When we think about improving our professional lives or advancing our careers, we usually think about courses, conferences and seminars, joining professional organizations, and attending associated local events. Writers attend readings, engineers go to engineering symposiums. Whatever it is we do, we often do it within the framework of our profession.
But if you find yourself in a rut, it may be time to look outside the professional bubble for other methods you can use to reinvigorate your career and jumpstart your passion for the profession.
Think about something you have always wanted to do, and devise a plan to do it for 30 days. The results may surprise you.
Google engineer Matt Cutts gave an inspiring Ted Talk on the effects 30-day challenges had on him. His approach was simple: Make a list of things he had always wanted to do, and do them for 30 days.
Matt Cutts, self-proclaimed computer nerd, summited Mt. Kilimanjaro with the confidence he gained by completing 30-day challenges.
Why 30 Days?
In his classic self-help book Psycho Cybernetics, Maxwell Malz made the now widely accepted assertion that it takes a minimum of 21 days to establish a habit, based on observations of his patients as well as himself (it wasn’t the most scientific study).
However, recent studies suggest that the average amount of time it takes for a new behavior to become a habit is actually 66 days. If your desire is to permanently alter a habit, then you might need to add a month to your 30-day challenge. But, this blog isn’t about adopting new habits and making them stick, it’s about embracing personal challenges in an effort to awaken your confidence, change your perception of yourself and presumptions of what you think you can accomplish, and help you get out of your professional rut. Thirty days is long enough to do that.
Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. – Robert Collier
What happens at the end of a 30-day challenge?
When we achieve a goal, our internal reward system releases the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine has several functions in the brain, including motivation, memory, behavior and cognition, pleasure, and reward. These small but challenging wins can start to affect the way we perceive ourselves, and how we face challenges in our personal and professional lives.
Complete a 30-day challenge, and let dopamine do its thing.
When you’ve completed a 30-day challenge, you may feel invigorated, or you may feel relieved. As someone who completed the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge last year, I can say that you will likely feel both. You will gain new confidence and a new outlook on what exactly you are capable of.
While affirmations from others make us feel good, when we set a goal outside of our comfort zone and successfully follow through, the sense of achievement we feel is even more powerful. According to Richard Cytowic, M.D., the key to self-esteem is accomplishment. So if you find yourself riddled with self-doubt in the workplace, try accomplishing something in your personal life. The increase in self-esteem will likely carry over, and be just the boost you need to volunteer for that challenging project or apply for a promotion.
Forget compliments from others. When you complete a 30-day challenge, your self-confidence will soar.
Some Ideas to Try for 30 Days
If a 30-day challenge sounds like the perfect way to tune-up your self-motivator, consider trying one of the following for a month (No. Not February.):
Read for an hour every day
Give up TV
Adopt a vegan diet
Make all of your purchases with actual cash
Practice an instrument for 30 minutes
Watch a Ted Talk every day
For more ideas, check out this list.
30-day challenges are a great way to meet personal goals, and the psychological effect of those small victories can have a huge impact on how you perceive yourself as you move forward in your career. So establish a list of things you have always wanted to do, grab your calendar, and get started. It may take 66 days to form a new habit, but for finding your passion and reigniting your enthusiasm, often 30 days is all you need.