Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The 28-Day Challenge

“They were under royal orders, which determined their daily activity.” Nehemiah 11:23

You are under royal orders.

God has a destiny and purpose for your life. He has a plan that only YOU can fulfil on this earth. Many of you already know your purpose. (If you don’t, here’s a classic book that will help bring you some clarity.)

But does your purpose determine how you live your daily life?

Here’s some news for you.

God wants you to achieve your purpose.

If it’s writing – God wants you to write.

If it’s mothering – God wants you to mother.

If it’s leading others – God wants you to lead.

If it’s helping, encouraging, serving, teaching, whatever the case may be – God wants you to get the necessary training and skills and live it out to the best of your abilities.

For a lot of us, there’s a chasm between our life purpose and our current reality. Why? Because it’s easy to think of our dreams as something far-off and grandiose. Something we’ll get around to “one day.” When we seem unable to reach our full potential, it’s easy to blame the usual culprits – our current circumstances, our limitations, our finances, the abilities we were born with, or of course, our lack of time.
Image by digitalart,

Ah, time. We’ve all been gifted with the same amount of it. And how we use it is, of course, the key. The power to achieve our dreams doesn’t lie in the next self-help book or the next motivational speaker to pray over you at church. It lies in our daily habits.

It’s that simple. Your habits determine your destiny.

I love that verse I shared at the start from the book of Nehemiah, because it tells me that the little stuff matters to God. The daily routine, the things we do over and over again, day in and day out – that’s the seemingly unimportant stuff that shapes our destiny. And because we’re under royal orders from the King of Kings, our daily activity had better reflect our respect for what he wants to accomplish in our lives.

Oh, boy, am I ever preaching to myself here.

And here is exactly where a lot of us start to feel a bit defeated. The problem most of us have when we look at our lives is the dozen different things screaming simultaneously for improvement. So typically, in a burst of enthusiasm, we decide to make a drastic 24-hour turnaround in which we will overhaul absolutely everything in our life. We decide we’ll go from couch-potato junk-food-eater to organic vegan athlete overnight, pray for an hour a day, home-school our children Montessori-style while also teaching them Suzuki violin and studying on the side, de-clutter the house from top to bottom, volunteer at a homeless shelter, and while we’re at it, we’ll also write ten thousand words every day on our novel while doing one-handed push-ups.

Um… yeah.

Lean in a little closer and I’ll tell you a secret. This is important. It’s a secret that has the potential to change your life.

Are you ready?
Image by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

Here it is.

If you want to change your life, focus on changing ONE THING.

Did you get that?

One thing. No cheating. Not three things, or even just two.

Start with one.

Do that one thing every day for a month. Chart your progress. (Try using a chart like THIS one.) If you miss a day, begin again. This allows you to truly master that habit and make it a part of your life.

Then, once you’ve successfully incorporated one new habit into your life for a whole month, the following month you can focus on changing one more thing.

Are you getting this? Sure, it takes time to do it this way. But look at the end result. Do you want your habits to actually stick? Or do you want to continue down the path you’ve always gone - trying to change everything, and actually changing nothing?

So… are you up for a challenge?

Here’s how this is going to work.

1. Choose a habit
Choose one habit you’d like to incorporate into your life. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant it may seem to someone else. This is YOUR life, and small, consistent action is better than no action. Here are some examples:

- To write 500 words a day.
- To make your bed every morning as soon as you get up.
- To spend 15 minutes of quality time with each child, every day.
- To get up half an hour earlier to have a daily Quiet Time.
- To exercise for 20 minutes a day, even if it’s just jogging around your clothesline.
- To deal with an email as soon as you open it.
- To wash the dishes each night before you go to bed.
- To spend 15 minutes a day de-cluttering or organizing an area of your house.
- To drink 8 glasses of water a day.
- To make a menu plan and cook dinner every week-night instead of ordering takeaway.

You might look at that list and want to do all of those things, and more. But don’t be tempted to fall into that old approach.

Choose one. Just one. Chances are, your one habit might look completely different from the things on this list. That’s okay. Choose one thing that is meaningful to you, that will ultimately help you toward your purpose. One small thing you know you can accomplish.

2. Make a plan
You may need to plan your day into a routine to find the time to incorporate your new habit. My One Word for this year was ABIDE. With three preschool age children, I knew that spending time with God each day was not just going to happen. So I drew up a routine. (See left). Every day we have different scheduled activities, so each day is slightly different. But by following my routine, I have been able to stick with a quiet time every day. Once I had that down, I worked on my next priority – spending quality “Focus” time with my kids each day, one on one. This, too, had to find a place in the routine, or it would not happen.

Now that these two areas have become a habit, it’s time for me to carve out
time for my writing again. It’s taken me a while to find my feet with this after baby number three, but I know that it’s time. That will be my focus for this challenge. So, I drew myself up a star chart. I know, I know. I’m a nerd. I’m also a teacher. It’s a teacher thing. Why should our kids get all the shiny gold stars? 

3. Share the challenge!
None of us are born disciplined. It’s a state that goes against our natural inclinations. So why not share this with a friend, and get them to jump on board too? Let’s get some momentum going and cheer each other on.

When you comment on this post, your name will be entered into a draw for a $10 Amazon gift card. Tweet or Facebook this post, and you’ll get an additional two entries per share. Check back in two weeks’ time, and we’ll take stock together and see how we’re all going – and you’ll have another chance to throw some more entries into the hat. In four weeks time, we’re going to celebrate together as we look at what new habits we’ve incorporated into our lives. If you’ve stuck with your plan that whole time, I’ll double your entries. Then I’ll draw a winner.

Don’t you just love a bit of extra incentive? But you know what? If you take this challenge, you’re already a winner. It’s your life, and you only get one of them to use. Let’s choose to glorify God through our daily habits.

So, let’s get started. In the comments, why don’t you share the one new habit you’d like to incorporate into your life?

Instead of doing nothing about everything, do something about one thing.

You can do that. I know you can.

Who’s with me?

Karen Schravemade lives Downunder and likes to confuse her American friends by using weird Australian figures of speech. When she's not chasing after two small boys or cuddling her baby girl, she spends her spare minutes daydreaming about the intricate lives of characters who don't actually exist. Find her on her website and Twitter.


Charity Schilb said...

This is such a great idea! I feel inspired! I am going to try and do one good thing for every member of my family every day. Whether that be washing the dishes, changing a diaper, or anything else they need help with, I am going to do something good for everyone.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

I love this, Charity! Have fun with the challenge - glad you're on board!

Julia M. Reffner said...


This is an awesome post! Discipline doesn't come naturally to me for sure. For the last few weeks our new habit has been giving each subject a specific time block for homeschooling. That has been pretty successful. This week my new habit has been to add 15 minutes of Noah's school into each hour block. Trying to figure out how to balance him in the mix before we start Kindergarten with him in the Fall. And I have plenty more habits to work on when I'm done with those. Thanks so much, this is a great post, Karen :)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Karen, I love this post--it's right up my alley of being an organizer. Okay, I have my first "one thing." I'm going to spend 10 minutes a day decluttering our house. I just blogged about this yesterday, and I need to put feet to my words. I'm beginning today. I'm so glad you shared this. :)

I'm going to post it on Facebook and Twitter. :) Thanks for sharing it!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Karen,

How true is this! I want to write better, mediate, lose weight, exercise, ... I could go on and on. But each thing requires so much energy.

So focusing on ONE thing is brilliant.

Thanks for the tips!


Cindy Q said...

Great post! Yes, one thing. I do tend to try three or four "little" things, that should be easy because they are "little." But failure follows. Ha.

Ashley Clark said...

Karen, I just love your post today, and I think it's so true! We can become overwhelmed when we think of all the changes we'd like to make in our lives, so we just do nothing instead. But little steps make all the difference. Thanks for sharing!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Julia, I love hearing about what you're doing on the home front with those kiddos of yours. Hats off to homeschooling Mums - you are amazing!!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Jeanne, cool! You can do a lot in 10 minutes. I bet your house looks amazing by the time we're done. Let us know how you go! And thank you for sharing! Extra entries into the hat for you. ;-)

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Susan Anne, exactly. Energy! One thing we never seem to have quite enough of. Staring down everything at once not only feels overwhelming, it really does sap our energy levels. But succeeding at one thing gives us a burst of energy that helps us along to our next goal.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Cindy Q, oh, you bet we can all identify with that! Thank you for commenting, and all the best with the challenge!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Ashley, yes, as a very "all or nothing" person, that has been my downfall many a time! I'm learning that small steps are good. I've just gotta be a bit more patient. :-)