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.