Most of you have seen and many have probably participated in some of the various lifestyle challenges that circulate through the Internet… challenges like zero spending for a certain number of days, cooking one complete meal from scratch, or purging a specified number of items each day.

Ideally, participation in one of these challenges would be a positive first step to a changing lifestyle, but too often the challenge itself becomes the beginning and the end of the lifestyle change. The time passes, the challenge ends, and everything goes back to the way it used to be.

Yellow daylily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus)

The person who didn’t buy anything for the specified number of days compensates by spending big the next week. The person who cooks from scratch for the designated time goes back to the easier-to-prepare processed foods or take-out meals. And the purged items are quickly replaced with even more clutter.

If the external stimulus of a challenge works for you, by all means participate… but if you’re really serious about making a permanent change in your life, consider the challenge not as a goal, but as a first step in a continuing process.

Real lasting change will come only from consistent behavior that doesn’t have a start and an end date.

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Comments

Axel

How true. When we put the emphasis on the process rather than the result, we rob ourselves of the value of real change. How sad when people focus on the challenge itself rather than the big picture that is truly important.

Tom G.

The thing that concerns me about some of these challenges is that the way they’re set up, the method is more important than the goal. Like the ones where you don’t spend any money for a week or ten days, that makes the money more important than it really ought to be. Money is a tool that you use wisely to make a good life for your family, it’s not some mysterious force that you have to subdue before it gets the better of you. It’s much better to learn some money managing techniques that will serve you well for the rest of your life than to keep trying to go ‘cold turkey’ for a week at a time.

Sandy

EXACTLY! I’ve been thinking this for a long time. There was one challenge I saw once, where you weren’t supposed to buy groceries for some period of time, close to a month I think. I kept reading the entries for that one because I wondered how people were going to do it. What happened was that people stocked up on groceries before the challenge and then really stocked up again after the challenge. I bet they spent a lot more money before and after than they would have if they had just been shopping normally, I don’t see what was accomplished by the whole thing except for entertainment.

Steady and longterm, that’s the only way to do it with anything worth doing.

TechSamaritan

We have actually taken a slower, and incremental approach. Instead of doing buy-nothing/x-mile/etc. challenges, we just pick one thing that we are going to change permanently, and do it. One of the recent ones was this: stop buying cheap cheese from the supermarket, and instead buy artisan local organic cheese. In order to do this in a way that is actually simplifying, we reduced out cheese intake, bought in bulk (13+ lb. wheel), determined to stretch the one purchase for a year, and used the stronger cheese as a condiment, not as a central part of the dish. It meant that cheese dishes (quesadillas, grilled cheese, mac + cheese) became rare, and special, and tasted so much better. Since we only had one variety of cheese, if we wanted to have soft/fresh cheese, we will have to make it ourselves. So far the mozzarella is good, but not the ricotta.

The change was not drastic, but it did have a lasting impact on the quality of life (much tastier), the cost (use less, buy in bulk), the health value (grass-fed, organic, raw), and the local economy. Is it simplifying? Yes! We only buy cheese once a year, from the same farm, in the same variety. Cheese is no longer on our shopping list, and we never need to compare $/oz.

Faith

I tend to agree with all of you….steady as she goes…this is a day in/out
sort of thing….while these contests can be fun…and connects us together for a while….when it is over…then what….? I have the urge to participate
also…but I need to make it personal for me and my family in order for it work… These type of contests and things are good that they get people
thinking, and make the suggestion to begin something….but it is up to the
individual to make the commitment, and make it personal to themselves…

Kim

Challenges are good for building a group of supporters for those who have a hard time sticking to lifestyle changes. But if one doesn’t stick to the ideals they’ve decided to follow after the challenge, the challenge was for naught.

I’ve been challenging myself versus following a challenge. It seems to me that setting ongoing goals for yourself is much more beneficial than jumping on someone else’s bandwagon. My personal challenge is to build up and maintain a 72 hour kit and a three month supply of food. This is an open ended project, as food and supplies must be rotated to keep them in date.

NWO

I agree, I have stopped buying clothes, I have enough, I have the skills to mend, up-cycle and adapt those I have. I am not saying I will never buys clothes again… that is not possible as things do eventually wear out, or maybe I may have a big event that I need to dress for but when I look at what I own and what I really NEED to own, the difference is huge. As my father once told me when I was small ‘clothes don’t maketh the man’ I didnt understand it back then but I see how true that is today’ I have no one to impress and I feel comfortable in my own skin.