It takes more than 21 days to develop a habit

21 DAYSI am sure that you have heard someone say it takes 21 days to change a habit. I even used to tell people to work for 21 days on Achieve in 5! in order to make it a habit. I believe it was Maxwell Maltz, in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, who popularized the idea that it takes 21 days to make a significant change. However, overtime I noticed many people could sustain an activity for 21 straight days and after missing a day or two, they quickly reverted to old patterns.

Although the 21 day rule sounds good, it does not hold water. Yesterday, I ran across an article from University College London (UCL) that supported my observation. I have exercised far more than 21 days in a row only to miss a few days and notice that getting back on track was very difficult. It would have been easier to stay in bed than get up and go to the gym.

A 2009 post on PsychBlog, also out of the UK, stated an average of 66 days was indicated; however, there was a variance from 18 days up to 254 days to form a new habit. Maybe the 254 day adaptation time explains why it appears that some things never really seem to develop into a habit. It takes a constant reminder to continue on the path. Achieve in 5!. Although after a prolonged period of time practicing Achieve in 5! it will be much more comfortable to meet your five minute commitment than not, Achieve in 5! takes discipline. An important insight that the UCL article by Ben D Gardner Sood provided is that “habits are formed through a process called ‘context-dependent repetition’.” This means that if you do pick a specific time of day or context to do your five-minute activity, you are more likely to have it develop into a habit.

For me, I must complete my five minutes before I go to bed or I feel incomplete. It did not take long before I felt guilty if I did not Achieve in 5!; but I’m sure it was more than 21 days before I got to the point that I had to do my Achieve in 5! activity daily or I would not sleep well that night. Since writing is my Achieve in 5! activity, I have little excuse for not writing five minutes a day. Even if I had to use a napkin and pen, I should be able to scribble something for five minutes each day.

According to Sood, developing a habit a very personal and activity specific undertaking. You may develop a habit regarding one thing in a few days, while something else will require months. Are you up to the challenge of developing a new habit? If so, get out your calendar. Pick the habit you would like to develop and write down that habit. Pick a specific event your activity will follow (for example: you will exercise first thing in the morning right after you brush your teeth, or you will write for five minutes right after dinner). Daily check that you accomplished the activity. Do it for 21 days to start then record how you feel. Continue another ten days and record how you feel. Continue doing this until the activity become second nature and you do not have to think about it.

Good luck on developing a new habit and remember, there is no magic switch that is flipped with a specific number of repetitions. Your habit forming pattern is unique to you and unique to the activity.

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