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September 21, 2021

Take the 28-Day Challenge

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The fall still reminds me of new beginnings. I guess I’m still on my school calendar. It was always so much fun (and frightening) to start a new school year. I loved buying school supplies, setting up my desk, shopping for new clothes with my mom and walking into a new classroom.

So, it’s no surprise to me that as August slips away and September emerges I naturally look for a new start or a reboot. This year I’m going to do a 28 day challenge. Will you join me?

If you want to join, you’ll need 4 things:

  • Willingness
  • An accountability partner
  • One addiction
  • A journal

  1. Willingness 

If you’ve been around CLG for any time at all you know we often talk about willingness. We make a distinction between wanting and willing. You can read more about wanting vs willing in this blog post, but for now let’s just say that you’ll know you’re willing to do the 28 day challenge because everything in you says “HELL YES!” “Hell yes” is very different from, “Hmmmm, that sounds interesting” or “That could be a good idea” or (and especially) “I really should do that. It would be good for me.”  After reading this and giving yourself a day to let it settle in, see if you have a HELL YES; if you do, go to steps 2-4. If you don’t, you could set this aside and make a note to return to it in a few months to re-check your willingness. The practice is evergreen.

  1. An Accountability Partner 

This is not someone who will hold you accountable, but rather someone who will witness your accountability to yourself. You’ll make three agreements during the 28 day challenge: two with yourself and one with your partner. The agreement you’ll make with your partner is that once a day, every day, you’ll text your partner with either a “yes” or “no” to two questions. For the purposes of this practice you won’t text anymore than yes or no. Short and simple.

I recommend you pick someone whose very presence invites you to greater integrity, alignment and devotion, someone who inspires you to show up as your best self. Ask them if you can text them yes or no once a day as a way to have them see you, witness you. If they want to text back a “thumbs up,” great, but nothing more than that.

One final note on accountability partners: You don’t need to be their accountability partner just because they are yours. If you choose to create a bi-directional agreement, that’s great, but not necessary. Sometimes I find it works better for me to have the accountability flow one way.

  1. An Addiction

Anna Lembke’s new book, Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence, lays out the scientific rigor behind what many self aware people know intuitively: that craving begets more craving, wanting leads to more wanting. All of which precedes the inevitable pain and suffering that comes from either getting or not getting what you want. And, more importantly, she helps us fully face and accept that most of us are addicts.

For this challenge, you’ll need to identify one of your addictions. Yes, most of us have more than one. It could be a substance: chocolate, sugar, alcohol, marijuana, caffeine, etc. Or a behavior: social media, sex, gossip, shopping, watching TV, your phone, etc. Pick any of these or one of countless others. In my experience, if you get quiet for a few breaths, the addiction to choose will make itself clear to you. If you're willing (HELL YES), simply acknowledge that that’s it.

Then for 28 days you stop it, abstain, quit, drop it. Dr. Lembke says that in her experience 28 days of abstinence is the place to begin. Two other pieces of wisdom she offers: The first 14 days might be tough. It will often get worse before it gets better. Second, if you’re thinking about stopping certain drugs (for some of you this might include alcohol and some prescription drugs), check with your doctor first and get their support and advice on how to stop safely.

At the end of every day, text your accountability partner a YES or NO. Yes if you kept your agreement with yourself to abstain, and no if you didn’t.

  1. A Journal

Another practice that Dr. Lembke offers for the 28 days is to tell the truth. She offers powerful science about the effects on the brain of telling the truth and lying. Again, nothing here that a person who is paying attention doesn’t know from direct experience. Lying saps our life force. Telling the truth for 28 days is not just telling the truth about your addiction— did you abstain or not—but it’s about telling the truth in general. She says that most adults lie one to two times a day.

So, for 28 days you’re going to catch your own lies.  Before writing in your journal, take a breath and open yourself to seeing the truth about your relationship with the truth that day. Then complete the sentence:

“What I said was …….”

“When the actual truth was …….”

Complete these sentences as many times as you can.

Then text your accountability partner with a YES or NO. Yes, I got present and looked at my day and identified any place where I didn’t speak the truth (in whole or in part), and wrote it down, or no, I didn’t get present, check and record in my journal. 

The basics of the 28 day challenge include just noticing where you weren’t truthful.

If you want more than the basics, you can add two things: 

1. Tell your accountability partner what you said and what the actual truth was. Again, with no explanation, justification or rationalization. And no story. Your accountability partner’s response, if anything, is a thumbs up emoji. Nothing more. 

2. Do a “do over.” Go back to any person you lied to and tell them you’d like a “do over.” You can tell them you’re doing a 28 day challenge that includes telling the truth. You realize that you didn’t tell them the truth (in whole or in part), and you want to set that straight by telling them the truth now. 

To be clear, both #1 and #2 above are optional add-ons for the 28 day challenge. Do them if you have a willingness (HELL YES). If you decide to add them, tell your accountability partner that you’ll be sharing these as well. 

That’s it. 28 days of cessation and self-awareness around lying. 28 days of behaving differently and sending your accountability partner some Yes-es and No-s. 

I’ve picked my accountability partner, my addiction is alcohol (typical for me after a summer of fun and frolicking and some denial), my journal is ready and I’m a HELL YES. 

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