This morning, someone mentioned a post I had allegedly written about “30-day trials”.
And I thought “That’s weird…that post doesn’t exist. Even though I have been doing such trials for years.”
So I guess it’s time to write this one. I’m definitely not inventing the warm water here, probably picked it up from a book. But hey, enjoy it any way 😉
What Is a 30 Day Trial?
Before software programmers started disabling all sorts of functions in the trial version of their program to annoy you, their sales tactics were a lot more fun. Usually you downloaded a piece of software and could legally use it for free for only 30 days. After that you had to buy a registration key if you ever wanted to use it again (or, you know, you could look for it in some sketchy corner of the internet where everyone spoke Russian and all the ads promised sex with single mom’s in your neighborhood who somehow had Russian names).
The strength of this “30-day trial method” was that you often downloaded something just to check it out, with no real intent of buying it. But after 30 days, using the software had somehow become ingrained in your daily habits, so you really wanted to keep it.
This worked because of the way humans themselves are programmed. When we believe we are only going to try something for a month and then stop with it, that doesn’t seem like a very big deal. Investing in expensive software that hasn’t convinced you of its merit yet, now that’s something you’d rather think through before doing it. So without the trial, you’d probably just keep not using it because buying it is a bigger commitment.
Of course, knowing this, you can use the same principle to your advantage when you are trying to implement any other good habit in your life (like doing the dishes, running every morning, or sending me a 100 bucks every day for 30 days)
Most changes seem like a big deal up front. In fact, they seem like such a big deal that most people believe they can’t do it. If you’ve ever made any serious lifestyle changes before, you have probably been through this conversation before:
-”So, you’ve quit smoking?”
-”Wow, that’s so awesome! But I could never do that.”
Of course you know the person who says that could do it right away if they want to. But for them, it seems like too much of a change. Just like there’s other changes that seem way too daunting for you (like going to the gym every day, not masturbating, or no longer paying people to robotically rape cows so that you have some liquid to pour over your corn flakes).
What’s happening here is that we literally imagine how different our life will be when we can no longer do what we are habitually doing right now. (Doomed to a life without alcohol… FOREVER!!!! OH NO!!!) From our current perspective, that reality seems like a constant struggle every day. And let’s be honest, who wants to work hard for the next 50 years just to keep a simple habit? It seems overwhelming just to think about having to stick with the new habit for the rest of your life when you’re currently doing the exact opposite.
The Illusion That Good Habits Are Hard to Maintain
Most of us believe that good habits are very hard to stick with. That you need lots of willpower to keep them in place.
I remember when I first started eating healthier, that one of my friends asked me “So you never eat spaghetti anymore? That’s horrible. And super weird. I could never live like that.”
But guess what, when you don’t have spaghetti for a month. You suddenly realize it doesn’t make your life any worse. You can probably live the rest of your life without spaghetti if you want. Or you can make healthy spaghetti using lentil pasta.
Good habits are not harder to keep than bad habits. It’s only the initial 10 days or something that are hard because you are making changes. Once you’re past day 30, most habits cost you little to no willpower to keep going. A lot of times you actually feel better than before you made the change (and if not, by all means, go back to what you did before 😉 )
The thing is that our brain mostly wants things to stay the same as they are right now. So we’ll imagine some horrible future that doesn’t exist, just to prevent us from changing the habit.
And this is where the 30-day trials come in handy. Just like you don’t want to pay for expensive software without trying it, but they can kinda of sneak you into liking it with their trial versions, you can trick your brain past the initial resistance by making it a trial.
If instead of quitting sugar, you just tell yourself “I’m not going to eat sugar for 30 days, and then I’ll go back to life as it is right now.” You can just treat it as a fun experiment. There’s no horrible future where you can never have candy any more, there’s only a short little test of your willpower.
And if 30 days seems to much, just mentally take it one day it a time.
Hang a calendar on your wall and mark off every day that you succeeded. After a while you’ll feel great about yourself just by looking at your own streak.
The End Result
As with the software, trying out something you know is good for you, for just 30 days, will usually result in you discovering you like it. The idea of working out every morning seems like a lot of work at first for example, like it requires you dragging your body out of bed to torture yourself for the rest of your life. But usually after 30 days, you do it without thinking. There’s no effort involved any more. You just do it and you enjoy doing it.
Just commit to not skipping the habit a single day for 30 days, mark the date in your calendar, and then decide if you’re going to stick with it or not.
You’ll have broken the pattern of your old habit, and have 30 days of life experience to look back on that can help you evaluate whether you like the new one better or not.
If you go 30 days without TV, and realize afterwards that you really, really miss it. By all means, just go back to your TV. You’ve now discovered that it was not compulsive behavior but actually something you really enjoy doing to relax. At least you now know it’s a choice you made, not one made for you by addictive patterns in your brain 🙂
Dive Into the Unknown
Now here’s were the fun part begins. Besides just installing good, healthy habits, you can also use these trials to do some wacky experiments.
An example would be when I gave up sleeping for a while. Why not experience what life is like as a homeless person for a month? Or only speak pig latin? (Please don’t do that last one when I’m around) I’ve heard of couples who fixed the issues in their relationship simply by having sex every day for a month, even when they didn’t feel like it.
30 day trials are a great way to discover things about yourself and the world as well. For example, I used to think eating gluten-free was just another fad created by fear-based marketeers to give the health nuts something to whine about. Until I tried it for 30 days out of curiosity and suddenly started to feel much better than I ever felt before.
The thing is that these days, there’s a lot of theories about everything. For every article saying something is good or bad, or true or false, you can find another one that proves the opposite. And lots of times they’re both scientifically correct.
So when you’re not sure if something is right for you or not , or when you’re not sure if you can do something…
Why not try it out and see for yourself?
It’s a lot more fun than doing 30 days of research only to conclude you’re still not sure of it 😉
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