Every system, including you and your life, has a limiting factor—one resource or trait that most limits how much the system can grow. If you want to push your life to new levels, the single most powerful way to do that is to accurately identify what your limiting factor is and focus every ounce of your being on deactivating it.
When you do this, you expand your capacity versus changing your conditions. Most of what we do when we set goals is make lists of conditions we want to change: I want to launch this business. Grow this business. Get a new boss. Get a new job.
But conditions are never the things that really limit your success. When you focus on limiting factors, you grow your capacity to do two things:
- Master the ability to change whatever conditions you want, whenever you want.
- Experience limitless love, joy, enthusiasm, ease and flow right now, where you’re at, regardless of conditions.
These two things will change your entire trajectory.
I’ve found something that works to remove all sorts of limiting factors: 30-day Challenges. When I use the word challenges with a capital “C,” I’m talking about something very particular:
- Doing a certain activity (or, I suppose, not doing a certain activity)…
- That I don’t currently do…
- At a certain frequency…
- For a certain number of days.
I think of challenges as self-directed projects to change my behavior or spark some personal growth or development. Sometimes I want a mindset shift or to make (or break) a habit. Or I just have a sort of big, capacity-building project I want to finish.
Here are three 30-day challenges that have worked wonders for removing some of the most common limiting factors on myself.
1. 30-Day Writing Challenge
I’ve run a couple of 30-Day Writing Challenges. The challenge is just to write something every day for 30 days, but you can add any guidelines you like, such as a minimum word count (I recommend aiming for 750 words a day) or a particular approach to the writing.
Here are three ways to frame this challenge successfully:
- Mental Windshield Wiper: A daily freewriting practice, a la Morning Pages, where you just do a brain dump first thing in the morning. It clears your emotional slate before you start the day and clarifies your thinking.
- Purposeful Progress: I’ve seen people use their writing challenge to crank up momentum on a long-stalled project, get out of perfectionism and procrastination, and just start creating. I’ve had participants develop e-courses, write plays and write 30 blog posts in the 30 days. I’ve also seen people write well over 25,000 words—that’s half of a book!
- Prompting Personal Growth: You can use various writing prompts to spark reflection, metabolize past experiences, and move forward with new learnings and mindset shifts. In my free challenge, I provide the prompts. But if you want to do your own, any and everything you read, meditate on or see online can become fodder for reflection and a powerful prompt.
Doing a 30-Day Writing Challenge will increase your capacity for groundedness, churn up your momentum for shipping projects versus procrastinating, and spark productivity, creativity and innovation.
2. The Necessary Endings Challenge
Reading Henry Cloud’s book Necessary Endings triggered a series of powerful shifts in my life and my business. It gave me permission to release relationship patterns, habits and lots of projects that were dysfunctional or draining resources from the projects that mattered the most.
The idea of turning Cloud’s pruning approach into a challenge is to build your capacity to spot necessary endings and handle the hard decisions and conversations involved in putting an end to the projects and patterns that aren’t working.
Here’s how it works:
- Spend Week 1 brainstorming every morning for 15 minutes on these questions:
- What projects, relationships or patterns in your life or your work are either mediocre, ailing or totally dysfunctional?
- For each thing you identify, is there any reason to have hope that these patterns will change? Are the people who aren’t performing doing things of their own volition to improve? Are projects things that can be leveled up, and is it worth doing that, considering the other things you could do with those resources? Are broken relationship patterns showing signs of change, or are there external forces at work you can reasonably expect to change them (e.g., therapy, coaching, etc.)?
- On the last day of Week 1, pick one, two or three “necessary endings”—projects or patterns that aren’t working and show no signs of hope—to work on for the rest of the challenge. The bigger the necessary ending you choose, the more time you should give yourself to do it. And although you might be tempted to go on an ending spree, you might want to limit yourself to ending one thing at a time.
- Tackle each of these endings the remaining weeks:
- First, plan the ending. Are you ending a relationship or just a pattern? How do you plan to pull it off? Will you get resistance? Will you need help? What’s your ending strategy?
- Then, metabolize the experience. Process it, ideally in writing. What can you keep from the experience that serves you? And what do you need to release?
- Finally, execute the ending and memorialize, in writing, the recapture of time, money, energy and even joy that you experience once it’s done. Keep in mind that breaking relationship patterns can often be an ongoing project versus a one-and-done moment in time.
This Necessary Endings Challenge builds your capacity to identify and execute needed endings to patterns, projects and relationships. It teaches you how to pull lessons from things that aren’t working when you bring them to a close. It helps you recoup the energy you’ve been putting toward mediocre things so you can reinvest it in the projects and relationships that matter the most.
3. The Contribution Game Challenge
The Contribution Game is something I learned from Ben and Roz Zander, husband and wife co-authors of The Art of Possibility: Transforming Personal and Professional Life.
This one is super-simple and super-rewarding. Every day, spend 15 minutes before you sign on, check email, dive into your to-do list or head out into the world sitting with this question: How will I be a contribution today?
Meditate on it. Visualize it. Journal about it.
You’ll find, after 30 days, that this simple challenge increases your capacity to experience joy in your work and your life. It increases your capacity to be eager when you start your day. How? It gradually resets your worldview from the black-and-white of success and failure to how you are impacting the people and the world around you. I think you might find, as I did, that removing limitations on your eagerness and joy unlocks a fresh new source of energy and changes, well, everything.
Related: 126 Ways to Be Extraordinary
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is the author of The Transformational Consumer: Fuel a Lifelong Love Affair with Customers by Helping Them Get Healthier, Wealthier and Wiser. She is the CEO of TCI, a consulting firm that creates transformational marketing and growth experiences for conscious leaders, businesses and customers. Tara is the former VP of marketing for MyFitnessPal and Under Armour Connected Fitness. She has been featured in The New York Times and was recently named the No. 1 woman who Silicon Valley tech companies should be naming to their boards by Business Insider.