Stick to it

by Alice Dommert
January 5, 2016

So we’ve turned the pages of the calendar to a New Year. What does that mean for you?

There are the folks who are all about resolutions. They make them and want to tell you all about them, and their success with the ones from last year. AND even encourage you to make some.

Argh! Those folks mean well. Really, they do. They have your best interest at heart. They even seem to have more willpower than the rest of us. Actually they don’t.

You may have heard it takes 21 days to change a habit. That statement is a sort of urban myth. Its origins are from a statement made by a plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz. He watched his patients adjust to a new nose or losing a limb and even experimented with his own adjustment period to changes and new behaviors and noticed it took about 21 days to form a new habit.

In 1960, Maltz published the quote “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to disappear and a new one to jell.” The quote was in a book call Psycho-Cybrnetics. It went on to become a blockbuster hit selling more than 30 million copies.

This “fact” got cited in almost every self-help book over the next few decades. Imagine the game “Telephone” and you can see how his observation of “a minimum of 21 days” got shortened to, “It takes 21 days to form a new habit.”

Everyone started to believe it. Yet, there was no real science behind it.

Years later in 2009 a new, real study was finally published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.  Researcher Phillippa Lally and her team decided to figure out exactly how long it takes to form a new habit.

Their conclusion…On average, it takes more that 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic ¾ 66 days to be exact.

For some people it took much longer. Sometimes many months or even a year. The folks who were able to establish the new habit were not those who had the willpower to never miss a day. It was the ability to get back on track, and stick to it, for the longer duration that made the difference.

So find some fun tape to put at your desk as a reminder. You don’t have to be perfect, just stick to it.

Alice Dommert

Alice Dommert

Founder, Wholebeing Architect

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