How many times have you told yourself you’d start tomorrow? That you’d come back to it next week? Even when it’s something we really want for ourselves, forming a new habit is hard work, and it takes time. Give yourself some grace, and try these 7 steps to create lasting change.
Resistance by definition is self-sabotage.—Steven Pressfield
Change is hard even when we leap into its arms with the excitement and passion of a lover.
If we believe the prevalent myth that forming a new habit takes only 21 days, we can face crushing self-doubt and feelings of failure when we arrive at Day 22 as the same person with the same habits as on Day 1.
How Long Does It take to Form a New Habit?
In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, found that forming a new habit takes anywhere from two to eight months.
Two to eight months. On average, we need 66 days for a behavior to be wired within us as something we automatically do.
In late October, I decided to pursue forming a new habit. My goal was to establish new rituals of weekly creating so that I would be more consistent and prolific. I mapped out what the week would look like with various content-creating chunks of time blocked out in my schedule.
I then left it up to my brain to deliver.
Right out of the gate, I was inconsistent. Day 1’s content assignment got pushed to Day 2, and then on to Day 3. By week’s end, I had a 0 out of 7 at-bats.
I didn’t feel too bad as I reached for my good friend, rationalization: I was busy after all. Forming a new habit could start next week after the opportunity to reset and start again.
That was nearly seven weeks ago. The amount of self-sabotage I have engaged in is almost comical. I’d head to my studio to make something, or I’d sit down in front of the computer to film a short video, and I’d be driven to distraction by low-priority tasks.
In my brain, these tasks were easier, more attractive. Creating, on the other hand, is hard—especially making the vulnerable content I had my sights on. When I would finally eek out a bit of writing or create a short video clip, I invariably didn’t find it to represent the vision in my head.
Into the trash it went.
After many false starts and weeks of strange self-undoing, I am just now finding my feet with this new schedule and getting my rhythm figured out. I imagine that by year’s end, I will finally hit my stride in forming a new habit.
About 70 days from when I began.
7 Steps to Forming a New Habit for Lasting Change
1) Write down everything you want to change, every new habit you want to establish.
2) Which one is most important and/or urgent? Select that one to focus on first. Resist the urge to tackle a bunch of new changes/habits at once.
3) Review your schedule and find time to block and protect for pursuing the change.
4) Choose a start date, map out your sessions in your calendar, and begin. At the end of the first week, do a gentle review of how things went and note your progress.
5) Refuse to make false starts, days missed, or acts of rebellious counter-behaviors mean a thing. Note any self-undoing as Resistance and be kind to yourself. Dust yourself off and remember you are a human with a human brain that requires an average of two to eight months for forming a new habit.
6) Saddle back up and try again.
7) Consider joining a group or partnering with a buddy for support and accountability. Keep going.
The power to shape our destiny lies in the choices we make, and the habits we cultivate each day pave the way for the extraordinary life we envision.
Forming a new habit is about seizing this opportunity to sculpt the life you desire, one positive habit at a time. The canvas is ours; let’s paint the masterpiece of our life with purpose and intention.
This is our time.