According to Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Science.com & one of the most influential doctors of our time Dr. Maxwell Maltz the answers are all the same…It takes 21 days or MORE to change or form a habit. Why is 21 days the magic number you ask?
Let’s take a look at a study done by Phillippa Lally, a Health Psychology Researcher at the University College London. Her study was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, on her and her teams research on the length of time it takes a human being to form a new habit. They found that it wasn’t a measly 21 days, it took on average 66 days for the 100 people in the study to form the new habit. Although, the length of time can vary depending on the person and the circumstances, her data shows anywhere from 18-254 days for people to form a new habit. Very interesting!
The human brain is a complex machine, allowing humans to have developed qualities that bring us to outer space, see the smallest viruses on the planet and visit into the Earth’s core. On the contrary, as complex as it is, the human brain as limitations. One of which is forming new habits without a length of time required to do so. This is not to say that forming a new habit can’t ever stick immediately, but is it ever sustainable?
How can we create success driven habits that are sustainable even though change is difficult?
Cheer up Charlie- Go easy on yourself! If it only takes you 21 days to form a new habit you’re ahead of the game!! It’s scientifically proven to take longer than that!
Make mistakes- This is the sure fire way to become better at what you’re trying to do! Getting it wrong or forgetting is a great way to remember and improve for next time. Welcome mistakes and failures when learning a new habit!
It’s not a race- Forming new habits, like many things in life, is a process. It’s not a sprint to the finish or even a race at all! It’s about becoming a little bit better every single day.
Start NOW- The time will pass anyway, the sooner you start the sooner it will be a habit.
Support system- As a preventative measure, create a back up support system. If you do make a mistake or fail at some point in creating a new habit, you’ll have a support system in place to get you back on track. This can be alarms throughout the day, someone in your life to hold you accountable, a reminder in your calendar, a written note on your bathroom mirror or the fridge. Make sure you have support when it becomes tougher to stay on track.
Either way, if you’re someone taking on the challenge to form a new habit you’re already a ROCK STAR! Keep it up and stick with it!
Thank you for reading!
By Ashley DeMatos, Training & Development Directo at Institute for Mastering Success
© 2015, Institute for Mastering Success