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Productivity

The Ever Better Challenge, Part 5: In the End, It’s the Effort That Matters

This challenge is not an all-or-nothing thing—the only failure is in not trying. – Sinda A.

Today is day 28 of my Ever Better Challenge, which is no desserts for 30 days in the hope of losing a little weight.

I recognize that skipping dessert is easy for some people, but I’m not one of them. It’s much easier for me to skip meals and go straight to the good stuff than it is to turn down something sweet.

I’m happy (and surprised) to report that, over the past four weeks, my desire to consume sugar has plummeted.

What happened?

I hacked my habit loop.

The habit loop is broken into four parts: cue, craving, response, and reward. Throughout my challenge, I have avoided some cues (skip the snack aisle), changed my response (eat fruit), and substituted my reward (dopamine from exercise instead of sugar).

As a result, my cravings have steadily receded to the point where I’ve mostly lost interest in eating desserts.

I wasn’t perfect

I began this challenge with a lot of confidence but, as you may recall from week three, I had a few setbacks along the way. One of them was accidental…and one of them was very intentional.

Even though I filled out my templates—I built a plan and created a Support Network—I drifted away from using them for a while. I skipped a bunch of days on my Habit Tracker, for instance.

I haven’t been perfect, but setbacks are somewhat inevitable. Instead of giving up, I was able to fail forward and keep going with the help of my Reflect & Correct template (and by making sure to use the others).

I’ve been successful

I have eaten desserts on a daily basis for years. During this challenge, even with my slips, I’ve eaten less sugar in the past few weeks than at any other point in my life.

It’s easy for me to fall into all-or-nothing thinking, but it’s also easy to recognize that my challenge has been a success. Painfully difficult to maintain on some days, but a victory nonetheless: I changed one habit and have met my goal of losing a few pounds.

Our friends have been successful, too

We designed this challenge with the hope of helping people visualize who they wanted to be—who they could be—and work on changing one habit that would move them closer to that reality.

As we approach the 30-day mark, I asked some of my fellow challengers how they were doing. I found their replies inspiring and thought you might as well:

My 30-day challenge of quitting smoking has been tough, but keeping track of my goal has kept me focused and made the process so much easier. I successfully dropped from 30 cigarettes a day to none in five days. I have not smoked a single cigarette in 15 consecutive days now.John H.

I set a target of writing 600 words a day. I’ve fallen short at times, but have come back to it the next day. – Saikat B.

My habit has changed from unconsciously binge eating at night to questioning if I’m really hungry. I’m thinking first instead of being impulsive. As far as I’m concerned that’s success – Sinda A.

As I get to day 30 of not adding cash to my Starbucks card, I’m now spending my coffee money on fresh groceries. I’m not just saving money, but also enjoying the benefit of using it better. – Ellen G.

My Ever Better Challenge has been to meditate every day for at least 15 minutes. I’ve had a couple of slips along the way—especially on the weekends—but I’ve found that following a (mostly) regular practice has helped me feel calmer and more focused overall. – Anthony B.

Wow, everyone did great…right?

Not everyone responds to the same challenge in the same way. This has been a learning experience for everyone—including us at Evernote.

But this challenge isn’t about perfection; it’s about being Ever Better—if only for a day. And by that definition, everyone was a success (even if they didn’t always think so).

Keeping up with my challenge has been hard. It got a little easier each day, but sometimes I had extra work, unexpected incidents or a rough night that got in the way. – Mariano G.

It was difficult to commit at the top of the year when everything else felt like a priority too, but the challenge element helped. –  Monica L.

My challenge has been a pretty epic failure. Life kept getting in the way. – Melissa G.

Shoot! Did I miss the boat on the challenge? – Lawrence C.

What about Forrest?

You know Forrest as the guy from our Ever Better Challenge videos. He’s been representing our challenge to the world by sharing his ups and downs over the past few weeks—but we haven’t heard from him in a while. Here’s how his challenge is wrapping up:

I love to write fiction, but I’ve never been able to build a consistent writing habit that will allow me to grow and improve as a storyteller. My challenge didn’t go well at first, but it turned out that all I had to do was start protecting my time and loosen up in my intentions.

I realized that the point isn’t to “finish story X in 30 days.” It’s to spend a little time each day doing something I love. With that in mind, when I sit down to write, I find it a little easier to get into the groove. – Forrest B.

Some advice, in closing

We worked with a few social media influencers who helped us spread the word while also going through the challenge themselves. I asked them for the advice they would give to people just getting started. Here’s what they had to say:

Celebrate the small victories. Use your missteps as learning opportunities, guidelines to help you reassess your goals or methods of achieving them. Christine Ha, chef & owner of The Blind Goat in Houston, TX.

Do it! Even if you’re not sure what your goal is just yet. You’ll learn about yourself as you make your way through. – Dhariana Lozano, social media consultant

Please take small, small, tiny bites to victory. We want so badly to tell people that we did impossible-sounding things on impossible timelines. That is a straight-up recipe for disappointment. – Berna Anat, “personal finance hype woman”

Keep your big vision at the forefront, and each day remind yourself WHY you’re doing this. Some days you’ll lose momentum, but that’s OK—just keep going. – Tim Lampe, art director

Having a timeline to complete a goal makes you accountable—and as you progress, you realize how capable you actually are. – Monica Leed, professional organizer

Epilogue

Due to the nature of publishing, I had to go through my challenge a week or so ahead of schedule. As a result, I’m able to squeeze in a final report to tell you that…

I’m finished! I didn’t have any desserts after my setback on day 21 and wrapped up with 28 dessert-free days.

The day after

My challenge was no desserts for 30 days, not for the rest of my life, and I was very excited to finish so I could gorge on desserts as soon as it was over.

The day after my challenge ended, I headed to the local frozen yogurt shop to load up on my usual topping-covered jumbo cup of coconut froyo.

But, as excited as I was, the yogurt wasn’t that good—it mostly tasted like cold, wet sugar. And later that day, I had a few more of the cookies I mentioned in the third blog—but they also just tasted like sugar.

I was expecting to experience the pure joy these desserts consistently brought me in the past, but that’s not what happened. Instead, each bite tasted disgustingly sweet.

As I kept snacking, hoping to enjoy it sooner or later, I could feel my face flush and my stomach slightly turn. I also noticed an uncomfortable burst of energy followed later by a sleepy crash.

My dessert homecoming was an almost entirely unpleasant experience.

Ever Better

Since that frenzy on day 31, I haven’t eaten much sugar. It seems that I gained some distance from desserts during my challenge and, in that time, they became…distasteful.

When I think back on the past weeks, I’m amazed by how perfectly the arc of my habit change fit with this challenge. Perhaps it was just coincidence or my subconscious following a set of deadlines. Whatever it was, now that it’s over one thing is clear:

I finished what I started.

And so can you.

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