Before falling asleep, have you ever pondered the idea of tomorrow being the day you make a change? The day you rise early, have a nutritious breakfast, go for a morning run, and breathe in the fresh air. The day you transform into the person you truly aspire to be - the best version of yourself. However, change is not a simple task. It requires incorporating certain habits into your daily life that will eventually lead you to becoming your best self. It also necessitates eliminating certain habits that hinder your progress. So, how long does it take to develop a new habit or break an old one?
The general consensus is that it takes precisely 21 days for an individual to establish a new habit or break an old one. I recall a time in high school when my teachers informed me, "It takes precisely 21 days for me to adopt a new habit." This statement sparked the idea that I could become someone who makes their bed regularly. Instead of relying on my mother to do it every day, I decided to take on the responsibility for the next 21 days. Each morning, even when I was running late, I diligently woke up at 6 a.m. and made my bed. However, I despised every moment of it. Yet, on the 22nd day, I found myself uttering the words, "Mom, please don't forget to make my bed today." I had given up, as expected. At that point, I realized that perhaps I would never excel at life like those who make their beds consistently.
The 21 day theory holds a prominent position as one of the most well-known myths in the realm of self-development. To delve into this theory, it is important to understand its origins and the reasons behind its widespread inclusion in self-development literature and courses. Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon in the 1950s, made an intriguing observation among his patients. For instance, when performing a nose job, he noticed that it took precisely 21 days for the patient to acclimate to their altered appearance. Similarly, for patients who underwent amputation of a limb, there was a period of 21 days in which they acknowledged the sensation of their new limb before gradually adapting to their changed circumstances.
Dr. Maltz's theory gained widespread recognition during its time and sold over 30 million copies when published in a highly renowned book. This resulted in the emergence of a brewing conflict, as people began to believe in his theory. What were the reasons behind this growing belief? Firstly, the duration of 21 days was perceived as relatively short, making it seem like a manageable challenge. Secondly, this time frame was considered long enough to pose a difficulty, but not so long as to be deemed impossible. The idea of completely transforming one's life within a mere 21 days is undoubtedly appealing. Who wouldn't want to start waking up early every morning, preparing healthy meals, or even trying out unconventional smoothie recipes? And all of this can be accomplished in less than a month! It's no wonder that many would jump at the opportunity. So, is it possible? Can our lives truly be changed within this 21-day period?
To estimate the time it takes to form a new habit or break an old one, there are several factors to consider. Firstly, the complexity of your goal plays a role. For instance, adopting the habit of eating fruit daily is simpler than acquiring a complex athletic skill like a tennis serve. Secondly, the consistency of your behavior affects the speed of habit acquisition. Spending 3 minutes a day on a behavior is different from dedicating 30 minutes to it.
To provide clarity on the matter, we turn to a reliable study conducted by psychologist Philippe Lally, titled "How Our Habits Are Formed." This study observed 96 individuals over a 12-week period. Each individual selected a new habit to focus on for a period of 12 weeks. Examples included drinking three cups of water before lunch or engaging in a 15-minute run after dinner. Once the 12-week period concluded, the data was examined to determine the length of time it took for participants to transition from their previous habit to unconsciously adopting the new one. The results revealed that it typically took between two and eight months for the habit to become firmly established, with an exact average of 66 days. The variability in habit formation time was influenced by various factors, such as the nature of the habit, the individual, and their specific circumstances. Some individuals were successful in forming the habit within as little as 18 days, while others required up to 254 days. Thus, the widely accepted notion that a new habit can be formed in just 21 days is debunked by psychologist Lally's research. In reality, it may take anywhere from two to eight months to develop a new habit or break an old one.
Well, no matter how long it takes, the ;ost important thing is to start today. And once you begin, make sure to maintain your new habit, make it a part of your schedule, set reminders, create a supportive environment and most importantly you don’t have to be perfect, making a mistake once or twice has no lasting effects on your behavior. Actually, that will give you time not to rush yourself into things, you have to give yourself time and not just rush yourself into becoming a better version. If I want to become a better person, I will have to commit to the system and embrace the process. That way, I will commit to making tiny improvements rather than rushing myself too hard into things. Change is not always easy and it is not always simple, but with enough dedication, any habit can be reshaped. So, if you really want to become the best version of yourself, get up today and start working on it, you will all get there.