In my research on making new habits, I keep running into the idea that you could do it in twenty-one days. I’ve always had my doubts about the validity that number.
First, when it comes to developing a bad habit, the thought of doing it is probably enough. Sleep past your workout on Monday morning and Tuesday morning, and you’ll probably find it very hard to resist doing it on Wednesday. Thursday you try after work and your boss has big project for you so you at the office late. Friday is happy hour and you are done…
Second, at least for me, twenty-one days isn’t nearly long enough to form a good habit. For me I see new clients come in to the studio for a class or two and never again. I tried for many years to get figure out the packages that will create habits, and I failed and gave up, and then tried again, and I figured it out a challenge to build competition and community. For the Love of Barre is a challenge – is the biggest one of the year in The Studio by Absolute Pilates.
Because I’ve always questioned that often-repeated statistic, I was very interested to read Oliver Burkeman’s article, How long does it really take to change a habit?
According to a recent study, a daily activity like eating fruit at lunch or running for fifteen minutes took an average of sixty-six days to become as much of a habit as it would ever become.
However, there was a lot of variation, both among people and among habits – some people are more habit-resistant than others, and some habits are harder to pick up than others.
I found this all reassuring and you should too. Your difficulty in picking up certain habits wasn’t unusual. Fact is, habits are hard to alter, and that’s why developing a good habit is really worth the struggle; once you’re used to making your bed each morning, or going for an evening walk, or flossing, you don’t have to exert much self-control to keep it up.
The study also showed that if you miss a day here or there when you’re trying to develop a habit, it doesn’t derail the process, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t keep a perfect track record. But the first days seem to make the biggest difference, so it’s worth trying to be particularly diligent at the beginning of the attempted-habit-acquisition process.
What do you think? What has been your experience in developing habits? How long has it taken, and what tricks have you found to help yourself acquire — or kick — a habit?
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