The Truth About Habit Formation

We have all heard the claim that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Has anyone else tried to form a habit in 21 days and failed miserably? Don't worry! You're not alone. The reason it is not that simple, is because this claim is a myth. I know, I was shocked as well. However, I was relieved to find out that it wasn't just me. 

So, where did this '21 days to form a habit' myth come from? Researchers says that it may have stemmed from a misinterpretation of a book written by Dr. Maxwell Maltz on self image. Dr. Maltz was a plastic surgeon who claimed that it took approximately 21 days for a patient to become familiar with their new face after surgery. Somehow, from his findings people falsely concluded that it takes 21 days to form a habit, and everyone believed it. 

The truth is, it can take anywhere from 30-90 days to form a habit, and it is very hard to do. Essentially, forming a habit is attempting to perform a task everyday in hopes it will become second nature and automatic.  This is possible. We have all formed habits in our life without knowing it, but they are not always good ones. If we can form bad habits without knowing it, imagine the healthy habits you can form with some serious effort. 


1. Choose a healthy habit
Choose a healthy habit you want to incorporate into your daily routine. 

2. Write it Down
Write down why you want to create this habit. Write down how it makes you feel, what you hope to accomplish with it, and what inspired you to choose it. 

2. Make a Reminder
Find a way to remind yourself everyday to complete this task. Whether it is an alarm on your phone, a message as soon as you open your computer, a sticky note on everyday of your calendar, etc. Make sure you put it somewhere you will see every single day. 

3. Accept It
Accept the fact that you aren't going to remember to perform the task everyday. It may pop up on your phone, and you find yourself engaged in something else, so you dismiss it. That's normal and don't let it discourage you. It doesn't matter how many days you've gone without performing the task, what matters is realizing it and beginning again the next day. 

4. Be Proud
Take a moment and be proud of yourself for even trying to create a new habit. It's hard and it's more than most people do. 

5. Plan Ahead 
If you know that you are going out of town for a couple days, pack whatever supplies necessary for you to complete your task while away. Vacation is the #1 interruption people run into while trying to create a habit. 

6. What Inspiration? 
Once the inspiration wears off (and it will), you are going to have to try 10 times harder. Once you ask yourself: "Why I am even doing this?" refer back to step 2. Remind yourself why you started and get inspired all over again. You may have to do this several times, but it will pay off. 

7. Second Nature
You've done it! You have created a habit. As long as you follow steps 1 - 6 and continue to repeat step 6 as many times as necessary, you will create a habit, and it will become second nature to you. 

How long should creating a habit take? Don't set a time limit. It will only discourage you if you don't meet it. It will take as long as it needs to. Everyone is different. Once it becomes second nature, you won't need those reminders anymore and you will know that you've made it. 

What habit would you like to form? Let us know!