The 90-Day Challenge

by Mark on March 16, 2010 · 6 comments

We are closing in on the conclusion of the first quarter of 2010. I like to think in terms of quarters because a quarter isn’t so short that you can’t get much done, and it isn’t so long that the attainment of your goals feels like it will never arrive. A quarter is 3 months or about 90 days. Think about what you could accomplish in 90 days if you really put your mind to it.

Measure Your Progress

It’s important to do a self-assessment regularly to see what kind of progress we have made. I talked about my areas of focus in my post Design Your Life to Get More of What You Want, and my progress can be best be described as hit or miss, with far too many misses for my satisfaction. Let’s take a look at my areas of focus and my progress:

  1. Location and time independence. Here I’ve made some progress, but not even close to my potential. This blog is part of it, and I’ve been at it for 2.5 months so far. I haven’t missed posting on a weekday yet, and consistency is important to being a successful blogger. However, I need to do more about improving the website design, and I need to take steps to reach out to a broader audience. I need to do a better job of making this blog “a real-time narrative of my experiments with lifestyle design,” which is the mission I set for myself on my first blog post. I also need to pursue other business opportunities. I’m considering publishing e-books and some other possibilities, but I can’t continue to procrastinate just because I’m not certain of how to accomplish it.
  2. Health and fitness. Here I have made very little progress. I have managed to keep off the 15 pounds that I lost at the end of last year, which I’m obviously happy about, but I haven’t lost any additional weight. I also had begun running again (on my treadmill), but I quit when I aggravated my recurring lower back problem.
  3. Minimalism. I made some progress here, but not nearly enough. I have gone through quite a few papers and put them in a box to take to a shredding service. I have set up Dropbox and Mozy in order to back up my files automatically so that I can go digital. I have some other changes as well, but I still have a tremendous amount of clutter, and my progress has been inconsistent.
  4. Find a girlfriend. I have made almost no progress here, but that is mainly because I never intended to really focus on this area in the first quarter. Considering that I am an accountant and that my busy season lasts until April 15, I didn’t think it would be wise to work overtime, devote time to the first three areas of focus, and then try to find a girlfriend on top of that.

So what went wrong?

The biggest thing that has been holding me back from accomplishing more is my habit patterns. In fact, I think that this is what holds most people back even if they genuinely want to make changes in their lives. Our habit patterns are comfortable and are the path  of least resistance. In my post Do Your Habits Support Your Goals?, I said that willpower always runs out. It’s true. Achieving difficult goals absolutely requires having habits that support those goals, because willpower isn’t enough.

Right now my habits don’t support my current goals, which is why I haven’t made the progress that I wanted. That needs to change. I’m first going to revise and update my goals (within the same areas of focus) for the 2nd quarter, and then I’m going to focus on 3 separate habits, one for each month of the quarter. I haven’t decided on what habits to work on yet, although I have an idea for the first month. I basically have about two weeks to come up with a plan that will maximize my chances of making the habit stick.

My 90-Day Challenge

I am throwing down a challenge to myself and anyone else out there who wants to join me. The challenge is to make some kind of radical shift in your life in the 2nd quarter, which is roughly 90 days. The challenge begins April 1st and ends June 30th, so begin planning what you want to do. Use the power of zero-based thinking to figure out what you really want.

Set a BHAG (pronounced BEE-hag) — a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I don’t recommend setting too many goals (certainly 5 or less), because that will dilute your focus. Decide on your most important goal, be relentless, and achieve the crap out of it. This doesn’t mean that you can’t make changes in more than one area of your life, but your odds of success will be much higher if you don’t spread yourself too thin. If you decide to set more than one goal, decide on one goal to be your main goal.

Begin thinking about what habits you will need to develop to support the achievement of your goals. You will probably come up with several candidates. Select one and only one to work on for the first 30 days. The temptation will be to work on multiple habits at the same time, but it isn’t very effective. One habit change will be challenging enough.

So are you up for the challenge? Are you ready to test yourself to see what radical shifts you can make in 90 days?


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