30 day challenges

30 days

“Knowledge is not power -action is! Execution trumps knowledge every day of the week!” ~Tony Robbins

In my last blog post I mentioned that I have often used 30 day challenges to build new, positive habits in order to help me turn around various aspects of my life. I think the beauty of this approach is that anyone can commit to doing something for thirty days. I make a rule with myself that if I miss a day I have to start at zero again. This mental trick seems to work on me because I never end up going back to zero.

Oddly enough, although the thing that gets me started is knowing that I only have to do this new thing for 30 days, a huge number of my previous 30 day experiments end up becoming incorporated into my daily routine and I find myself still doing them consistently years later.

In Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning, he suggests committing to a specific morning routine for 30 consecutive days. In Elrod’s terminology the first 10 days can be unbearable, the next 10 merely uncomfortable and by the last 10 you are unstoppable. He may be onto something because I read the book in January and I haven’t missed a day yet!

Some people find it helpful to use an app or website like don’t break the chain. Personally I use a paper journal, but go with whatever works for you. I usually fly solo with things like this but others find it useful to impose some accountability on themselves, to make sure they stay on course. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Find an accountability partner – a friend you trust, who is working on their own thirty day challenge.  You have to text message or phone each other to “check in” once you have completed your daily activity.
  2. Post evidence of your daily activity on your social media, tagged day 1/30, 2/30 etc. Your entire friends list becomes your accountability partner

If you have an individual accountability partner, it can also help to make it interesting by introducing some stakes. If one of you skips a day you have to:

  • Buy the other person a meal
  • Donate to a charity of the other person’s choice
  • Donate to a cause you definitely do not support (a group or political organisation you find objectionable) This third one is the scariest, and therefore perhaps the most effective, of all!

After posting last week’s article I was asked to give clarification on some of the 30 day or one year challenges are that have helped me in the past.

Here are some of my previous experiments, along with a few I intend to try in the future:

  • Drink a minimum of three litres of water a day for thirty days
  • Keep a food diary for thirty days
  • Walk at least 10,000 steps per day for thirty days
  • Avoid all alcohol for thirty days
  • No takeaway food for thirty days
  • Meditate for thirty days in a row
  • Day 1 – one sit up, and push up, Day 2 – two sit ups and two push ups… etc.
  • De-cluttering – throw away/donate/recycle one thing on day one, two things on day two… etc.
  • Smile and say “hello” to everyone you pass for thirty days
  • Write in a journal every day for thirty days
  • Compliment someone, anyone every day for thirty days
  • Perform a ‘random act of kindness’ for thirty days in a row
  • Start a conversation with a stranger every day for thirty days
  • Practise a musical instrument every day for thirty days
  • Read for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes a day for thirty days
  • Get up early for thirty days
  • Learn a foreign language with Duolingo every day for thirty days
  • Write down ten ideas every day for thirty days – thanks to James Altucher’s Choose Yourself for this one
  • Take a picture a day and post it on social media – this is fun as a 365 day project. It encourages you to live a life worth photographing, and keeps a nice record to look back on at the end of the year

There must be hundreds of these to have fun with. Let me know if you have any ideas not listed here. Why not try one and let me know how you get on: Tweet me @dfrancisdrums with the hashtag #30days

Good luck!


Cause and Effect


I believe that cause and effect is one of the universal laws which govern our world. Whilst I will happily admit that there are many circumstances and situations that are beyond our control, I also firmly believe that most of us have more power over our lives than we ever realise.

Many of us have at some stage come across the following quote:

“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This sums up the concept of cause and effect in a nutshell. The implication is that by changing our thoughts we can change our destiny. So far, so philosophical… so how do we make use of the concept?

Let us focus on two areas – health (or more specifically weight) and finance. I’ve selected these for two reasons:

They are very easy to measure

Many of us find at least one of these areas emotionally challenging. It is easy to mis-interpret the “effects” we are experiencing as indicative of some kind of personal flaw.

Most people have experienced less than satisfactory results in one, or both areas at some stage. If you’re anything like me, you have also told yourself a story that somehow links these results to a personal characteristic that is set in stone. Here are some stories I’ve told myself about health/money:

I’m fat

I’m lazy

I’ll never be able to get in shape

I’m hopeless with money

One day I’ll come into some money and everything will be fine

There are a few of problems with this type of thinking. Firstly it is based on the faulty assumption that we are our behaviours. In reality we have the power to make choices and change our behaviours. Secondly, these statements imply that we are passively experiencing life, rather than actively living it.

Though it is easier said than done, an alternative way to interpret our results is to look at them as a scientist might:

This cause produces that effect… interesting! I wonder what happens when I change the cause?”

Rather than taking the “effects” personally, we can learn from them and adjust course. This should inevitably lead to different results. Rather than demoralising ourselves by thinking that our current circumstances are written in stone, we can examine what actions have produced these results and change them.

There was a time (and it lasted about twenty years) that I habitually avoided two things: checking my bank balance and getting on a set of scales. I was in complete denial about the effects I was producing in both areas and was unaware that I had the potential to completely change the results I was getting.

“We go in the direction we face.” ~Jim Rohn

Which direction are you facing? The only way to know for certain is to start tracking your results. I started some years ago with the initially painful habit of noting two things on the first of each month – my weight, and my net worth. For me, calculating my net worth was simple: take my overdraft and subtract from it all the debts I owed. This resulted in a satisfyingly large number… which unfortunately had a minus sign in front of it.

As soon as I had two months worth of results I could see which direction I was heading in… the wrong one! At this stage it was fairly clear to see where this would take me if I kept up my current habits for a year, five years or ten years.

I realised that unless I changed my causes, the effects could be devastating over time.

Changing your habits is a study all of it’s own, but if you’re interested in this I would highly recommend Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. In my own experience I’ve found it easiest to change one or two small things at a time. I often do this by setting myself 30 day challenges. (More information about this is coming soon.)

Questions for reflection:

Which way are you currently facing? 

What simple daily or weekly steps could you take to adjust your course?Each of these steps seem insignificant on a day-to-day basis but can have a huge impact over time.

There are two very good books on this subject which I benefitted from a great deal:

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

In closing I’d like to paraphrase the great Jim Rohn and draw your attention to the following:

In ten years, we will surely arrive. The question is: Where?

It is largely up to you – cause and effect.

3 Questions and an Action Step – probably the shortest blog post I will ever make…


Here are three questions and an action step, with the potential to effect awesome changes in your life. If you’re anything like me, the answer to the third question is often “no” which simply means I didn’t answer question 1 correctly!

  1. What do you really want out of life? (Think family/friendships/health/contribution/career/finance etc.)
  2. What would it cost you to achieve this? (Think time/finance/sacrifices)
  3. Do you want it enough to pay this price?

If the answer is yes, start paying, in simple daily/weekly instalments.

As always, if you’d like to share your thoughts on any of this tweet me @dfrancisdrums. Use the hashtag #questions

That’s it. Get after it!


12 books to read, read and read again


Reading has always been a huge source of pleasure and learning for me. I was an avid reader as a child and in the last 10 years, the books I’ve read have made a huge impact on my life. I can confidently say that I would be a completely different person were it not for the books I’ve read and the lessons I have learned and applied in this time.

Some books contain so much wisdom that it is impossible to absorb everything with just one reading. I have made a pact with myself to continually re-read certain books, in order to keep reinforcing the learning and really absorb and apply the lessons within.

Here are my 12 suggestions, for continued reading and growth, in no particular order:

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court – John Wooden

This is a wonderful book. I have zero knowledge or interest in college basketball, but this is really a book about being a better person, a better family member and a better teacher. I have long been a collector of quotes, and often make a note in a notebook/journal when I come across something interesting in a book. I tried doing this with Wooden and soon realised I was copying out the entire book! I have since given this book to numerous people and studiously copy Wooden’s guidelines for life into every notebook I buy, so I always have them to hand. I will say it one more time – this is a wonderful book.

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

Please don’t let the title, or the fact that this was written thousands of years ago put you off. The Gregory Hays translation is very readable and contains a huge amount of wisdom that is applicable to 21st Century life. This is a collection of journal entries from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and contains wisdom on all aspects of life. The fact that each entry is fairly short allows a reader to dip in and out, rather than just read from cover to cover. Reading a few entries each morning is a great way to start your day.

Focal Point – Brian Tracy

I’ve read a number of Brian Tracy’s books, but this was the one that had the greatest impact on my own life. One of the concepts that I have used and re-used is this: If you are currently doing something that you wouldn’t willingly take on knowing what you know now, you should stop doing that thing as soon as possible. This is a great way to remain focused on activities that bring you happiness and success, and eliminate things that draw you away from what is truly important.

Leading an inspired life – Jim Rohn

I have read all of Jim Rohn’s books and listened to hundreds of hours of his audio recordings. This is my favourite. It contains all of Rohn’s key lessons and is a joy to read. Highly recommended.

How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life – Alan Lakein

This is a book that was recommended by Jim Rohn on the subject of time management. It is actually about something deeper than this. It is an excellent method for ensuring that your activity matches your deepest values and aspirations. It is fairly short, and a quick read, but many of the ideas are potentially life-changing. The section on overcoming procrastination is very practical and has helped me a great deal. Bill Clinton also recommends this book and regardless of your opinions of him, there’s no denying that he has achieved a great deal more than most!

The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness

This book is all about the power of incremental change and the fact that a few small disciplines, practised daily, can have a huge impact over time. I read it a couple of years ago, and in the application of these ideas I ran a half-marathon, achieved my goal weight, got a new job, and reclaimed thousands of pounds of money from high street banks. Well worth the investment of time and money spent reading the book.

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results – Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

This book expresses a very powerful idea extremely well. It is a great way to make sure you are aligning your daily activities with your core purpose and values. The One Thing is a very easy read and is great for applying in your own life but it is also invaluable for anyone who finds themselves in a teaching, coaching or mentoring role – either at work, in your family, or in your friendships.

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

This is one of those books that everyone has heard of and few people seem to have actually read. We interact with other people, all the time, in family, friendships and work settings. Reading and absorbing the lessons in this book will definitely help you to deal more effectively with other people and enjoy these personal interactions more. If everyone read this book, I am convinced that the world would be a much better place!

The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage – Ryan Holiday

This is an excellent companion to Mediations by Marcus Aurelius. It builds on a central principle from Stoic philosophy and Buddhist teaching – that we don’t control what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond to it. A terrific book, and like many on this list, the lessons within are applicable to all kinds of situations, for all kinds of people.

Change Your Life In Seven Days – Paul McKenna

Those of you who remember McKenna as a television and stage hypnotist may be slightly sceptical about this choice. I picked it up out of curiosity as I felt that the title might be over-selling the content a little. In reading it, I found that many concepts I had seen elsewhere were taught in a much more accessible way, that made sense to me. When I picked this book up again last year, an index card fell out. I had used the card four or five years previously to do one of the exercises in the book, setting some goals for my life. The card very accurately described my current life and every goal had been achieved. I am convinced that this book was at least partly responsible.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R Covey

This book took me a while! I had heard this recommended over and over and had tried to read it many times, but found it hard work and gave up. Eventually I bought an abridged audio version and, having listened to this, I found myself reading the actual text (and numerous other books by Covey) several times over. If you can cope with the style of writing, the lessons in this book are powerful and timeless.

The Magic of Thinking Big – David J Schwartz

This is one of my all time favourite personal development books. It is full of very use-able concepts and exercises, illustrated with stories about real-life applications. It is a fun read, but contains many powerful ideas.

Who has time to read 12 books? 

…pretty much everybody, but if you want the edited highlights, consider this:

If I were able to choose three books to give to every student, on leaving school they would be Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court by John Wooden, The Magic of Thinking Big by David J Schwartz and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

Over to you…

I’m curious to hear from others – If you had to choose 12 books to re-read over and over throughout your life, what would they be? Why not tweet me a “shelfie” photo of your 12 books? Mine is at the top of this blog. Find me on twitter @dfrancisdrums

How to have a perfect day


Even those of us who love our jobs usually look forward to the weekend. Why? It’s a chance to unwind, to decompress and to spend time with those who mean the most to us.

It seems counter-intuitive to plan and schedule our weekends too much. We want to feel that we have freedom and spontaneity. We want to go with the flow and relax.

This is understandable, but in my experience a completely unplanned weekend can often result in several hours of cleaning, grocery shopping and laundry, followed by the realisation that we’re too exhausted to do much else. Before you know it, its Sunday evening and you feel like all you’ve done is a few chores. Don’t get me wrong – having clean clothes is important, but is your laundry more important than happiness, your family or your marriage?

Why not pick a weekend in the near future and design, and then live, your perfect day?

Step One – Imagine:

If you had a full 24 hours to do whatever you wanted, how would you spend it?

  • How would you wake up?
  • What would you do first?
  • Where would you go?
  • What would you eat?
  • Who would you spend it with?
  • What would you see?

The only limitation is that this all has to be do-able within 24 hours. Don’t say that you want to wake up on a desert island… unless you already live on one!

Here’s an example to get you started:

  • Wake up relaxed, without an alarm clock.
  • Get up and do my morning routine (meditation, reading, exercise, journalling etc.) while my wife gets ready.
  • Take the dog for a walk on the beach.
  • Go out for breakfast/brunch.
  • Browse at a local bric-a-brac market and some second hand bookshops.
  • Find a nice cafe for some coffee and a snack, whilst flicking through our newly purchased books.
  • Head home to get relax.
  • Go out to a live performance – music, theatre or comedy.
  • Head home and enjoy a relaxing glass of wine/cup of tea on the sofa before bed.

If you’re stuck for ideas, have a go at the exercise in this post first.

Step Two – Plan:

Will anything on the list require any prior planning? You might need to make reservations or buy tickets. You may need to check when your next free day is, and whether or not it coincides with a free day for your partner/friends/family. You may need to save up a little.

Whatever planning is needed, take the time and do it. Make an appointment with yourself in your diary for your perfect day and stick to it. Even if your perfect day is a few weeks in the future, the anticipation of it will bring you joy, just like the day itself will.

Step Three – Do:

This is the fun part – simply enjoy living your perfect day, and of course, give yourself some flexibility. You don’t want to feel like it is a chore, or that you’re clock-watching. If something doesn’t work out, or you run out of time, just adjust as you go.

Step Four – Repeat:

If you’ve had your own perfect day, why not take turns with your partner/family creating and living perfect days? In my family I’ve noticed that a perfect day for one of us, leads to a fun day for all of us. Its a great way to encourage others around us to focus on happiness, use their imaginations and create positive memories.

Enjoy the exercise. If you’d like to share the results please tweet me @dfrancisdrums with some photos from your day(s) using the hashtag #perfectday

Become happier… today!

I’m a big fan of setting and working towards goals. Some years ago I discovered that I had far more power over my life than I had previously realised. I began setting goals and working towards them. My life began moving in a far more positive direction and I began to grow and develop as a  a person.

This is all very positive and I can’t recommend goal setting highly enough… but this process can lead us to focus on long-term success, rather than immediate happiness or joy. I don’t believe this has to be an either/or proposition.

Who doesn’t want to experience more joy and happiness on a daily basis? When we pursue longer term goals, we often end up telling ourselves things like “I’ll really be happy when…” and forgetting that we can take action to make ourselves happier right now.

If you’d like to become happier today, here’s an exercise which will only take a few minutes, and may well create more happiness in your day to day life.

Lets get started. You will need:

5-10 minutes of time

A journal/sheet of paper/computer/smart phone

Your memory and imagination

Step One – Give yourself 5 minutes to write down at least 30 activities that make you happy.


If you’re suffering writer’s block, here is a sample list (my own) to give you some ideas:

  1. Hug my wife Elaine
  2. Smile
  3. Do some good
  4. Pet my dog Wilf
  5. Read
  6. Drink a ‘real’ coffee
  7. Listen to music
  8. Take three slow deep breaths
  9. Play/practise a musical instrument
  10. Do a crossword in the pub with Elaine, while drinking a pint of real ale
  11. Go for a walk outside
  12. Listen to something inspirational – a speech, podcast, audiobook
  13. Sit by a fire
  14. Sit outside with the sun on my face
  15. Go for a bike ride
  16. Go for a run
  17. Meet friend(s)
  18. Spend time with family
  19. Phone friend(s)
  20. Have an early night
  21. Have a lazy morning lie-in (but only occasionally)
  22. Go to see live comedy
  23. Go to any live performance
  24. Watch something funny on TV
  25. Sofa time with Elaine
  26. Watch a film
  27. Create something – write/compose/make/draw
  28. Meditate
  29. Have a nice glass of wine with some cheese
  30. Have a night or several away (travel)
  31. Go out for breakfast
  32. Write in a journal
  33. Have a hot drink on a cold day and vice versa
  34. Walk barefoot on the beach/on some grass

Step Two – Go through your list and ask yourself if each activity would bring you joy or pleasure (I believe that there’s a significant difference.) If you did these things consistently are there any which would cause harm rather than benefit? If there is anything that you wouldn’t want reported on the front page of the local newspaper, you might want to remove it from your list!

Step Three – Go through your edited list and put a tick next to all of the items that are either free or inexpensive. If your list is anything like mine, the majority of items will fall into this category.

Step Three – Go through your list again and see how many of these you could do every single day if you wished. Pick your top three from this shortlist and consider making an effort to do all of them every day for a week, starting today.

Step Four – Is there anything on your list that you haven’t done in a while, say the last six months? Why not work out a plan today to do one of these in the near future. Make an appointment with yourself, put it in your diary and do it!

Step Five – Which of the items could you do immediately? Why not choose one and do it now!

I believe it was Aristotle who said “We are what we repeatedly do.” If we repeatedly do things that make us happy, surely we will become happier people.  It is worth keeping your list accessible, perhaps on a smart phone or in a journal, and adding to it over time. You can also use this list to form the basis of a perfect day (more on this in a future post.)

Have fun with this exercise – I know I will! If you’d like to share your thoughts please tweet me @dfrancisdrums with a photo of your list using the hashtag #happylist

Disclaimer: If you are experiencing symptoms of clinical depression, there are far more important things for you to do than to read this blog. Please make an appointment to see your doctor, or a trained counsellor. I know that both of these can make a huge impact, and help you to turn things around.