21 Days to Change a Habit?
Have you every heard the saying, “it takes approximately 21 days to change a habit?” Do you believe it?
It states, “on average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances.
In other words, if you want to set your expectations appropriately, the truth is that it will probably take you anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behavior into your life — not 21 days.”
Interestingly, the researchers also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process.”
Finally something that makes sense! No wonder I can give up sugar for a month or so and think I’ve kicked it, only to fall back into it’s sugary snare so easily!
I think we can apply this perspective to anything we want to change in our lives. Next time stop and think before you go on an all or nothing rampage to work out, eat healthier, quit smoking, & stop drinking. Those seem to be where most of us start right?
Don’t get me wrong, it will get you moving ahead, but using the all or nothing strategy is a tactic that in the long run becomes a roadblock to our success.
Let’s take it a bit deeper. What about our mindset? How about perfectionism, procrastination, worry, stress, anxiety and fear? Could these be habits?
Here’s my story about when I realized worry became a habit. I am a person who journals. Yep, I have LOTS of them. Sometimes I go back and read them. Ok, not all of them, I don’t have that kind of time!
When I turned 50, I sat myself down to do some serious personal reflection. I gathered my journals from the last few years and began to read. After awhile, I thought OH MY GOSH! I could not believe that the majority of my journal entries were about the same ridiculous stuff! Most everyday began with various forms of the same topic. Agh! the cycle, the HABITUAL cycle.
I know, I know, it’s not that cut and dry. I’ve been a life/spiritual coach long enough to know that the root of our behaviors and emotions are not “just habits.” Most of the time we have underlying reasons why we do the things we do, or think the things we think. We have to get to the core if we want to change things in our lives and grow out our habitual processes.
Part of “getting to the core” for me, was becoming aware that I was allowing myself to say the same things over and over again. Over the years this mindset had become ingrained into my thought process, thus becoming a habit. I realized that I had to change my perspective and do some mind training around my thought processes.
That is when I hired a life/spiritual coach and started to learn more about mind training (mindfulness and meditation). What about you? What is your story on habitual cycles?
I’ve got three challenges for you today my friend.
- Raise your awareness about if/how you are playing the all or nothing game with your habits.
- Notice if/how you are playing the mental habitual cycle game.
- What is one small step you can take to start turning these habits around in a more balanced way?
If you need help I am always here for you!