The Plot To Steal Joy: Day 21

And this is the final installment of this series on The Plot To Steal Joy.

Over the course of the past 21 days, I have been doing my utmost best to let matters that would normally ruffle me slide and focused instead on developing joy in small ways. Here’s a quick recap of my journey these past 21 days (to read each individual post, click on the day on the left):

Day 1: Be kind - for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle

Day 2: Marriage is hard work - it takes sacrifice, selflessness and humility

Day 3: Success isn't about accomplishment; it is about People and touching lives

Day 4: Feed your soul with what you love

Day 5: Invest in a friendship - offer a listening ear

Day 6: Value relationship over money

Day 7: Problems are not meant to stop us, they are meant to grow us

Day 8: When the going gets rough, counter each negative thought with a positive thought

Day 9: Kindness is a choice

Day 10: Challenges and difficulties don't last - as long as you keep trying, something will change

Day 11: A purposeful life isn't driven by wealth; it is surrounded by a healthy, caring community

Day 12: Benjamin's vision: Having passion is one thing; turning your passion into a business is another - it takes believe, courage, and faith

Day 13: There is no growth without struggle - solutions come in the midst of trying

Day 14: It's the little things that make the biggest change

Day 15: Stay faithful in your journey and be gracious to others who haven't walked into their destiny

Day 16: Words form our beliefs, habits and destiny

Day 17: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams

Day 18: Everyone loves a smiling face, no matter how hardened you are

Day 19: Where you're limited, you can't give freely - have a break, nurture your soul, have a granola bar

Day 20: Commitment outlasts pain

Day 21: Take care of one small area in your life and watch how big of an impact it makes in your world.

An active and agile three-year-old girl I met at Buttermilk Boulders in Bishop, California in May 2016. She was climbing rocks, no kidding, at 3! Her parents are avid rock climbers - they brought her and their six-month old infant out into the desert to explore and climb rocks as they lived out of their van. I mean, the mom was nursing (breast-feeding) her infant in the desert! I thought, these guys are utterly cool! They’re not letting their lives be bound, held down or dictated by the responsibilities of caring for their children - they bring their children with them everywhere they went - even out into the dirty and dusty desert where daily necessities and conveniences are lacking - and they are joyful. They taught me much about how I want to raise my kids in future.

An active and agile three-year-old girl I met at Buttermilk Boulders in Bishop, California in May 2016. She was climbing rocks, no kidding, at 3! Her parents are avid rock climbers - they brought her and their six-month old infant out into the desert to explore and climb rocks as they lived out of their van. I mean, the mom was nursing (breast-feeding) her infant in the desert! I thought, these guys are utterly cool! They’re not letting their lives be bound, held down or dictated by the responsibilities of caring for their children - they bring their children with them everywhere they went - even out into the dirty and dusty desert where daily necessities and conveniences are lacking - and they are joyful. They taught me much about how I want to raise my kids in future.

How did this journey come about? I was in a pretty bad place in my life, everything was spinning out of control, and I was constantly crying. I finally put my foot down and decided to develop a habit of zealously guarding my joy and letting no one or circumstances steal it for 21 days. Why 21 days? Because 21 days is the minimum number of days it takes for a person to develop a new habit, according to the late author and cosmetic surgeon Dr Maxwell Maltz in his behavior change book, Psycho-Cybernetics (which sold over 30 million copies worldwide following its publication in 1960).

Earlier this year (in February 2016) I experimented with not consuming coffee for 21 days and though it was a struggle for the first two weeks, it gradually became easier and by the time the 21st day came around, I no longer needed coffee. In other words, I could choose to have or not to have coffee - it didn’t dictate or rule my life as it did in the past. I thought if I was successful in developing a habit in 21 days in one area, surely I could develop another habit for the next 21 days.

I want to emphasis that 21 days is the minimum and not the maximum, certainly not the magic number as many think it is - 21 is the least number of days before a habit start forming. In fact, according to an article by author James Clear which cited a research by Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher from the University College London, it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days for people to form a new habit. Before you get discouraged, the good new is this - on average, it takes 66 days, yes, just 66 days before a new behavior becomes automatic. That’s not too long, is it? That’s approximately 21 days multiplied by three. I might experiment with 66 days in future, but for now I’m happy to start small and 21 days work just fine.

The purpose of these 21-day practices has been, for me, three-pronged:

First, it develops a new habit in an area of focus, for instance, staying away from coffee and protecting joy.

Second, it develops pure, raw discipline which could be easily migrated to other areas of focus. What I mean by this is, after staying away from coffee for 21 days, I found that I have developed the “muscles” to practice another 21 days of focus in another area with greater ease. This explains my confidence when I decided to practice 21 days of Joy, which I’m glad to report have been successful (though not without struggle).

Third, focus in one area rarely bear fruit only in that area - it usually touches and changes other areas too. For instance, not only was I coffee-free after 21 days, I was also in better control of my food cravings - it used to be that I was a slave to my cravings - I couldn’t resist chips or fries or butter-loaded pastries - now I could walk into a wonderful-smelling bakery and not succumb to a piece of fresh, hot pastry.  This teaches me yet another lesson - success overlaps. Success in one area often overlap onto another. Because you see, life is fluid. Life isn’t segmented. Likewise, what we do in one area overlaps into another.

The benefits so great, I am going to keep practicing these 21 days of new habit formation. My life is no bed of roses, but it sure has turned around for the better when I take control and change where I can (no, not changing other people or circumstances, but changing myself). What will be my upcoming 21 days challenge? Well, you’ll find out soon enough!

For now, let me leave you with these parting words as I conclude this series on The Plot To Steal Joy: Take care of one small area in your life and watch how big of an impact it makes in your world.

The score today? A hearty win.

Joy: 1. Change: 1


Have you been enjoying this 21-day series on The Plot To Steal Joy? If you have, I encourage you to leave me a comment below or you can write me privately if you prefer privacy and anonymity (I respond to every email).

Is there a new habit you want to form or is there an area in your life you want to change? Please let me know in the comment box below!