The Whole Life Challenge is almost done! Soon you’ll have a break from entering your score every day, keeping track of how many glasses of water you drink, and completing the weekly Well-Being Practice.
When the official Challenge ends, another one begins: can you maintain these healthy habits without the structure of the Whole Life Challenge?
This is the Holy Grail of health — creating healthy habits that last. If once the Challenge ends you eat processed foods, stay up late every night, and stop exercising, you’ll be right back where you started.
Learning how to make the 7 Daily Habits a permanent part of your life is a process. It will take some time. This is why the Whole Life Challenge recommends a “six weeks on, six weeks off” approach. You have six weeks of structure, then six weeks on your own to practice incorporating those healthy habits into your life. If you find yourself slipping or struggling during those six weeks off, you can enter the next Challenge with specific goals in mind.
As this Challenge wraps up, spend some time thinking about the experience, the good days and bad days, the successes and setbacks. Next, think about your post-Challenge life. As you look ahead, here are a few tips for transitioning back to “real life,” and how to maintain your healthy habit momentum.
1. Analyze and Celebrate Your Success
Once the Challenge ends, it’s important to celebrate all you achieved. This is especially true if you created a new habit. If you started an exercise routine that is now a non-negotiable part of your week or gave up drinking soda, take a moment to congratulate yourself.
So often, we achieve a goal and then immediately start working on the next one without appreciating our achievement. The smallest change, if permanent, can have a much bigger impact than a dramatic, but temporary, shift.
So, think about the past six weeks. What did you give up that you don’t actually miss? What changes feel sustainable? And what was your biggest victory?
2. Let Go of “Failures”
The Whole Life Challenge isn’t about perfection — it’s why the Challenge includes Bonus Tokens — but odds are not everything went as you planned during the last six weeks. Maybe you skipped a week of workouts. Maybe you never managed to get a perfect score over the weekend or you just completely ignored one of the Well-Being Practices.
Dwelling on these missteps isn’t productive, and it’s likely the missed workouts or extra desserts didn’t have as much of an impact as you think. Look at your six weeks of daily scores. Do you have more five-point nutrition days than not? Which habits were easy to achieve, and which ones were a struggle? If getting enough sleep is difficult for you, those five-point sleep days are worth more than a week’s worth of a habit that was already second nature.
Creating a new habit is difficult, and the process is not linear, so dwell on your success, not failure.
3. Indulge Sparingly
If your latest Challenge was close to perfection, be careful not to swing too wildly in the other direction when the gameplay ends. Some people give up all indulgences for six weeks, sipping sparkling water at restaurants and avoiding the dessert table at parties, but let it all go once the Challenge ends, spending a week eating chips and cookies with abandon. But a solid week of over-indulgence can easily sabotage six weeks of hard work, so be very careful with your post-Challenge treats.
Try to be intentional about indulging in your between-Challenges life. If you gave up wine, treat yourself to a glass of your favorite vintage and savor the treat. If you missed dessert, pick your favorite, not just the closest sugary treat you find.
Set some ground rules for indulgences, preferably rules you can imagine following for the rest of your life. Maybe you decide to only drink when out with friends, or only on Friday or Saturday night. Perhaps your rule is you can only eat homemade desserts, or you allow yourself bread on the weekends. You might be surprised how satisfying you find these occasional treats.
4. Reevaluate Your Goals
Take a moment to think about your goals going into the Challenge. Did you achieve those goals? If not, why?
Maybe you discovered a new goal along the way. I started this Challenge without any specific goals, which is not the best way to begin. Then, halfway through, I came across a New York Times article that snapped everything into focus for me.
A periodic insomniac, I’m a big believer in the power of circadian rhythms. When I follow those rhythms and avoid bright lights at night, keeping things dark and quiet in the hour before bedtime, I sleep well and wake up refreshed.
This article cited new research suggesting our eating should be in line with our circadian rhythms. An expert on circadian rhythm research says eating when our body is preparing for sleep can cause weight gain and health problems. I’d always thought as long as my before-bed snack was healthy — and let’s be honest, recently “healthy” meant dark chocolate — I was good. This article gave me a compelling reason to avoid eating in the hours before bed.
Halfway through the Challenge, I decided to follow this rule Sunday through Thursday. This new goal is one I’ll keep with me after the Challenge ends — it feels sustainable and manageable — and it’s something I wouldn’t have initially committed to without the structure of the Challenge.
So, did you achieve any of your goals during the Challenge? If not, why? Did you come up with a new goal along the way? Can you keep working on your goals post-Challenge or do you have something new you’d like to achieve?
It may be that you’d like to take a break from working toward a goal and instead continue with the healthy habits you established during the last six weeks. Whatever you decide, spend some time thinking about your approach and set your intentions for post-Challenge life.
Are You Ready for Your Whole Life Challenge Transition?
The ultimate goal of the Whole Life Challenge is to create healthy habits that don’t feel like work or a sacrifice to maintain. This is not easy.
If you made one of the 7 Daily Habits a permanent part of your life over the last six weeks, that’s a huge accomplishment. Spend the next six weeks enjoying a reduction in intensity but a continuation of improved health and happiness, perhaps experimenting with new habits.
Then, when the next Challenge begins again, you’ll be ready to begin from a position of strength, feeling healthy and ready to embark on a new adventure.