We, humans, are creatures of habit. We always want to do things that are good for our lives. Many times we are motivated to start running or exercise. But motivation only takes you so far. Only when a behavior becomes a habit, true change occurs.
If asked how long it takes to form a habit, many people will respond “21 days”. In reality, this is not a claim but just an observation that shows that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to gel.
A lot of people take this as a fact and because of that we have even started seeing these trends of 30-day experiments in which people believe to completely change their lives in just 30 days.
Sometimes that can actually be the case but mostly on the 31st day people are back to their old habits. Why? In their mind, the whole intention of that challenge is to do it for the sake of 30 days and when they accomplish that, they don’t care about it anymore.
The bottom line is there’s no one-size-fits-all figure, which is why the time frame ranges from anywhere between 18 to 254 days. Some habits are easier to form than others, and some people may find it easier to develop new behaviors.
Instead of being fixated on the timeline, these are the 3 strategies that I have adopted and can help you too when it comes to actually building a habit.
It’s really easy to overwhelm yourself in the process of building a habit and most people who struggle start saying something like, “I just need more motivation.” Or, “I wish I had as much willpower as you do”. If you try and do too much, you will most likely fail and destroy your morale. Have patience, start small and build on your progress.
While having a big goal like getting a new job, running a marathon, or going to the gym five days a week sounds exciting, you need to break your goal down into smaller and more realistic increments. Rather than starting with going to the gym five days a week, start with only going once a week. Going once a week is not a big deal, anyone can do that but when you set a goal of going just once a week, you will feel successful because you’ve checked your box for success.
This will keep you consistent and “motivated” to not give up. Once you get comfortable with going to the gym once a week, then make it twice a week and so on.
The Two Day Rule
This is the most powerful approach to habit change I have come across (Thanks to the YouTuber Matt D’Avella) that will give you the best chance at getting them to stick.
The Two Day Rule is a simple concept: Never skip the thing you’re trying to accomplish more than two days in a row. It may be something as simple as going for a 30-minute walk. One day it’s raining and you don’t go. But the next day, you find a way to take that walk, even if it means going out and buying yourself a new umbrella.
It makes a lot of sense because one missed day is really not a big deal. But a second makes it that much easier to miss the third day, a week, a month. At which point you don’t really remember the activity at all.
You need to control your environment
A couple of months ago, I gave waking up early a try because after reading a lot about how all successful people have this habit, I was curious if that will actually affect my day or not. Turns out it actually made me more productive than I imagined.
Now obviously turning that into a habit wasn’t easy. I’ll admit I have very little self-discipline and 80% of the time instead of waking up to my alarm I put it on snooze for another 30minutes and failed.
After a couple of failed attempts, I decided to do something different. Instead of putting my phone right next to me on the bed, I started putting it on the table across the room. This way every morning the alarm started ringing I had no choice but to get up from my bad, go to the other side of the room, pick the phone and turn off the alarm.
Once I started doing this, I didn’t tend to snooze that often because I’ve already gotten out of bed so might as well wake up right? 😉
When you control your environment, you force yourself to do things you probably don’t even like.
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