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30 Day Challenge

Meditation, Journaling, and so much more: how one NC State class transformed their lives for thirty days straight.

When students in Professor Marcy Bullock’s USC 202 class, entered on their first day this semester, they probably didn’t expect to hear that they would be challenged to transform their lives for thirty days straight.

USC 202 is a Career Exploration and Development class intended to help students who are thinking about changing their college major, and who want to explore their academic and professional potential. Bullock, who also oversees professional development and career ambassadorship at the Career Development Center, believes not only in teaching her students skills to help them discover their professional potential, but also in challenging them to better themselves along the way.

“I want everyone to get out of their normal comfort zone and to push themselves to improve their life,” Bullock said. “It’s really easy to kind of get in a rut and to always say, ‘oh I think I want to eat healthy,’ or ‘ I think I want to work out,’ or ‘I think I want to meditate,’ but until you actually commit to it, and have that accountability buddy, you just kind of procrastinate.”

That is how she developed the thirty day challenge for her students. The idea is that it takes a month, or thirty days, to form a habit. At the beginning of each semester in USC 202, each student is asked to pick up a new, productive, habit for thirty days straight. The class is expected to keep track of how often they are sticking to their challenge, and to help each of their classmates stay accountable. Bullock says she wants the challenge to improve the lives of each of her students. She even participates in the challenge with them, this time around, her goal was to cut out all added sugars in her diet.

“I’ve taught this class for five years, and this was my most difficult challenge,” Bullock said.

Bullock’s class was up to the task, completing challenges like meditating, eating healthier, going to the gym five days a week, and making strides to improve study habits.

Christie Norton, a junior studying Computer Engineering, challenged herself to work out for five days straight, and to stick to a vegetarian diet for the whole thirty days. Norton says that going to the gym often was a great addition to her routine, but that not eating meat, at first proved to be a challenge.

“I noticed at first I wasn’t balancing putting protein back into my diet so I was having a very carb heavy diet and it completely changed my mood and my energy levels,” Norton said. “So two weeks in, once I figured out how to adjust that I felt a lot better.”

In the end Norton enjoyed the challenge and what it did for her life this semester so much, that she recommends other students at NC State, try a thirty day challenge for themselves.

“I think it’s definitely important to try a thirty day challenge because it’s not like a lifetime commitment, it’s really about figuring out what works for you. I know last semester I did gratitude journaling and it was nice to wake up every day and think about things that I am thankful for, and I noticed it really improved my mood, and I started looking for things to be thankful for,” Norton said.

Norton’s advice to students looking to challenge themselves for thirty days: discipline.

“My advice to someone who would like to try a thirty day challenge is to be disciplined to yourself and make sure that if you have rules that you stick to them, and recognize that it is only for thirty days and just everyday realizing that you’re getting closer to your end goal,” Norton said. “It’s not only about accomplishing what you want to do for that thirty days, it’s about learning how to achieve goals that you set for yourself, and follow your own standards, because a lot of people compromise what they want to do.”

The thirty days is now up, and Norton says that even though she enjoyed the challenge, she will eat meat again, she will just monitor her consumption of it more closely and avoid having meat with every meal.

“I have recognized that I have learned to cook new things so in November I am going to try cooking at least one new meal a day with an ingredient I haven’t used before, and also eating less meat, so not eating meat at every meal, because I don’t always need it, but maybe like one meal a day,” Norton said.

Sophomore Microbiology Major Kaili Griffin is also taking Bullocks class this semester, and gave herself the task of gratitude journaling and meditating for thirty minutes every day.

“The most rewarding part of the challenge has been being able to have a positive outlook and better attitude each day,” Griffin says. “The most challenging part has been remembering to do the journaling.  I usually write at night and tend to want to skip the writing and go to bed.”

As for whether she will continue, Griffin is optimistic.

“I definitely will try to continue the challenge after 30 days! I enjoy the new attitude I’ve obtained from this activity,” Griffin said. “However, I think I will try to journal throughout the day rather than only in the evening.”

On the last day of the challenge, October 30th, Bullock and her class celebrated the end of the thirty day challenge, with a guest speaker and snacks during class time. Each student went up to the front of the class and discussed how the challenge helped them, and what parts of their challenge they will make fixtures in their daily routines. Most of the class intended to keep some part of their challenge to work into their lives for the rest of the school year. All of the class was sure that the thirty day challenge helped improve their lives for the better.

Their guest speaker was Bullocks former student, sophomore psychology major Emma Duling. Duling discussed how the challenge, and the class, helped improve her life when she took USC 202 last semester.

“So like Christie said before this class, I didn’t even know what the Career Development Center was or where it was or anything like that, and I was so lost,” Duling said. “I was in a major that I really did not like, and I knew that I didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life, so that really scared me. Around December [of 2016] I found this class. And to this day, this is my favorite class I’ve ever taken at NC State.”

Duling went on to discuss how the class allowed her to find her strengths and weaknesses. She even changed her major and discovered her dream career path through Bullocks class.

“I’ve loved my major ever since [taking this class]. I’m a psychology major, and I want to go grad school for school counseling around the elementary level.”

As far as the thirty day challenge, Duling credits it, for giving her willpower and the courage to know that she too, can stick to something valuble and productive.

“So for my thirty day challenge, I drank a half gallon of water every day, and I only drank water for the entire month, and I think that really helped me become routine and stick with things,” Duling said. “Before I wasn’t really good at routines and planning things out. It also helped show me that I can stick to something and stay with it because before the thirty day challenge, I would always start something, and never finished, and this has really helped me”

Duling also mentioned that the thirty day challenge has stayed with her, even though her time in the class is over.

“I’ve actually done more thirty day challenges since doing this class, because I really liked it, because it taught me how to be determined and really stick things through.”

At the end of the class, Bullock congratulated her students for sticking to their challenges, and rewarded them with custom made t-shirts. She also discussed with the class what she learned from her own challenge.

“What I learned from the whole thirty, is that I am stronger than food, and that I can make healthy decisions that will nourish my body, and make me feel strong, energized, focused and actually in a good mood,” Bullock said.

She also told her class that they should be proud of themselves for their efforts.

“You should all be super proud of yourselves for doing it, and being intentional just in your life about making your life better.” Bullock said. “Months go by and months just pass, and you’re like; ‘that month went by’ versus ‘that month went by and I accomplished something that I will look back on with great pride.’ Those weren’t easy things to do, so the fact that you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone is something that you should feel very proud of.”

When asked if she believes her students were grateful for the challenges in the end, Bullock is confident they were.

“I think one hundred percent of them are so glad I pushed them, because they needed that extra kick in the butt,” Bullock said. “They get to pick [the challenge] so they’re committing to something they know they need to work on. So I definitely at the end hear them being very grateful, because otherwise a month goes by and you’re just like, what did I accomplish last month. This way, you really have a sense of achievement.”