What Happens After 30 Days?


This Monday was the 1st of October which means that for four days now challenges such as #inktober (thirty-one days and thirty-one ink drawings) and #preptober (thirty-one days of prepping for the thirty-day writing challenge in November) have begun.

It seems to be a pattern: new challenges kick in as a new month begins.

September was spent doing the #whole30 (resetting your nutrition for thirty days) or challenging oneself to live free from waste for the whole month. And in November one gets to challenge his or her writing habits with NaNoWriMo or let their body hair grow as a way of participating in Movember.

The monthly challenges give a rhythm to our year in the same way as Church Holidays did especially in the times before industrialization. Months fly by so quickly if we don’t pay attention to them, and by challenging ourselves with something new each month, the year gets twelve new meanings and time becomes more memorable.

Or does it?

For me it feels like there’s almost a compulsive need in the society to give a different meaning, a new theme for every month. We humans seem to have a need to find something to do with our time, with our energy, and the best way to do it is to challenge ourselves in a new way every thirty days.

(Or, actually, we have gone so far that almost every day of the week needs a theme: Taco Tuesdays, Throwback Thursdays, Pizza Fridays, Screenless Saturdays and so on, but let’s not go there, not now.)

As I’ve been observing this thirty-day life cycle of the society, I’ve asked myself: what is the main reason behind all these challenges? And maybe most of all: when it comes to 30-day challenges, what are we trying to achieve?

Why We Participate

I wrote about the pros and cons about participating in NaNoWrimo on Tuesday and came to the conclusion that depending on the reason you’re participating, you are aiming for different things. The same logic goes for the monthly challenges as well.

I see two main paths that could explain why people take part in the 30-day challenges:

  1. The challenges are a way of discovering new things about yourself: you learn new things or skills, you create new habits and try things that help you find your path, your conviction in life.or
  2. The challenges are a way of making your life more interesting: every new month brings a new challenge which makes your life more challenging and exciting. The time goes by and you get to try the same things that others are doing at the same time (this way you get the inspiration, motivation and support while doing the challenge, you get to be a part of a community).

So, you try new things to learn something new and spice up your life. But why do you do it? Why do you put your time and energy into these challenges?

Are the thirty-day challenges a way for us to become better persons? Do the challenges lead to some kind of progress, development? Or are we just trying to spice up our lives, pass the time so that we get from one weekend to the other, this vacation to the next, from birthday to birthday or Christmas to Christmas, whatever it is that gets you going?

Because: what happens after those thirty days of zero waste/ink drawings/writing/squat challenges are over? What’s the outcome? And what happens next?

Big Change Equals A Shock

Matt Cutts gave a short but highly informative and entertaining Ted-talk in 2011 about how anyone can do anything for thirty days. In his presentation he talked about all the different things he had tried for thirty days – from participating in NaNoWriMo and ’becoming a novelist’ to biking to work and eating sugar-free foods for a month.

His message is clear: you can do anything for a time period of thirty days. You can do small things, such as drink more water every day for thirty days, or big things, like climb Mount Kilimanjaro. But he also said this:

”I learned that when I made small, sustainable changes, things I could keep doing, they were more likely to stick. There’s nothing wrong with big, crazy challenges. In fact, they’re a ton of fun. But they’re less likely to stick.”

And this made me think about the nature of the monthly thirty-day challenges: most of them are pretty big challenges, especially those that require a great deal of time and energy in order to make them happen.

Living a life of zero waste for a month can be a big shock for someone who isn’t used to thinking about his or her consumption. Suddenly you have to plan your grocery shopping and how you spend your time.

Aiming to write 1,667 words per day will get exhausting in the long run if you’re not used to dedicating an hour or two every day for writing (because it’s a good deal of time away from other things).

And going cold-turkey on meat for a month probably leaves you hungry for meat until October is over and you are, once again, ’allowed’ to be a carnivore (fun fact: in Finland the challenge for October is Meatless October, and in January the challenge is to eat only vegan food for a month).

These big, crazy challenges – as Matt Cutts put it – can be fun, and even make you a more confident person. But if what you managed to accomplish during that 30-day challenge vanishes into thin air when the month changes – what was the point in doing the challenge in the first place?

And this comes back to the two paths I presented earlier. Why do people participate in these monthly challenges? Are they aiming for self-development, trying to find out what they enjoy in life or could consider doing for the rest of their lives? Or are they just having fun while trying different things, simply trying to make their every-day life more exciting?

Does A 30-Day Life Cycle Get Us Anywhere?

Once again, it comes down to the ’why’. Why do we decide to try something for thirty days? Is our aim to find long-term habits that help us get where we want to be in one, five or ten years? Do these thirty-day challenges help us get to that thing we consider being the meaning of life? Or – –

Do they actually hinder us from getting there?

I feel strongly that many of the big thirty-day challenges actually distract us from what’s really important in our lives. Especially if you try out every single on of them, and if you enter them just for fun, instead of wanting to find out something about yourself (I mean – isn’t it the reason why we do these challenges, to learn more about ourselves?).

These challenges require a whole lot of energy, time and thinking capacity – and that’s time away from something else. Is your investment in these challenges worth your personal resources?

However, if you participate in these challenges with the aim of actually improving your life – living healthier or environment-friendlier, lowering the threshold for drawing and publishing them online – then I think the thirty-day challenges can actually be helpful. Then all those minutes and hours you put to the challenge can be useful and help you develop and get where you want to be in one to ten years.

Seen in this light, participating in a challenge for thirty days is a great way of trying out something, then cherry-picking the best parts of it and hopefully making them a part of your life.

(And, of course, it’s also good to remember that you are allowed to fail. You are allowed to try something and after thirty days decide that it wasn’t your thing. The thought was presented well in the Ground Up Show, a podcast hosted by Matt D’avella, where he had T.K. Coleman as his guest. Coleman said this:

”Conduct experiments instead of life-long commitments. Try something for thirty days – it’s not marriage, it’s not a new religion. It’s just thirty days.”)

The True Challenge

But as I wrote on Tuesday, simply because you try something for thirty days doesn’t automatically mean you become a pro at it or manage to create a habit that sticks. Challenges like NaNoWriMo can make one exhausted. Meatless October can make you more hungry for meat than you’ve ever been before. And a squat challenge works out as long as you have that thirty-day schedule to follow.

But the true challenge comes when the month dedicated to that challenge is over. Only then you’ll be able to see if the changes you made during that month were small enough to stick or if they vanish into thin air when the next month begins. So – the next time think about participating in a challenge that sounds exciting, I’d say this: ask yourself why do you participate, what do you wish to be the outcome at the end of the month?

Have you participated in any thirty-day challenges? Why did you participate and how did you feel about them in the end, did any of the habits created during the challenge stick? In your opinion, did the thirty-day challenge make your life better?


The Time On Your Side


They say that Time goes too fast, that there simply isn’t enough of it for everything you wish to do.

They say that if they only had that time they would watch more movies or catch up with people they haven’t heard from in ages. They would read books, play the piano, write their journal, do yoga, take their time drinking coffee in the morning and enjoying the moment. They would finally be able to clean the apartment thoroughly.

If they’d just have the time.

But they don’t.

How come they don’t have the time, I wonder. In order to find an answer to this question, I start observing people and what they do with their time.

I look out from our apartment window. In the afternoon, for two hours straight, there are cars standing on the street, waiting in line for the lights to change – they are all on their way home. A trip that takes about fifteen minutes without traffic takes double as much time with all the other travelers. While waiting for the lights to change from red to green, they listen to the radio, take a smoke or check their phones.

In the school cafeteria, I observe two guys who sit near me. A moment ago they were talking to each other but now they’ve both reached for their phones. The plates are already empty, lunch has been eaten, but they take a minute (or five) to check what’s happened on their mobile extensions of themselves. One of the guys is playing a game on his phone, similar to Bejeweled Blitz.

Another day, and different people at the cafeteria. Two girls are talking while checking their phones. The other one wondering if she should buy a used iPhone: ”It’s only 500 euros and the battery is still long-lasting.”

The other one encourages her to buy it for that price because ”it’s cheap considering the brand.” Then they decide to drive to Ikea, maybe to buy a new plant for the apartment or a cheese slicer, or just to get an ice cream for a coin.

It’s Saturday. A friend comes over, and when there’s a quiet moment, she sits on the sofa and checks her phone for the latest news. She reads out loud a long article about something that happened on a German airport – a story that doesn’t have an interesting ending but the article sure gave away that there would be. Ten minutes have gone by as she has read the article.

And that’s how easily the Time goes. You binge-watch Friends or How I Met Your Mother, update your Instagram and Twitter, or simply refresh your feed again and again to see if there’s something new for you to see or read. You text with your friends about who you’ve seen and what you talked about, what happened on that event last weekend. Or you go to the supermarket because you’ve once again ran out of milk.

So, people say that they simply don’t have enough of Time to do everything they’d like to do. Is it any wonder? From what I’ve seen, minutes and minutes go by to things that shouldn’t take up your time.

Minutes turn into hours and suddenly you realize you’re late for your yoga class or a friend is coming over – and you haven’t had the time to tidy up the apartment. The Time clearly isn’t on your side.

Or maybe it’s you – maybe the Time isn’t on your side because you aren’t trying enough?

5,000 Instead Of 50,000


I won’t get started on the what and why on habits. You can read books and articles, listen to podcasts and watch videos about habits, why you should have some of your own and how you create them.

If you are interested, you can check out Charles Duhigg’s The Power Of Habit (a book that was very pleasant to listen as an audiobook), or what Anthony on Break The Twitch says about habits.

Because in this blog post I won’t be talking about how habits can benefit you – but how they have benefitted me. This is because 1) I don’t think I’m that well-read to be qualified to tell you how to create your own habits or how they will benefit you, and 2) I feel that the best way to share inspiration is to tell one’s own story, and in this way create some depth to the topic.

So let’s get started!

Small Things Add To The Bigger Picture

Almost three years ago I was having a lunch with a friend when we were joined by two others I didn’t know from before (one of them is nowadays my partner and we still meet up for lunch with the other one almost every week – life, right?). Somehow, towards the end, the conversation steered into routines everyone had.

One at the table told that his life is pretty much structured by routines – he wakes up at 6.30 every morning, eats the same breakfast, goes to the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday and in the evening he always eats the same meal.

I found his way of living more or less predictable and therefore boring. I also told him that, and explained that his routines made me think of my mother who was so predictable with her habits that I could tell quite precisely what she did a certain time in the afternoon after coming home from work.

I was sure I wanted live a life that was completely the opposite of the life my mother was living – because life that predictable seemed to me to be no life at all.

However, as I started to date this routine-based guy and learned to know him, I tried his habits to see how they would benefit my life. And slowly I found out that habits and routines that give structure to your day are actually useful in making rest of your life work. Small things affect the bigger picture more than big things do.

There’s a reason why it seems like habits and routines are one of the hot topics in self-development nowadays – they actually work! Creating habits to build a better life isn’t a sham, they won’t leave you hanging like a two-week-diet or a quick-fix-fit-body-workout might. Habits and routines help you reach your goals in the long run – if you just put your mind to it.

Magical Creators Of Time

I began by waking up at the same time as my partner did – at 6.30AM. Until then I had woken up sometime between seven and eight, most often without an alarm.

After a few weeks of that, I started to eat the same breakfast as he did – muesli with milk. And soon I switched my evening meals to the same he was having – crisp bread with a salty meat topping (a year ago we left out the topping and eat crisp bread with butter instead).

At the time it was a pretty easy thing to do, as we were simply synchronizing our lives. It felt natural and made the life we lived together under the same roof easier.

Now it’s been a few years that we’ve lived this way. We still eat muesli in the morning and crisp bread in the evening, and wake up at 6AM (the half-hour-switch happened a year ago). In addition to that, I have my own morning yoga routine and also own rules for when and where I use social media. I’ve also been able to add some habits to my partner’s life such as croissants and a smoothie as breakfast in the weekends (you know, just because you have habits doesn’t mean they have to be boring).

What I’ve realized is that habits give you structure and better structure gives you more time. When you wake up at the same time every morning and eat the same breakfast, you get more time because you don’t have to think about when is the best time to get up or what you’d like to eat that morning.

And because you eat the same muesli and crisp bread every day, your grocery list suddenly gets simpler and shorter and you save time in the store when you know exactly where you’ll find your food ingredients (the photo above shows what we have in our cabinet – that’s our breakfast and evening meal. The milk and butter are in the fridge, and that’s about all we have, on weekdays at least).

When you do the same yoga routine every morning instead of changing it every week, you’ll actually notice your own development and how you’re able to focus better on your breathing and getting deeper into the poses. You learn to listen to your body better.

Because of habits life gets simpler and easier – instead of having 50,000 thoughts every day (what do I want to eat, should I put tomato or cucumber on the sandwich, which comes first, the meat or the cheese, what should I put in my smoothie this morning, do I want to heat up the milk for my coffee or not… you get the picture) you can have 5,000 thoughts (muesli and milk – breakfast is ready!).

Think about it – suddenly, when you don’t need to think about every detail in everything, you’ll have so much more time to think about something else. Something that really matters, like, what do you want to do with your life? What is the next big goal you have and what are the small steps you need to take to get there? What things matter to you the most?

For me, habits also helped me to get rid of almost 20 kilograms of extra weight. Proper meal times, standardized breakfast and evening meal, regular physical training and self-discipline – those are the habits that helped me get there. The small things helped me reach a bigger goal.

Structure in my life that was created by habits helped me make one of the biggest lifestyle changes I had thought was impossible.

And that’s something, isn’t it?

The Lesson With This Blog Post

As I said in the beginning of this blog post, I won’t be giving you advice on how to create your own habits or how they will benefit you. But I would like to conclude with a few thoughts on creating and having habits, something that I’ve learned along the way.

Take It Easy

Don’t take too big a bite of the cake at once – build your habits one by one with time. If you heavy-introduce everything at once (three workouts a week, earlier wake-ups, standardized meals and so on), your system will overheat and you’ll probably collapse.

Instead, take it easy. Be gentle with yourself. And watch this video in case you’re unsure about what I mean by this.

Don’t just copy other people’s habits

It’s impossible to say which habits you will benefit from the most because only you know yourself and therefore you are the person who knows what you need. So, it’s up to you to think about what you need. You can try out other people’s routines to find out what suits you best – and in time, tailor-make your own habits.

Do you feel like you waste your time in the morning to this and that? Consider creating a morning routine that helps you become more productive.

Do you have trouble motivating yourself to work out? Consider creating a routine that makes sure you get on that running mill a few times a week.

And check out this video for tips on how to master your habits.

Give It Time…

I read somewhere that it takes 21 days to make a habit stick. I don’t know if it’s true but I do think that if you’ve done something for three weeks, it’s definitely easier to continue doing it than it was when you first started.

The most important thing is to keep on going – you probably won’t notice your progress in the beginning. Only now have I started to realize the effects habits have had on both my physical and mental health, two years after I introduced the first habits to my daily life.

… But No Mercy

And remember that creating a new habit takes both time and self-discipline. Even if you have been waking up at the same time for three weeks, it doesn’t mean you can let go of your alarm or give yourself ”a morning off”. Habit is a habit no matter what day it is. You stick to it. Because you’re awesome, you know you can do this. You know this is good for you, so hold on to it.


I’d like to hear what habits you have in your life? Have you tried out any habits that you realized didn’t suit you?


All At Once, Summer Collapsed Into Fall


A driver honks at a cyclist not to cross the road – the Mercedes has no time to slow down for the cyclist, he’s too much in a hurry.

Ikea’s parking lot is filled with cars, every fresh University and College student getting their own beds, sofas and bed-side lamps to start a new chapter in their lives.

Empty seats in cafés echo the conversations and laughs from the summer that is now coming to an end. So few has the time anymore to sit down for a coffee and a freshly baked croissant, because

the Fall is at your doorstep.

Or rather, it’s pushing that door buzzer downstairs, giving you a reminder that it is here, coming up the stairs slowly but surely, and finally entering, maybe in a few weeks, giving you the crisp mornings and windy evenings.

Do you want him? He doesn’t ask, so you can’t answer. And anyway, you’ve already buzzed him in. You always do, even if you don’t want to. There is no other way.

The Beginning of Fall

Many people in the city seem to get anxious, stressed and, well, pissed off this time of the year. The reason? The ending of Summer and the beginning of Fall. The ending of long evenings on the terrace with a glass of wine, the long mornings with a fresh cup of coffee and the longer articles they can focus on properly for once. And the beginning of early mornings, quick slurping of morning coffee that burns your tongue, and five thousand other drivers in the traffic at the same time as you. Tired afternoons, dark evenings as the sun goes down earlier and earlier. No wonder people get pissed off.

The crazy rollercoaster people experience when Summer ends and Fall begins is both unpleasant and energy-consuming. They think why it’s so hard to wake up at 6.30 in the morning, and why it’s even harder to fall asleep at a decent hour. Why they suddenly have so little time, so little energy, why did they give up that gym membership for the summer because they thought they’d make up the workouts by cycling and running outside, picking berries and swimming in the ocean, and it was never enough!

Just as many have difficulties adjusting to the changing of clocks, many experience the same thing with returning to work after Summer Holidays. It takes time to adjust to the early mornings, the timetables, the rush hours and balancing between physical activities, leisure and work. It’s tough and energy-consuming, and many react to it negatively rather than positively. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, for the first month or even two, depending on how easy it is for one to adjust.

Choose the Swing Carousel Instead

But me, I continue my days as if Summer was Winter and weekends were Wednesdays. For me, the days and the seasons are the same because my mornings start the same way every day.

In the morning, I wake up at 6AM, make my bed and go to the bathroom. I brush my teeth and take a shower, finishing with cold water to really wake up my body. I do my morning yoga routine (it takes approximately fifteen minutes) after which I eat breakfast. On the weekdays, it’s always the same: muesli with milk and a combination of walnuts and almonds. After breakfast, I wash the bowl, take my vitamins and make coffee that I drink from my blue-grey KeepCup. At 9AM, at it’s latest, I get to work, that is planning and writing.

I don’t react the same way to the changing of seasons because for me, there never was a different time or season. Whether it’s Winter or Fall, Thursday or Saturday, I wake up at 6AM, make my bed, brush my teeth, take a shower and do my morning yoga. My every-day habits help me stay balanced and keep my energy more or less at the same level as always. I don’t need to step on and off the rollercoaster. I can choose the swing carousel or the tea cups instead.

However, even though I don’t react the same way to the beginning of a new season as many other’s do, it does affect me. It’s the other people’s rollercoasters – the honking cars who no longer have the time to let you cross the road first, the longer lines in grocery stores, the stressed-out people who don’t want to go back to work, the crowded gyms and yoga classes – that have an effect on my day-to-day life.

In one way, I wish I’d be able to return to the city when people have, once again, adjusted to the ordinary work life and left the rollercoaster of emotions. Makes me think of Green Day’s Wake Me Up When September Ends. 

How do you feel about Fall? Is it a chance for new beginnings or a stress factor?

P.S. Can you recommend any good tools for making GIFs? I’d love them to be less grainy.

Still Life Sunday: Morning Swim


4 Morning Swim

I open my eyes and recognize the familiar wooden paneling, the white curtains with small flowers on them that let in the light in the mornings. I lay in the guest bed of my parent’s summer cottage.

It’s a wonderful place to stay at in the summer. It’s placed on the highest point in the area with a steep hill down to the private beach with a dock and a small terrace. When I was little, the small terrace was the place where my grandparents wanted to drink their afternoon coffee if the weather was fine. Me, who didn’t drink any coffee at the time, got some homemade juice and cookies. It’s one of the best memories I have.

The dock again got burning hot during the warmest hours of the day. If you wanted to go for a swim from the dock, you had to be quick – otherwise the hot wood would burn your feet. So what me and my sister usually did was that we ran from the terrace to the dock and jumped right into the water. It was one of the most entertaining things to do during the day, especially when our father joined us in the water. He was a good swimmer and especially good at diving. He used to dive deep and tried to catch our feet. It made me and my sister giggle.

This morning, I get up from the bed that is placed in the room next to our wood-burning sauna. It is our guest room but since we rarely have guests at the cottage I have made the place into my bedroom.

The weather is fine as the sun shines and a gentle wind sways the leaves in the birch tree nearby. I put on my sandals, open the door and let the cool morning air brush my face and my naked body.  I grab my towel and walk down the steps to the ground where large stone steps take me to the dock.

I am heading for my morning swim.

I love mornings at the cottage. I am usually the first person to wake up and I enjoy the calmness and the quietness of the nature. I walk down to the dock, observing the birds and the calm shushing of the leaves that fill the air.

The towel finds it’s usual place on the bench that is fastened with screws to the dock. I place my feet on the metal steps that lead down to the water. I brace myself and take the first step down. The water feels cold. But I take another step, and another. Goose bumps run through my whole body. I know this feeling from before and what it leads to, therefore taking another step and getting deeper into the water.

When halfway in the water, I turn my back to the dock and face the water. Taking a morning swim requires self-discipline, almost some sort of sadistic willpower. And I embrace the shivering coldness, take a huge breath of air and lower the rest of my body into the water. I let go of the steps and take a few powerful breast strokes, leaving the dock behind me.

The water feels light on my body, welcoming me to a new day. My heart pumps blood and oxygen to my body, invigorating my arms, my legs and back, filling them with energy. I feel the sea weeds against my legs and my stomach, a somewhat uncomfortable but at the same time tickling sensation.

I swim a few meters one way, then turn and swim the other way. After that I return, pull myself up the stairs and on to the dock. The world feels new, and I feel fresh and ready to embrace a new day. What a great way to start my day.