20 challenges

A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step… The same story happens with any goal, to anybody in the world. How to become the best version of yourself and achieve all your goals, with minimum effort and maximum outcome? I call it ’20 challenges’ – my own methodology of personal growth.

How it started

Back in 2014 I was struggling with what many people ambitious people can relate too – I wanted to do so, so much but didn’t know how. Get this amazing job, start a blog, travel more, learn how to wake up without 100 snooze alarms… As you may realize, just writing down all my aspirations made me doubt if this is all feasible. More than 30 New Year’s Resolutions, among which I achieved maybe 10%… classic story.

The point was to change the strategy. Then, just by trying, trying and failing, trying and succeeding and then again failing and learning, I figured out what I now call ’20 challenges’. The idea is super simple but uncompromised – EVERY DAY do something that will push you closer to achieving your goals. If I want to learn how to master regular sleep with a perfect morning routine, in order to be on my productivity peak all the time, I need to repeat the desired morning routine every morning. To lose 5 kg of weight, I need to follow the healthy eating and exercise EVERY DAY.

How much simpler it can be, right? I bet you read a similar article a few times already. But I won’t sugarcoat it – pursuing 20 challenges is a pain in the ass. At least at the beginning. But as soon as I started seeing results, I kept moving forward faster. Just 10 more pages of the book before going to sleep. 5 more words of the new language I’m learning. Contact the friend you haven’t heard of in few weeks. And on it goes.

Productivity training for the competitive and impatient ones

Let me clear something out. The idea of inserting habits into your personal growth journey is not at all innovative. It’s a wisdom known for ages, and every personal coach will tell you the same. Just google ‘power of daily habits’ to find lots of interesting literature about the topic.

When I structured my life into 20 daily challenges, I started to be clearer what I want to achieve and how to do it. I started to actually fully accomplish my dreams (sorry, I call it ‘plans’). Bottom line: it’s so freaking rewarding. And it works.

20 challenges makes you compete with the only ‘rival’ you should have – yourself. It’s not a boring productivity course – it’s an exciting game you play with yourself, where every day is a new land to conquer and every choice makes you win or lose points. Childish, huh? Well, whatever works for you – for me, gamification is a cool strategy to turn any project into pure, addicting fun.

20 challenges - personal growth

9 tips for the beginners

Ready to give it a shot? Here’s how to get started, step by step:

  1. Prepare the list of your yearly goals. Tip: make it based on the famous 3 most important questions (my favorite goal-setter strategy). It’s not about quantity, but quality. Just make sure the final list consists of the things that ‘scare you a little and excite you a lot’. This is crucial, otherwise you’ll lose motivation after day 3.
  2. Divide your goals into daily steps = challenges. It doesn’t have to 20. But it has to be satisfying level of what you call ‘an exciting challenge’. Want to learn a new language? Make sure you learn 10 new words/have a 1 conversation/complete online course class every day. Want to deal better with your finances? Create a budget and ensure that every day you follow it according to the plan. Want to finish your master thesis with a high note? Insert working on it every day; whether it’s reading a new book, writing one page more or just researching new topics to cover.
  3. To make your life easier, connect your daily challenges with monthly goals. These ones of course are milestones to achieve yearly plans. For example: yearly goal is to visit 12 new places. Monthly goals will be to go to 1 new place each month. Daily goal: either research the place, plan the trip or actually go on a trip (depending what’s your progress).
  4. Reward yourself. For me it’s really just seeing the % of progress I have made. Ticking the cell green at the end of the day gives this incredible sense of achievement and being proud of myself, even if it’s just 1 out of 20 more cells to put green. Don’t even mention my feelings when I see ALL 20 CELLS marked green – pure happiness! Again, find whatever works on you. Say, if you complete 100% of the challenges per week, you’ll have a dinner out, or you’ll watch that favorite movie you haven’t seen in a while. Create your own game out of it.
  5. Don’t get disappointed when you don’t fulfill it all every day. Just take a learning why didn’t you do it and improve next time. It is not a competition, but a game you need to enjoy playing – otherwise you’ll get frustrated with yourself.
  6. Analyze and adjust. One list doesn’t have to stay the same forever. For example, once I had a challenge to ‘learn something new every day’. After some time I found it very easy to ‘cheat’ with. I would tick the task as done even if I just read a random news from a newspaper. Then I adjusted it to ‘listen to a new music artist/read a work-related article’. This way I see more progress with the challenge as I actually DO learn something new, every day.
  7. Insert the tasks in your daily routine. Ideally you rarely will have to find an exclusive time of the day to complete the challenge, but as you progress with a day, you progress with achieving your goals. For instance, I meditate before breakfast, listen to music while commuting, learn new Portuguese words while standing in a line in a supermarket, exercise after coming back home from work and read before going to sleep. Use mobile apps and reminders of any sort, to make your life easier and more intuitive.
  8. Keep track of your progress and evaluate the achievements. Make monthly sum ups to get back on track and congratulate yourself with getting closer to fulfilling your dreams (sorry: ‘goals’). I use a very simple Excel sheet, where I mark the cells either green or red, depending if it’s done or not. Every night, before going to sleep, I just take a look on my amazing Excel and evaluate the day. It doesn’t take more than 5 min.
  9. Enjoy it! Personal growth should be a thrilling adventure, not an exhausting hike. And, if it works on you, share your challenges with a friend – you’ll motivate each other.

My own game consists of 20 small challenges that I strive to complete every day. They’re directly connected with my yearly goals and bring me closer to achieving what I want to achieve. I tend to adjust them every month or two, to make sure I’m getting the maximum outcome with the minimum effort.

Advice from Ben Franklin

What good have I done today? – asked himself Benjamin Franklin every single evening, before going to sleep. Logically, to reply with a positive answer, he needed to make sure every day was filled with SOMETHING GOOD. And here’s where it all starts: daily habits that make life-long impact. This is what 20 challenges is all about – inserting small actions that, quite invisibly, become your habits – the most powerful tool you can have while achieving any goal you want.

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