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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Loughran

21 days to create a habit and 90 days to form a new lifestyle - True or False?

It is pretty well-known that the successful people in the world are such because they develop behaviors consistently that breed great success.

LeBron James, four MVP, sticks to an intense regime which balances intense training as well as quality sleep, nutrition, and recovery techniques which has led him to sustained performances on the court at 35 years old, well past the peak age for most basketball players.

Tom Brady's sustained success of the past 20+ years is a testament to his ability to consistently perform and recover day and day out. Success on the field for Tom begins with his daily routine which includes lots of rest, great nutrition, scheduled workouts and more rest… This guy schedules his afternoon naps!

There’s no doubt that habits play a significant role in the journey to success. Without the right habits it is much harder to experience and maintain high levels of success in any endeavor and what sets good athletes apart from their peers is that unflappable dedication and commitment to their daily habits.

Is it plausible to believe that these athletes created their habits within 21 days? This is highly doubtful.

On average it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic. In fact a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology researchers examined the habits of 96 people over a 12 week period. Each person chose an eating, drinking or activity behavior to carry out daily and reported whether or not they did the behavior and how automatic it felt. At the end of the 12 weeks researchers determined the length it took each person to go from implementing a new behavior to automatically doing it could take anywhere from 18 to 254 days.

This may be shocking to some of you but this is actually great news! Who out there has tried something for 21- 30 days and felt like a total failure when your new habit or new action has not seemed automatic and has not stuck long term?

Here are some helpful tips on how to create habits that stick with you long term.

Focus on one habit at a time – It can be a difficult task to create even a single habit so focus on what is most important and choose one at a time.

SMART Goal description
SMART Goal description

Be clear about your goal - I want to lose weight, I want to be healthier, I want to read more, these are all non-specific goals. When you set your goals they need to be clear they need to be S.M.A.R.T. Goals. I’ll write more about this in the later blog but smart goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Without these elements it is difficult to achieve your goals. Better examples; I would like to lose 10 pounds in two months. I would like to read for 30 minutes before bed three times a week. I would like to plan healthier meals and spend five minutes a day writing about the things I’m grateful for.

The "why" Must be compelling - I think this is the most important factor to your success when developing a new habit. Tony Robbins, motivational speaker, bestseller, and entrepreneur talks in great length about the “why”. He has spent years talking to the worlds most successful people to understand what motivates them to achieve their greatness so he can share this message with others. What is your motive for action? When the reason for the goal is so compelling that there is no way to fail! You can, you must, you will achieve your goals.

So what is the take away? There is no magic number or set amount of time you can expect a new habit to be fully formed but you can set yourself up for success by focusing on the why and remaining consistent in your efforts. You are only limited by your own fears and inaction... Take a small step every day and you will eventually arrive in a new place.

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