How Long Does It Take to Form A Habit and Break One?

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From the time we get up to the time in the morning until we lay our heads down at night, your day is filled with habits you’ve created over time. Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re working on autopilot and our habits take over and we act without much thought.

Think about it like this how much thought does it take for you to drive home from your office; you don’t need a map you just do it. You’ve committed the route to memory through repetition. If you are like me, most days you are thinking about something completely different and all the sudden you are pulling up to your house.

But How Long Does It Really Take to Form a Habit?

Just like me, you’ve probably heard that it takes at least 21 days to form a habit. Wanna know how that started? It’s pretty interesting.  A plastic surgeon, was trying to figure out how long it took patients to get use to the changes he made to their faces, aka nose jobs.

According to his research, he established that it took  “at least 21 days.” So, in three weeks a new habit could form.

Other self-help gurus will tell you it takes about four weeks to find a newfound respect and desire to continue a workout regimen.

A 2009 study by researchers at University College London determined that it takes a bit longer to develop habits.  

The participants in their 12-week study reported it took anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a new habit to stick. The average person took about two months.

So, what’s the right answer?

You probably want to go with the shorter timeframes because you want start making changes like NOW!  It’s probably more realistic to use the UCL study as a baseline. Why? Because we are all different with unique core values and motivations.

As you start to think of the habits you want to develop or break, I want you to think about “why” you want to do it. This will be very strong motivation.

How Long to Break a Habit?

First, I challenge you to stop placing time constraints on breaking your habits. Leave deadlines out of the equation. I find that if you don’t meet your goal you may feel like a failure. Those feelings are counterproductive.

For some of you, it’s possible to quit a habit cold-turkey, but it’s usually associated with intense motivation and versus sheer will-power.

By going cold turkey, it can feel like diving into the deep end with a rock attached to your ankle.  

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your motivation for eliminating this habit?
  • How long has this habit existed?
  • What happens if you don’t break this habit?

Make One to Break One

Psychologists suggest the easiest way to break a habit is by replacing it with a new one. Reassign the habit “loop” (reminder, routine and reward) with a more desirable behavior or action to replace the old, undesired routine. 

I haven’t been drinking much water lately, so I make sure I get in my water. I’ve tied to to my morning coffee. I love my coffee so before I have my first cup, I have a glass of water – that 16 oz glass of water goes down like a freaking shot!  Then I have a cup of my belolved coffee and then another class of water.

To make this water habit stick I had to tie to something I was already doing automatically.

Patience is Key

There is no sprinting to the finish line. You can’t rush the making or the breaking of a habit. Let nature take its course. Let the brain fully commit this routine to memory so it becomes an inherent process rather than a forced behavior or action.

When you force habits you will eventually hate and and rebel!

Temptation is going to strike so please give yourself grace. If you stumble get back up and keep moving forward with your goal. I talked about this earlier and its worth repeating. Nail down your “why” and everything will work itself out. Tackling the bad habits and replacing them with good ones is a keystone in living your best life possible.

You are worth the time and effort! Don’t give up, you can do it!

Ready to start creating some great habits? Join my 5 Days To Creating A Better Me Challenge Join Right here

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