Here is the truth about habits, it doesn’t take 21 days to form a new habit. It can take much longer. The story behind the 21 days is that a Plastic Surgeon by the name of Dr. Maxwell Maltz, noticed that it took a minimum of 21 days for he and his patients to form a new habit or adjust to a new circumstance (in the case of his patients). He published his findings and as people spoke about his finding over the years it became abbreviated to “it takes 21 days to form a habit”. Which is wildly different from the minimum of 21 days!
If you have tried forming a new habit and had been banking on it being set in stone by 21 days, I’m sorry but it’s probably not going to happen. It will likely take longer. The length of time varies from person to person and depends on the habit you are working on forming. It can also depend on external conditions and even things out of your control. I’m sorry if this isn’t what you want to hear. I really believe that if you go into a habit forming “project”, knowing how it will actually play out and have a more realistic expectations, you are more likely to succeed.
What You Need to Know
It takes on average 2 months or more to form a new habit
Studies have shown that it takes between 18 – 266 days to form a new habit. That is a huge range I know. But if you know it and you try forming a new habit, you will know not to give up when 21 days has passed and you haven’t yet cemented that new habit!
Consistency over Perfection
Studies have also shown that if you miss a chance to exercise that new habit, it doesn’t actually hamper your ability to form the new habit. As long as you are consistent with the habit, overall, during the forming phase, you can still get there,
This is Actually Good News
If you know this when you start to work on a new habit, you won’t be disappointed when the 21 days passes and you’re still not quite there. You are less likely to give up. You are more likely to continue for as long as you need to until it becomes a habit.
If you aren’t perfect in exercising the habit, you won’t feel defeated and give up – like you have “fallen off the wagon”. You will realise that it’s ok that you didn’t do it this time, next time you will and it all still counts! You still have time and the ability to get there.
So if you are looking to make a healthy change to your life. Please do so knowing the truth about habits. Habits are not easy to form, certainly not ones that are good for you (from my experience), but if you go into it with the truth and the right mindset, you are far more likely to succeed.
I wish you luck in forming your new healthy habits!