We’ve all heard about the 21-day myth — it takes only three weeks to get used to a new habit. If it were true, we would all be in great shape, work faster, make use of our free time better, cut down on sugar, in short, become a better version of ourselves in a snap.
But the reality is, changing a bad habit into a good one takes a very long time. Sure, it depends on what kind of habit you are trying to change. If you just want to drink more water after meals, that could possibly take way less than 21 days, but if you want to exercise everyday for 30 minutes after a year of not doing much workout-wise, you need to buckle up for the long ride.
Any successful person would tell you that consistency is key and that in itself is no easy task. So how do we keep plodding on? Here are six tips to help you embrace a new habit:
Expect it to take much longer than you might think. This study says it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit — hey, that’s three times longer than 21 days! But bear in mind that it took the participants of this study anywhere from 18 days to 254 days to get used to a new habit.
Messing up once in a while is okay. It’s impossible to be perfect and keep on track to your goal 100 per cent of the time. Making a few mistakes will not derail your plan to change. In fact, failure teaches you new ways to cope and form strategies the next time you are in the same situation.
Realizing it’s a process and not a spontaneous event. You need to grow through the different phases of change before a new habit becomes second nature.
Commit to making small incremental improvements rather than plonk all this pressure on yourself to achieve everything at once.
Reward yourself. Dangling a carrot in front of you is a cliché but it helps to get that motivational drive fired up. Be it a designer bag or a beach holiday, treat yourself for working so hard.
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Lots of practice will get you where you want to be. It’s like learning to drive or the steps to your wedding dance, you just need to do it often enough until you go on auto-pilot.
At the end of the day, we don’t think it matters how long you take to change yourself. What’s key is that you know you have to put in the hard yards, so instead of worrying too much over how long it would take, just get started and keep going.