Once a day for a week, contact a friend you haven’t talked to in a while (could be weeks, months or even years). Send a text, call them up on the phone, arrange a friend date (if they’re local) or send a handwritten letter or card. They’ll love hearing from you—and you’ll feel a stronger sense of connectedness and community.
11. Cook something new every day.
Now’s the time to crack open those cookbooks or fire up Pinterest and actually make those dishes you’ve been eyeing for ages. At the end of the week, not only will you have cooked some yummy meals, but you’ll probably have one or two new favorites to add to your regular meal rotation! Your family will love it too! As everyone knows, I don’t love to cook—so for me, this may end up being a 3-day challenge. But hey, that’s progress!
12. Wear something new every day.
We all have those items in our closet that simply collect dust. That dress we bought that still has the tags on it, those shoes that are too blingy for everyday wear and all those accessories and pieces of jewelry that we’ve just forgotten about. Every day for a week, wear something out of your closet that you’ve neglected. You may rediscover an old favorite!
13. Go on a news fast.
Sure, it’s important to stay informed, but sometimes we overdo it. We spend hours reading news stories or watching cable news on TV and then at the end of the day, we’re certain that the world is coming to an end. If the news has been stressing you out lately, take a break for 7 days. Don’t worry, if something really important happens, you’ll find out about it!
14. Do “I am” affirmations.
I do these every morning to start my day with focus, energy and positivity. If you have trouble remembering to do your affirmations, commit to doing them every day for 30 days. It’ll be easier to stick with if you do them at the same time every day, like when you’re enjoying your morning cup of coffee.
15. Do yoga every day.
Yoga has physical, mental and even spiritual benefits. Whether you are an experienced yogi or a complete beginner, try practicing yoga every day for 30 days and see how you feel. You can do this at home with routines you find on Yoga Journal or YouTube, or practice at a local studio. Many yoga studios offer reasonably priced 30-day unlimited passes, and some studios will give you a deep discount if you are new. If you’re like me and you’re not good at doing a long amount of yoga, try committing to as little as 10 minutes a day. You’ll still get big benefits from those poses!
16. Give someone a compliment every day.
This is a small thing that can make a big difference. It will make someone else feel good (it may truly make their entire day) and it will make you feel good too, boosting your well being and self-esteem. So go ahead, tell that stranger on the train that you like her shoes and tell your coworker that she did a good job. If you pay someone a compliment every day for a month, soon it will become a habit … and that’s a great habit to have!
17. Write a book.
What? Write a book in 30 days? Am I crazy?! Well, every year many people complete this challenge. They carve out one month to stop procrastinating and get to work on that book they’ve been dreaming about for years. November is the official National Novel Writing Month, and if you choose to write your book in November, you can track your progress online and get pep talks and support from other writers. It may sound nuts, but this challenge proves that you can do anything if you set aside a chunk of time to laser focus and take action.
18. Dance every day.
Yeah, I know we always talk about how we need to hit the gym or go for a jog. But we often forget that exercise can be really fun! Fire up your favorite playlist and dance every day for 30 days. You can dance for as little as 5 minutes or as long as an hour. You’ll get your blood moving, get those endorphins pumping and before you know it you’ll be feeling good and having a lot of fun.
19. Keep a journal.
We’ve all kept journals over the years, but most of us have not stuck with them. Challenge yourself to write in a journal every day for 30 days. Your entries don’t have to be lengthy. Even a one-sentence journal can be a great way to reflect on your day and serve as a memento for years to come.
20. Do something creative every day.
Paint, draw, sing, play a musical instrument, write a poem, do cross-stitch—whatever creative endeavor you enjoy, do it every day for 30 days. You may discover a new talent—or rejuvenate an old passion that you forgot about!
21. Write down what you’re grateful for.
Feeling thankful for a few things every day can help you feel happier and more positive—and it can improve your physical health too. For 30 days, write down what you’re grateful for and see how it improves your mood!
Which of these challenges will you be trying? Leave me a comment and let me know! We’ll all root for you here!
The next time you’re struggling to accomplish a goal, turn it into a challenge. It’ll help you stay focused and will feel awesome when you complete it!