I’ve been listening, reading, and watching how some of the most successful people go through their average day. Patiently soaking in their day-to-day schedules and reviewing which ones I should incorporate into my own. Obviously, this will be trial and error for me in the next several years, and I don’t exactly have the flexible income as most of the intelligent individuals I look up to. However, there is no excuse great enough to stop success from happening. I am a firm believer that schedules and plans help outline the future for success. Furthermore, I found something interesting about forming new schedules I think everyone should be aware of.
Growing up, I learned it takes around 21 days to make almost any habit stick. It seemed odd to think it only took 21 days, but society went with it. There are hundreds of books stating they can teach you blank in 21 days, or create better habits in 30 days. Even make your mindset like a millionaire in 21 days! But… How true is this? Where did this 21-day claim come from
Did you know a habit is not normally formed in 21 days like most may think? That was the original research from plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz’s studies on self-image. He observed that it took nearly 21 days for a patient to get used to their “new look” which may include everything from a nose job to a lost limb. He journaled this information in his book Psycho-Cybernetics in 1960. After stating this observation, everyone was in awe. with such the short turnaround. However, this gave everyone the idea that, no matter the habit, it would only take 21 days to make it routine. This is in fact, false.
In my nose-dive of research, I found that psychologists found Dr. Maxwells Maltz’s studies intriguing and decided to “run” with it. If you look in the marketplace for books, anything developed prior to 2009, most likely assumed the 21 days (or some random number close-to) to form that random habit. Fortunately, University College London’s researcher, Dr. Phillippa Lally, and her team decided they wanted to revisit how long it takes for someone to develop a habit. Over a 12-week period, 96 people were examined by picking a random habit and reporting every day whether or not they did said habit and how “automatic” this behavior felt. During this research, they discover something shocking… On average, it takes someone 66 days to develop a habit that feels automatic (meaning with little to no thought).
Now, everyone is different. It may take someone only 15 days to make a habit feel automatic while for someone else, it may be 200 days. Also, you must take in to account how much of an impact the habit has on you (timewise, difficulty) as this could lengthen the time more than average. Also understand the MORE NEW habits you try to incorporate into your daily routine, the longer it may take due to exhausting your focus on so many NEW routines.
This also shouldn’t make you feel discouraged – the only way to form a healthy habit is to do it. If you beat yourself up or say you can’t – you won’t. Need some recommendations on the best ways to get your habits going
- Focus on ONE habit at a time. Exhausting your energy and time one 3-5 new habits every day will only hurt your chances at success because you are focusing on something that could distract you from the main purpose. Plus, instead of putting 100% into that new routine, you will stretch yourself 25%x4 every day and so on. It’s best to complete a habit and make it automatic and then start a new one.
- Set Reminders. We are all human, so there will be days when we will forget our new routines. Try putting your new habit in your calendar or alarm to help remind you to do it at a specific time or before the end of the day. Also write the reason you are creating this new habit to keep you motivated.
- Grab a buddy. Sometimes our best friends can help give us the motivation and competitive edge to complete a habit. Perhaps you need someone to wake up and workout with you at 5:00 AM, or maybe take and send pictures to them of your healthy meal prep. This is all about accountability, so who can you rely on?
- Start Small. Perhaps you are preparing for a 5k and you have never run that far before – do you think you are going to prepare by pushing out a 5k on your first day of practice? Probably not. Maybe you start by jogging a mile, then 2, and work your way up. What if you are trying to wake up earlier? Instead of your normal 7:00 routine, try setting the alarm for 6:45 two weeks, then 6:30 after that. It doesn’t have to be this big, overwhelming situation at first, so keep it easy on yourself!
- Reward yourself. Be careful with this one. If you just lost 40lbs, maybe avoid the McDonalds drive-through and triple-chocolate cake. Instead, go out to a nice dinner with your loved one, a tasty protein meal, and perhaps that single plate of homemade cheesecake and head home. Just made an amazing sale? Get a massage or have a golfing day with your pals. Rewarding good behavior is a great way to continue to turn new habits into daily routines.
So, get up, make the decision, and go do it. That’s what I have been trying to implement into my lifestyle. Do I always get it right? No. But trying and doing is better than doing nothing at all. Eventually it will become a habit… It just might take you more than 21 days to get there.