The saying, “It takes 21 days to form a new habit”, is false. Starting a new habit or quitting an old one is hard work and can take much longer than 21 days. Phillipa Lally, a researcher at the University College of London, did a study on this several years ago. Ninety six people participated in this 12 week study and Lally found that it took an average of 66 days to form a new habit. Let me repeat, an average of 66 days. Lally found that it took 18 to 256 days, depending on the person, the habit, and the situation. Some folks took less time, to be sure, but most participants took far more than 21 days to reach their goal. Here are 3 tips to starting a new habit.
Regroup and Try Again
It doesn’t matter how well you’ve planned for every possible situation, expect to make a mistake or two along the way. Life just gets in the way and this new habit train gets derailed. No worries. Take a closer look at what it was that got you side tracked. Maybe a vacation, a birthday celebration, or a big project at work that caused you to lose focus for just a moment. Remember that it was just a moment. Regroup and try again, keeping in mind a solution for this challenge if it happens again.
Time and Repetition
This new habit will require baby steps, every day, so it helps to embrace the process. All of us brush our teeth before we go to bed. And, for some of us we’ve been doing this for decades and honestly cannot remember a time when we didn’t brush our teeth before going to bed. However, my guess is that this habit started pretty much the same for all of us. When we were young children our parents asked us, or reminded us, to brush our teeth. And this happened night after night, week after week for a length of time until brushing our teeth was second nature. That habit required a length of time and a process and your new habit will require its own time and process.
Be patient with yourself. Starting a new habit, or dropping an old one, will require time and a process. There will be a few mistakes, but continue to take the baby steps, always moving forward.
So, the next time you want to make changes in your life, remember these 3 tips to starting a new habit.