It takes 30 days to build a habit. At least, that’s what most people believe. The exact number may actually be quite different. But a 30-day habit challenge actually makes sense. Here’s why.
It’s easier for us to keep track of 30 days because most months are that long. Last month I wrote about how a 30-day blogging challenge opened my eyes about habit building and goal setting. A dear friend commented that it would help if I could actually track my goals right here on the blog and I thought, hey! Why not? Remember, I’ve done it with ‘yelling less‘, after all.
So, that’s what I did. Since I was anyway reading Gretchen Rubin’s ‘The Happiness project’, I decided to go with her principle (and also that of Leo Babauta) of picking a single goal for 30 days and trying my best to stick with it.
[easy-tweet tweet=”Here is how I used 30 days to break a single bad #habit” user=”shyvish”]
My 30 day No-Gossip Challenge
We all gossip. Yes, you do. And I do. Or, at least I did until April 30th, 2017.
For most of us, gossip is that thing which breaks the ice, builds relationships, lets you vent and rant about people who have gotten on your nerves and let off steam about stressful situations.
Research claims that gossip is good for you, if you do it right. There’s an equal amount of research that suggests it is bad for you. Don’t believe me? Google ‘Why gossip is good for you’ or ‘Why gossip is bad for health’. Tell me the results that come back.
For the longest time, I believed ardently in the former. I told myself gossip was helping me cope, letting me face my demons and release pressure. Something happened in mid April to change my perspective about it, though.
During a casual dinner with friends, one of them remarked how something I’d said to her about a person (let’s call that person X) had completely changed her opinion about the person. Mind you, this wasn’t something X had confided in me. I don’t share secrets that people tell me in full confidence.
No, this was a public comment on a public platform by X, where I was targeted and I’d been upset by the way it had been framed against me. Everyone I knew had already seen it. Some of them were uncomfortably aware of the barbs directed at me. Naturally, I was hurt by X’s actions, but didn’t confront X about it. (That’s because I am terrible at confrontations).
When we are hurt, we react in a few different ways. We withdraw into a shell. We confide our feelings to close friends and confidants. We deal with the emotion of hurt for a while and then move on.
I had shared my feelings about X’s actions with this friend. I’d done it with the motive of ‘letting off steam’, to be honest. To be clear, I have nothing against X any more. We all make mistakes. We say things we don’t mean or we do things we regret.
But, that night, at that dinner, I was horrified to realise that my opinion of X had changed the way someone else perceived the person. That wasn’t just wrong. It was unnecessary.
In this case, I had unwittingly influenced a person’s point of view and I wasn’t happy about it. Not one bit.
That’s when I decided I would not gossip any more. Or at least, I would refrain from gossip for 30 days. By that, I meant I would not share anything negative/ talk ill of/ malign other people either online or offline. I wouldn’t rant or rave about them, in public or in private.
How hard could it be?
How I did it
If you are a blogger, writer, social media user, you probably know the answer to that question already. How hard? Turns out it’s extremely and excruciatingly hard!
How did I fare, then? Here’s what I did each time I felt compelled to share a juicy bit of information about someone. This is a mental checklist I used to confirm if it was really necessary to do so.
- Will this actually help another person? If not, don’t talk about it.
- Am I focusing on the negatives? If yes, look for the positive and don’t talk about the negatives.
- Am I talking about the person or talking about a circumstance? If the former, it’s gossip. If the latter, it’s empathy. That’s a crucial difference.
Every time I felt the need to pick up the phone or ping a close friend and say, ‘Hey you know what happened with X?’ I resolutely turned myself away from the temptation.
I reduced my time on Facebook. Through May, I posted all of 12 personal updates. If you know me, that’s a drastic change. I usually post 12 times a day, not 12 times a month.
I stopped engaging in contentious topics on social media. I will still talk about subjects where I hold strong views, but I will limit them to my blog. Why? On social media, people are instinctive. They (We) react almost on impulse. People who read a blog and leave comments usually take their time to be more circumspect in their opinions.
I took a couple of friends into confidence about my 30-day challenge. I told them that this was something I needed to do, as a way to change myself. They helped keep me in check.
What I learnt
At the end of 30 days, I’ve discovered a very interesting thing.
I am happier.
Thanks to not indulging in gossip, I am far more productive. I have time to engage in deep, thoughtful discussions with friends I value and care about.
Thanks to not ranting on social media, I use it now as a tool instead of an addiction. I’ve stopped scrolling to discover what’s the latest outrage item of the day.
Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt is one thing I’ve tried to do. Gossip used to defeat that intention. This month has brought me back on track.Self-awareness is something I’ve aimed to enhance and I’m hoping this habit has helped me on that path.
The reason for writing this post is not to pontificate on the idea that gossip is bad for you. Honestly, I still believe that some amount of gossip is good. But, the main takeaway I hope this conveys is that any bad habit can be broken in 30 days. All you need is the intention, the right motive and the accountability that will help you achieve your goal.
The really interesting challenge would be to see if I manage to sustain the no-gossip mode beyond this month. Spurred by the success, I am planning another 30-day challenge that begins tomorrow.
Why don’t you join in too?
Pick a goal, any goal, and stick to it for 30 days.
Who’s with me?
- If you are looking for a list of self-improvement goals for yourself, here’s a wonderful set of 15 unique goals by Jeff Boss.
*A great website for more such goals and pretty much anything related to habit building is Zen Habits by Leo Babauta
Featured images courtesy: Shutterstock
If you’re really interested in breaking a bad habit and building a new one, it’s important to understand that it doesn’t depend on willpower, but something deeper and more enduring.
I came across this book by James Clear and was blown away by the simplicity and effectiveness of his tips.
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30 days is a good approachable length of time.. I loved the idea of picking gossip as something to eliminate, it definitely can be a such a waste of time and energy. So happy you conquered it my dear, and thanks for sharing. Now on to the next challenge 😉 ?
He he on to the next challenge indeed. Am going to make it a simpler one though, with the fitness. Make it 3 days a week to begin with. And work it up to daily. Need to change the mindset about working out. And thank you. You know exactly why 🙂
Recently, I developed this habit of waking up early. And, it took me just ten days (and extreme willpower). I like this change (rather transformation as I was a complete night owl).
We all talk about some people at times – people whom we know. I don’t like to talk (unnecessarily) about things that’s none of my business or people whom I don’t know very well. Once my househelp told one of my neighbours that I am arrogant because I didn’t talk to her. Simply because she wanted to talk about neighbours and I was not interested. 🙂
This is a good idea. Currently, I am working on daily writing challenge. Going good so far. 🙂
Great going on the daily writing challenge, Tarang! Yes, we do talk about others. I am hoping we talk more about ideas than people as we grow and evolve on this path. It’s the least we can do for ourselves.
That’s amazing! Good on you for doing this. Not gossiping is hard and even though we may not mean to be malicious, it can always be interpreted incorrectly. I have so many things i need to work on…don’t know where to start! I’d love to sleep more hours but maybe in a month or so after I’ve resigned from one of my jobs.
Bang on! SO SO true! Even if we don’t mean it to be malicious, the interpretation matters. The other person may not think of it as innocent tidbits. It may be harmful without our realising it.
Here’s hoping you can sleep more hours soon, Sanch. Many hugs to make it happen.
Great one Shailaja and congrats at meeting your goal. Leo Babuta is great. I follow him as well.
I usually wake up pretty early most summers but this summers I’m kind of struggling to get that habit going, including my daily workout which comes with waking up early. I’m in to take this up as my 30 day challenge.
Like I told you, Nats, I will be sure to ping you on Whatsapp by 5.30 am everyday 🙂 Let’s help you reach this goal.
Gossip is not always done with a malicious intent or is harmful. Of course, excessive indulgence in it can cause waste of time and make your perspective negative. So nice that you achieved this 30-day goal. I do agree that any new habit needs to be built slow and steady. The greater challenge is in keeping it going for longer periods. That is where choosing goals that really matter to you help.
Very true. Sustaining it beyond 30 days depends on the baseline intent behind the goal. If I am just trying to stop gossip, it may not work. But if I am trying to achieve a more centred way of existence, then this is one step towards that. Hoping this will help. You’re right that not all gossip is malicious but we may tend to over step bounds when we get too comfortable in gossip mode. I am no saint 😉 I make mistakes and I may gossip again too. Let’s see. I hope I don’t, though.
Nice to hear about this challenge and glad you could accomplish your goal. By and large, I avoid talking ill behind someone’s back but yes I’m not totally above it too. It’s Ok to do at times it to let off steam as you rightly mention. As with any dubious practices, this needs to be kept in check lest we lean on it too much and it becomes a default way to deal with relationship issues.
Yes, exactly. It’s important we keep it in check. I’ve found that doing this in no way helps either me or the person whom I share it with. Just a waste of energy and time.
I would definitely want to form a habit in 30 days and that is to excercise daily. My routine is so sporadic. I am regular for 3-4 days and then miss the next few. 🙁 I need an excercise buddy.
Ah, you and I both. But exercise is one thing I find I have to work up to gradually. Start with 3 days a week, move up to 4 and then 5. I believe it’s easier. Trying to figure out what will work for me.
Congratulations on finishing the 30 day challenge and investing the time in formulating a strategy to help you stay put.
If only we can keep a check on the time invested and content of our gossips, I think gossiping can be pretty harmless if done in moderation.
Just like Rachana mentioned, the real challenge is to stick to the habit for longer periods of time, once you’ve got yourself started. Good Luck with that.
Thank you, ME 🙂 I know that most often we indulge in ‘harmless gossip.’ Not keeping a check and doing it too often is quite detrimental. Sticking to the habit is my long term intention. Hope I can see it through.
This is one thing I’ve realised too Shailaja – that talking negatively, about anyone at all, might make you feel good for a while but in the long run it just makes you dissatisfied and unhappy and so very negative. And also, what you said, we might be instrumental in changing someone else’s view permanently about a person. That’s just not right.
For some reason, I assumed you would feel the same way about this when I posted it, Tulika 🙂 It’s true. Short term joy in this case does not translate to long term peace of mind. I am just happy I made this choice. Now to stick to it. That’s the bigger challenge. But I think I’ve found a way to make things stick 🙂
I am still trying to achieve those yell free days.. it goes fine for a few days, and somehow I end up yellng!!!! But not giving up for sure!!!
Don’t give up 🙂 It’s a process. I love how Leo Babauta says we must set intentions instead of resolutions. How that changes the perspective is quite amazing. Try it out.
Been on the same boat recently. So, I have stopped saying anything which may lead to controversies or misunderstandings on Social Media. If it wasn’t for my blog, I would leave SM completely. But I do gossip with my sister and my best friend. It’s therapeutic. But I don’t share any of my views with anyone outside my innermost circle. And I hope I can continue to do that.
As long as you are content with the joy it brings, Naba, there is nothing to worry about 🙂 I am slowly wearying of facebook and its multiple posts that are extreme and provocative in nature. Have decided my peace of mind is more important. Gossip was weakening that, so decided to stop it completely.
Such an inspiring article. Not gossiping for 30 days??? That’s truly commendable. We all get pulled into some kind of gossip or the other. But refraining from it does make me happier too. Found that I do more constructive and positive work without gossip. Way to go Shailaja!!
Thank you so much, Prasanna 🙂 I am greatly thrilled to know that you refrain from it too 🙂 More useful work, more productive work can come from less gossip.
Oh yes, I do have a couple of habits I need to change. The first one is to do something about my volatile moods. That is very difficult to change because it all depends so much on my hormones that are going crazy these days . The other is accepting people as they are and not reacting but responding to their behaviour that tends to drive me up the wall. Frankly, if I am able to work on these two things, I will surely win any ‘Ms Perfect’ competition in this world!
I look forward to attending that award ceremony and seeing you receive the crown then 😉 Seriously though, don’t beat yourself up. Do what you can and when you can. Small steps.
Strangely for me, it takes six days to form a habit. Yes, I counted. Be it waking up early, staying away from SM or anything else.
Staying away from gossip is probably something I have always done. You know that I’m a no nonsense person and I cannot take drama of any kind and I have way too many things in my life to talk about people instead.
But yes, I do indulge in casual non judgemental gossip. But only with the ones very close to me.
That’s something I love about you. Your no-nonsense approach to life in general 🙂 Casual gossip eh? Been too long since we met, I think 😉
Congratulations to you for completing the challenge. I did something similar last year when I deactivated my FB account for 3 months. I would not call it a challenge. It was a realisation about spending too much time on mindless scrolling and suddenly I had too much time to do interesting things.
I have few habits where this challenge might be useful.
Thanks, Manisha! I understand completely. It’s more a shift in the way we think. Sometimes, a challenge helps us see the bigger picture by tackling the smaller goals.
Shailaja, Glad that you could achieve your goal. I too have been through a similar situation during my college days when a casual comment came back to me a few months later, modified, embellished with the intent and content completely twisted out of context. Since then I have consciously kept away from gossip though I have slipped up a few times. But I am happy that the time interval between the slip ups has steadily increased.
Interestingly just last week I took up a personal challenge to make time for myself, but I have been struggling with it. Setting a time frame is something I never thought of.
So glad to hear that Nagalakshmi 🙂 I know what you mean. Time for ourselves is something we all need to do, especially as moms, wives, daughters. Too often we forget to do it and pay the price later. Do let me know how it works out in 30 days 🙂
That was a great goal – and idea itself also! Very inspiring to read. will think of a goal for myself also… to be aware of how we communicate to others- and how they perceive it is important – they are sometimes not coheerent… I liked this read 🙂 Big hugs
Thank you, Eli! I hope things are good on your front. Haven’t seen you around for a while 🙂 Do let me know the goal you set for yourself. Would love to know.
This is a good challenge to set yourself. I am glad you were successful. We are always bent on other people’s lives that we do not realise it takes out a huge chunk of our time when we can enjoy our own life, right?
Thank you so much, Resh! Welcome to the blog.
Absolutely right. Once I decided to let go and stop letting other people live in my head, it’s been more peaceful. I’m finding more time for reading, working out and just being happy now.
Some people say it takes 21 days to form a habit. 21 or 30, a habit will be formed only if *we want* to form it.
As for gossip, I can’t say if it’s good or bad, but being unnecessarily mean to someone who doesn’t deserve it is wrong. I’ve come across people who indulge in that kind of harmful gossip and always wondered why they did it.
That said, if someone hurts me (like X in your case), I would definitely tell my closest friends about it.
Now I’m off to think of a goal 😀
Wow! 740 social shares! Congratulations on building an engaged community!
I didn’t know it takes 30 days to break a habit. In all seriousness, does this apply to pets? I am currently trying to train my new dog.
What would I change about myself? I go to bed too late since I am always up too late blogging.
I met you at Suzie’s blog party. Maybe you can check out my blog if you need any blogging tips. That’s what I write about. I also have blog parties like Suzie.
Thank you, Janice! I think a large portion of these shares are from Stumbleupon 🙂
Oh I hear you about the going to bed late. I changed that a while ago when I started having health setbacks. It didn’t seem worth it to blog at the cost of my health.
As for pet training, I have absolutely no clue! Perhaps it would depend on the dog, I think? I’d love to know if it works!
I’ve come across you before, a few years ago, I think. I’ll be sure to hop over soon 🙂
I love this challenge. I’ll join you!
Thanks, Lydia! Do let me know what you managed to set for yourself and achieve 🙂
Loved how no gossiping has led to so many benefits in other areas as well, it’s definitely been what I experienced too from doing 30 day challenges for the last couple of years! February’s is yoga 🙂
If you like Leo and Gretchen, you may also enjoy James Clear’s writings on habits too Shailaja!