The 21-Day Myth
Have you ever heard that it takes about 21 days to form a habit? I have been reading self-help books since 1991 and I have read this “21 Days to a New Habit” myth over and over in many of the books I have read.
It makes sense that “21 Days” would stick with people. The time frame is short enough for many to believe they can sustain their focus, but long enough to seem plausible. The ROI of focusing for three weeks to create a major upgrade in one’s life is very appealing; however, it isn’t backed by science.
How Long Does it Actually Take?
I first came across the idea how long it takes for a habit to become automatic in a book called The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. I highly recommend this book and it is the inspiration behind the concept of “Your One Priority” that we focus on in our Northstar Fitness 14-Day Challenge. The book is filled with gems of applicable wisdom.
In the book they share a 2009 study by Phillippa Lally, a psychology researcher at University College London, in which they were looking for the very moment when a habit becomes ingrained. The researchers determined that when a participant was 95% through the power curve and the effort to sustain that new habit was as low as it could get, they had reached the point of “automaticity”.
This point of automaticity takes between 18 to 254 days and the sweet spot seems to be right at 66 days. So if you are lucky, you might make a habit automatic within 18 days or it may take as long as 8 months, but if you keep on task for 66 days straight, there is a good chance that you will master the habit you are working on.
If you are interested in reading the abstract of the above study, here it is.
A Sample of Putting 66-Days of Focus into Action
I am sharing this concept with you today because I was inspired to on my morning walk. I just completed a book by Robin Sharma called The 5AM Club, which is another book filled with a multitude of useful ways to change your life for the better. One is getting up by 5AM for the next 66 days and doing what he calls the 20/20/20 Formula. In a nutshell you wake just before 5AM, and from 5:00-5:20, you exercise. From 5:20-5:40 you write, pray or meditate, and from from 5:40-6:00, you read or listen to uplifting material.
I am on Day 6 now and just this morning woke without the help of an alarm at 4:53, 2 minutes before the alarm was about to get me up. I just go for a brisk walk for the first 20 minutes, which is very invigorating and meditative, as I listen to my thoughts and respond in the most positive and constructive ways.
My gym, where I train my clients, is 3 floors down and 30 seconds from my home and my office IS my home, so there are days when I don’t go out at all. So if I get out in the fresh air and get my walk on first thing in the morning, it gives me a chance to 1) get out and about, 2) get some relaxing exercise in and 3) enjoy a mind-cleansing meditation.
Tools That May Serve You
If you are a “pen & paper” lover, you can print out this 66-Day Challenge Calendar here. You can be creative and fashion your own calendar if you like. Just make sure cross-off the day that you completed until you have done it for at least 66 days.
If you decide to read The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma, at the end of the book they offer a free 66-Day Challenge through The5AMClub app. This is specifically to automate the habit of waking at 5AM and doing the 20/20/20 Formula I mentioned above.
Habit Bull looks like a very solid habit-tracking app that keeps you on track of your habit and shows you the number of days you have consistently progressed on a habit.
Enjoy Your Jim-Dandy Journey
Have fun with this and see what works best for you. Some habits will be easier than others. When you find a worthy habit that means a lot to you, you will put in the time and effort to mastering it whether it takes 18 days, 66 days, 8 months or 10 years:-) Enjoy it all, starting with enjoying this delightful day, my friend!