The beginning of a new year is a natural time to hit the reset button.
And every year, millions of us come up with New Year’s resolutions to change our lives.
Yet most of us don’t follow through.
A lot of reasons: Lack of motivation. Trying to do too much at once. No accountability. The sheer difficulty of changing fundamental habits.
But maybe there’s another way…
In late 2016, we launched 30 Challenges to Enlightenment.
A self-actualization obstacle course consisting of 30 transformative 30-day challenges.
Since then, we’ve been astounded by the reach and impact of our course.
There are now over 2,000 people taking the course, from all corners of the Earth.
We’ve gotten loads of feedback attesting to the course’s power, like this comment from a member named Hilary:
“During my first year of taking the 30 Challenges to Enlightenment course my life exploded. Amazing changes happened. I started new hobbies, I made new friends, I went to new places, I learnt more, I felt more confident. At times I felt insanely happy and overall I was more content. All of a sudden I was excited about my life and the possibilities available to me.”
We believe 30 Challenges to Enlightenment is an ideal New Year’s Resolution.
The goal of this post is to explain why.
I’m going to take you through 22 quick points that illustrate how 30 Challenges to Enlightenment will make your 2018 a hell of a lot better.
Let’s get into it.
1. Build the self-mastery necessary to avoid the pitfalls of modern life.
“No man is free who is not master of himself.”
In 2018, temptation is everywhere.
Social media. Netflix. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Video games. Delicious shitty food. Gambling. Virtual reality. Consumer products. Porn. Sedentary lifestyles. Constant new info streams. The Internet in general. Devices in general.
The modern world has become a never-ending series of hyperreal and supernormally addictive temptations. Make no mistake: These are not the temptations our ancestors were dealing with.
This arguably makes it more necessary than ever to actively build discipline and self-mastery, lest you wake up one day and find yourself unable to break whatever destructive cycle you’ve fallen into.
More than perhaps anything else, 30 Challenges to Enlightenment is precisely a tool for actively building discipline and self-mastery: every challenge contributes to this end.
2. It’s a New Year’s resolution with built-in motivation and accountability.
Likely the largest reason people don’t follow through with New Year’s resolutions is a lack of motivation and accountability. People feel good telling themselves they’re going to do something, but they don’t implement any measures or mechanisms to ensure they keep going when initial enthusiasm wanes.
This is where our course can be profoundly useful. First of all, there’s the Enlightenment Map: a MASSIVE physical poster and progress chart that you put up on your wall. Once you hang it up, it serves as an unforgettable reminder and motivator to stick to your commitment. The Map also incorporates the Don’t Break the Chain method of habit-development to gamify your progress.
Then there’s the Enlightenment Tribe, an exclusive Facebook community for people taking the course. The Tribe allows you to connect with and learn from other amazing individuals, while keeping each other motivated and accountable.
The 290-page Enlightenment Guidebook is also bursting with motivating and inspiring insights to keep you on track. And there are also multiple challenges within the course itself that focus specifically on how to overcome emotional resistance and follow through. Lastly, there’s something to be said for the motivational force of actually paying for something: When you invest real money into this course, you’re going to feel strong motivation to use it.
3. 30-day challenges are profoundly useful catalysts for life change.
30-day challenges disrupt your ingrained patterns, opening up a space in which real, fundamental changes can occur.
They prompt you to take a step back, see your behavior in a new light, and gain self-understanding. They allow you to notice the triggers and mind-states that lead you to indulge in self-sabotaging behavior. They let you try on new patterns of behavior for a while to find out which habits really resonate with your being and enrich your life.
They teach you how to set firm intentions and then follow through with your intentions—an indispensable skill in accomplishing anything. Jocko Willink likes to say that “discipline equals freedom,” and he’s right. Discipline gives us the power to choose. Without it, we’re slaves to our impulses. With every 30-day challenge, discipline—and therefore freedom—increases.
The 30-day time frame also seems to be ideal (or close to it) for a couple reasons: for one, it’s extremely approachable and manageable. 30 days is not that long, and most people tend to feel like they can do anything for just 30 days.
And thankfully, studies have suggested it takes a minimum of just 18 days to form a new habit (though it can also take much longer). So, after 30 days, there’s a good chance your healthy new behaviors will stick, if you want them to. And if they don’t, you can simply decide to repeat the challenge until they do. We also recommend setting a firm intention near the end of a challenge for how you want to integrate that challenge’s lessons moving forward.
4. Build a healthier lifestyle.
The Vitality Builder challenge will get you exercising and improving your fitness. The Lao Tzu’s Luncheon challenge will have you practicing mindful eating, helping you eat less and lose weight by savoring and eating more slowly. The Hunger Gamer challenge invites you to practice fasting, to better understand your relationship with food and the triggers that cause you to overeat. Numerous other challenges within the course utilize practices and pastimes which have been shown scientifically to improve psychological well-being.
5. It’s flexible and customizable so you can make it work for you.
A great thing about this course is that you can use it in whatever way most resonates with you. There is a recommended way to use the course, but we also encourage people to customize it as they see fit. That might mean adding or removing things from challenges to make them more or less difficult, doing multiple challenges at once, doing the challenges in an order that’s right for you, doing some challenges multiple times, or choosing not to do certain challenges. All of these options are completely within your power.
6. It helps you build the meta-skill of forming good habits and breaking toxic ones.
Habit-formation is itself a skill that can be learned—perhaps one of the most vital and overlooked skills a person can possess. Your habits are the unsexy building blocks of everything your life will become. The things you do on a daily or weekly basis are the soil from which your future grows. This course equips you with self-mastery, willpower, discipline, and an understanding of how to use 30-day challenges to disrupt your ingrained patterns and build new habits. It teaches you how to assess your own behavior, put an end to toxic habits, and implement healthy long-term replacements.
7. It invites you to step into a new identity and stretch yourself.
Scientific research has shown that the identities we choose for ourselves — the roles we play on the stage of life — have a profound impact on who we become. It’s quite difficult to change who you are through willpower alone without also making environmental changes and adopting new roles that force you to level up. In fact, stepping into new roles and environments that demand more of you may well be the single greatest thing you can do to accelerate your growth into who you want to become.
30 Challenges to Enlightenment is a kind of invisible training environment that one overlays atop one’s present life. Once you make the commitment and really engage, you realize you’ve stepped into a different phase of life: a phase in which you regularly stretch yourself, do things you didn’t know you could do, and view challenges as opportunities for growth. To begin this course is to step into a new role as an active experimenter and shaper of one’s destiny: someone with quests to undertake, lessons to learn, dragons to slay. If you take the course and the role it asks you to play seriously, rapid bursts of evolution are possible.
8. Save money.
The course includes frugality, minimalism, decluttering, and asceticism challenges to help you become content, fall in love with the essential, and save your money for truly important things. The course’s overarching emphasis on cherishing experiences rather than material products naturally results in a less expensive approach to life. Lastly, the sobriety, fasting, and asceticism challenges can save you hundreds of dollars, depending how much you spend on food, drugs, alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, and inessential things.
9. There is no way to fail.
We make a point to emphasize that there is no way to fail this course, unless you don’t truly engage with it at all.
Many of us grew up in cultures heavily influenced by Christianity or other Abrahamic religions, in which firm distinctions were drawn between good and bad, sin and virtue, success and failure, etc., and as such, many of us are likely too hard on ourselves (I know I can be), classifying our behaviors in black and white terms, and not allowing space for ambiguity. I don’t mean to demonize the Abrahamic religions (I think they have many positive aspects) or say they can’t be practiced healthily, but Abrahamic religions/cultures do often have a harsh, rigid approach to “virtue” that can be psychologically destructive.
Thus, there is a subtle risk for many of us in taking this course—the risk of thinking of the course in black-and-white terms and allowing it to become a kind of fascist dictator or angry god or guilt-trip machine that we allow to hang over us and make us feel unworthy because we missed a few days of a challenge, or decided to skip a few challenges, or take some time off, or let go of it entirely because we felt we got what we needed from it. ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE PERFECTLY OKAY.
We encourage users of the course to understand deeply that YOU’RE MEANT TO MAKE THIS COURSE WORK FOR YOU, not the other way around. Recognize that the more engagement, energy, focus, and effort you put into this journey, the more you will get out of it. But also recognize that there are no sins or failures or reasons to punish yourself within 30 Challenges to Enlightenment.
This course is about wisdom and tranquility, strength and self-mastery, compassion and freedom, not finding new subtle or “spiritual” ways to whip and shackle ourselves.
Breathe easy, engage deeply, learn much, and make it work for you.
10. Undertake Nietzsche’s gymnastics of the will.
“I want to make asceticism natural once again: in place of the aim of denial, the aim of strengthening; a gymnastics of the will; abstinence and periods of fasting of all kinds, in the most spiritual realm, too.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
A key idea that inspired us to build this course was Nietzsche’s idea of a “gymnastics of the will.” The idea was that a person would undertake various experiments and challenges for the purpose of strengthening, deepening, and refining their being. For more on this concept, read this recent article I wrote on it.
This course is our attempt to create a living, breathing version of Nietzsche’s gymnastics of the will: a roadmap of challenges and experiments that will level up your existence.
11. Improve social skills.
The Social Butterfly challenge will get you out in the world meeting new people and improving your social skills. The Buddha’s Secret and Gandhi’s Grandchild challenges give you the chance to cultivate compassion and perform random acts of kindness. The Non-Violence and Veritaserum challenges let you practice non-violent communication and radical honesty, and to observe how these changes in communication improve your relationships.
12. It can benefit you for years to come.
If you do the challenges one at a time, one after another, and complete all 30, it will take you 900 days to complete the course.
This is not a one-time solution or quick fix, because those don’t really exist. Real change must take place on a deep, fundamental level, and this is not possible without sustained effort and repetition. That’s why we built a course for people who are serious about making a real change.
It’s also worth noting again that you can redo challenges many times, and you can also use the Enlightenment Map to chart your progress on other challenges that aren’t part of the course. A number of course users have gotten their Maps laminated, so they can erase and reuse them indefinitely. This course has the potential to be useful for a lifetime.
13. Become a wiser, more enlightened version of yourself.
People get hung up on the word “enlightenment.”
So it’s important to clarify that we are not promising that this course will definitely turn you into the Buddha or some other mythical being, liberated from all fear and suffering, floating on a cloud of perpetual bliss.
“Enlightenment,” in the most general sense, simply means a state of greater knowledge, wisdom, awareness, or understanding. First and foremost, this is what we mean by “enlightenment.” Time and time again, people tell us that every challenge teaches them valuable lessons about life and themselves, increasing their awareness and self-understanding.
In addition, however, we also maintain that what has traditionally been called “enlightenment” in the Buddhist tradition (among others) is a real and attainable shift in consciousness—a liberation from much unnecessary suffering which results from a deep recognition of ambiguity and a relinquishing of attachments, preferences, desires, and expectations. The course will indeed help you let go of internal burdens and progress toward this ideal as well.
“Enlightenment” is a notoriously ambiguous term, and we ultimately encourage users of this course to determine for themselves what enlightenment looks like for them. No two paths are alike. No two forms of enlightenment are alike. You must find your own. We believe our course can help you do that.
14. Join a tribe of growth-minded people from all over the world.
Again, 2,000 people from all over the world are currently taking 30 Challenges to Enlightenment. The course’s exclusive Facebook community is regularly abuzz with inspiring and insightful conversations about self-development, spirituality, life, reality, and all aspects of the human experience.
Joining this international community is a rare opportunity to connect and learn with many amazing people from across the planet.
15. Our money-back guarantee ensures that there is no risk.
This is worth mentioning: We offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, and you can start the course immediately after purchasing. So you can dig in and start one or two challenges, and if you find in the first month that it’s not for you, just email us at email@example.com, and we’ll send you your money back right away, no questions asked. We’ll even let you keep your physical Enlightenment Map poster, in hopes that you will one day start a challenge, no matter how small, and make your world a better place.
16. Increase enjoyment of life.
Meditation and mindfulness are woven into almost every aspect of the course, allowing you to become more fully alive in the present moment. The Walden challenge will get you out in nature to experience the therapeutic and soothing effects of the outdoors. Our High on Existence challenge invites you to practice sobriety for 30 days and to taste the increased energy, clear-headedness, and mood elevation that comes with treating your body well. The Amor Fati challenge allows you to practice an extreme form of gratitude, learning to be thankful for everything in life, including things that seem “bad” or shitty.
The entire course is geared toward helping you realize an approach to life based on curiosity, thirst for growth, and intrinsic motivation, all of which make life a hell of a lot more enjoyable.
17. Overcome procrastination.
As soon as you take the leap and dive into 30 Challenges to Enlightenment, you stop dreaming of changing your life and start actually taking action to make it happen.
The value of this shift is hard to overstate: The worst strategy for finding out what to do in life is to try to think your way into the answer. That won’t work. Doing things reveals to you what makes you tick and what you truly want. There is magic in movement.
Thus, the entire course is a paradigm shift toward action and anti-procrastination. Beyond that, though, the Anti-Procrastinator and Self-Ownership challenges are specifically designed to help you overcome emotional resistance, take ownership of your life, stop making excuses, and do the things you truly want to do. For more insight into overcoming procrastination, read this recent 7,500-word beast of an article written by my friend and colleague, Martijn.
18. Enter the world’s first spiritual obstacle course.
As far as we know, no one in history has created a spirituality and self-development obstacle course like 30 Challenges to Enlightenment.
This is the first course of its kind — a comprehensive series of challenges of mind, body, and spirit to elevate you to new heights.
To take this course is to be a pioneer.
19. You have the time.
In making this course, we set out to answer the question, “How can someone progress toward enlightenment without pausing their life to go live in a monastery?” We wanted to build something that the busiest of people could fit comfortably into their routine.
Most of the challenges take 30 minutes or less per day. Some don’t take any extra time at all. In fact, one could argue that doing the challenges will save you time by helping you to cut out distractions, cultivate concentration, and eliminate procrastination from your life.
20. No dogma.
One awesome thing about 30 Challenges to Enlightenment is that there’s no dogmatic ideology to which you need to subscribe when you take the course. Each challenge can be viewed as an experiment in which the goal is for you to take action and learn through direct experience.
The Enlightenment Guidebook contains many of our most cherished ideas about how to live a good life, become who you are, and liberate yourself from much suffering, but we don’t elevate any of these ideas to the status of Gospel. Ultimately we encourage users of the course to take from our ideas whatever most resonates and determine for themselves what life and self-actualization are all about.
21. Build keystone habits and enhance all areas of life.
In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg discusses “keystone habits” — habits that are worth more than other habits. Certain fundamental habits have compounding effects in other areas of life, sparking “chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.”
Meditation, exercise, practicing self-discipline, gratitude, keeping a clean living space, and actively learning new things are examples of life-changing keystone habits that can have cascading positive effects in all areas of life. And every single one of these keystone habits is cultivated within our course.
22. Provide structure to your self-improvement journey.
One issue with the self-development and spirituality memespace nowadays is that most sources do not provide any map of development for seekers to follow. Curious students of life become overloaded with fragments of information from different creators, but are never sure how to put the pieces together. The lack of structure, cohesion, and a clear aim sabotages their growth.
In the same way that a university curriculum organizes knowledge to show students the bigger picture, we organized the knowledge and experiences of 30 Challenges to Enlightenment to show you a grander vision of your self-improvement pursuits. Each challenge provides another stepping stone to increasingly liberating perspectives, greater awareness, self-mastery, and strength. Our aim was to create a kind of “PhD in self-development.”
In sum, there are many reasons why 30 Challenges to Enlightenment makes an excellent New Year’s resolution.
Not only does it have the potential to impact all areas of your life, but it incorporates several mechanisms for motivation and accountability to greatly increase your chances of following through on your hopes for the upcoming year.
In a recent survey we conducted of active users of our course:
97.1% of users agreed or strongly agreed that the course has improved their lives.
82.4% agreed or strongly agreed that the course has helped them break toxic habits and build better habits.
79.4% agreed or strongly agreed that the course has helped them become more disciplined.
88.3% agreed or strongly agreed that the course has made them more mindful and aware in daily life.
And 97.1% of users agreed or strongly agreed that the course is a life-changing set of tools.
If you’re ready to make a real long-lasting change, this course is for you.
May you have a blessed, prosperous, lovely, and challenging 2018.