21 Days

March 2, 2009

Ever wonder how long it takes to create a new healthy habit?

According to scientific researchers, it takes approximately 21 days to build a new habit. That’s 3 weeks. Some people believe there isn’t a magic number, and claim they can do it in less time, others need more. Well, let’s say the researchers are right, and it is 21 days. Are you willing to test it out? What would you like to create? Are there any habits that you’ve been contemplating adding to your life?

Yes, I said adding. I think we often get caught up in thinking what habits we need to break. And we forget that most of those habits were broken because we added new habits in. Say, for instance, with the habit of eating breakfast, we are much more likely to stop eating a desired food (ie. egg & cheese sandwich), when we come up with an alternative that can be equally satisfying (ie. oatmeal with agave nectar and almonds). This was an example of a habit I broke/changed a few years ago. Did it happen the first time I tried it? No. Do I eat oatmeal for breakfast all the time now? No. So what was it that allowed me to successfully change this habit?

First, I had a clear intention that I wanted to add oatmeal into my diet. Prior attempts were focused on cutting out the egg & cheese sandwich, and guess what most of my thoughts were about: egg & cheese sandwiches. So the first step is deciding what you would like to do (as opposed to what you don’t want to do). Next, is too make sure things are set up for your success. Try taking one habit at a time, you don’t want to take on too much at once. Also, try to make your circumstances over those next few weeks conducive to the success of the new habit. With the breakfast example, make sure you have access to oatmeal or whatever it is you want to be eating. Make it convenient for you to eat. Also, it wouldn’t be the best idea to put yourself in an environment that would allow your previous habit to overcome (like starting the habit change when you are on vacation at a hotel that serves a free continental breakfast).

So why 21 days? See for yourself. 21 days of concerted effort will allow you to make the space for the new habit. It’s enough time to become part of your routine, and build some momentum so that eventually you aren’t feeling like you’re forcing yourself. If you’ve been following along with my blog, you’ll remember I did a test with not having coffee, I suggested trying a week or two. This was enough time to see what it would be like introducing that food back into your diet. But to create the habit change you have to take it to the next step and go a little longer. Basically, it’s a gestation period to nurture yourself into becoming the new you (the one with the new habit).

It’s really exciting that we are even capable of doing such things. And if you doubt you’re ability to do it, go back and look at your past. You’ll see how many times you’ve already successfully done this. Go back 3 years ago, then 3 years before that, and 3 years before that, and so on. Look at the major eating habits you had at those times, you will notice that there are number of things you changed over that time span. It could have been due to a new job, or a new relationship, or maybe you moved, but nonetheless you changed your habits. So what would be the difference if you willingly chose one thing right now, and tested it out for 21 days.

No pressure, just try it and see how it goes. I dare you

One Response to “21 Days”

  1. Hi James,

    Thanks for your kind words! Your blog is FABULOUS & of great need to remind us that we don’t stand alone in our challanges. Very inspiring!

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