The 10-Day Challenge

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of the year. I love the smell in the air—the smell of change.  The air is trying to hang onto summer but knows winter is right around the corner. Thanksgiving celebrates our gratitude for our achievements as a community. But with accomplishment comes a change in the air, making it a logical time to take stock of your goals and of yourself. For some, it is a time of frustration. They think about all they wanted to do, but have failed to get done. They don’t understand why, but they get started going great guns on their goals, but then lose steam not long afterward.

I think the reason for this frustration is the dichotomy between one’s self-image and their circumstances. The result is a lower self-esteem. For many of us, the missing element is self-discipline. In a world of so many commitments, so many options, we can find ourselves making then breaking promises… especially to ourselves.

I’m like a lot of people: I don’t want to let others down. If I make a commitment, I want to keep it. I liked the feeling I got when others felt they could depend on me. I would interrupt whatever I was doing to help someone else. Often, this led to the breaking or deferring of commitments to those closest to me, or to myself. It is easy to lose track of your priorities when you are so busy helping others.

When we agree to take on a commitment for another, we are agreeing to place value on their priorities. But what are yourpriorities? Do the priorities of the other party align with yours? Yes, I’m saying not to take on commitments from others whose requests don’t align with your priorities. I would even go further and say that you should understand what are your highest priorities and make every effort to avoid accepting any encumbrances that don’t correspond with them. Individuals who perform at the highest levels—Olympic athletes, brain surgeons, and captains of industry—are very focused on the goals they are pursuing. Aren’t your goals worthy of the same treatment?

Regaining our self-esteem, being able to trust ourselves again, comes from developing self-discipline. A great way that I have found to regain confidence in your ability to follow through on commitments to yourself is to create the opportunity to prove to yourself that you can be trusted. Why not take a 10-day challenge? Here’s how it works:

  • Pick something you know you can and should do daily, ideally something that will help you move forward with one of your priorities. We will call this your Action Habit. If your health is a priority, perhaps it is drinking 8 cups of water a day or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at the office could be possible Action Habits. Remember, the Action Habit must be something you know you can do and feel you should do—just for the next 10 days.
  • Now, write down your Action Habit. Example: For the next 10 days, I will take the stairs rather than the elevator at work. I have a great little form you can use to record your Action Habit and track your progress here.
  • When you get up in the morning and at the end of each day, review your Action Habit sheet. Remind yourself what you want to do.
  • At the end of the day, determine whether you did your Action Habit and record your progress in the table. You can also record any comments about how you felt while performing the Action Habit.
  • If you Action Habit revolves around your work, skip the days you don’t work and only keep track of days where you have an opportunity to work on your commitment.

When you complete the 10-day challenge, you are free to renew the challenge, select a new Action Habit, or walk away all together. After all, your commitment was only for 10 days. The key is to take action for the period of time you committed to take it. That is being good for your word.

Remember, we are learning a new skill. If you are undertaking this challenge, you probably don’t have confidence yet that you can be consistent in the area of your life that is embodied by your Action Habit. So start with something you know you can do for 10 days now and prove you can be true to yourself.

As you take action, you will feel good about yourself and start to win more self-respect, increasing your self-esteem. But be careful. If you say you are going to do this and then don’t do everything in your power to follow through, the reverse will happen. You will damage your self-esteem. So, if you really aren’t willing to perform your Action Habit for 10 days, choose another Action Habit!

Why not give yourself the gift of self-discipline this holiday season by taking the 10-day challenge? If you’d like to get more information on this, please feel free to drop me an email at or give me a call at (703) 622-5282.