You may have heard in the past it takes 21 days to make a habit or 1 month and you are set for life! Unfortunately the real answer on how long does it take to form a habit is… It depends.
There is no scientific research, which states that after “X “amount of days your behavior will become a habit.
A University of London study found that participants trying to create a habit took anywhere from 8 to 254 days – with the average at 66 days. Although even the average of 66 days was said to be meaningless because multiple factors must be taken into account. Usually it depends on the level of difficulty of the habit and your motivation to complete it.
Interestingly enough, missing one day did not affect forming a habit over the long-term. The key is to stay consistent and I use a rule recommended by James Clear, and Never Miss Twice.
Although I was able to make an easy habit of washing my face every evening in a couple of days, other habits are more difficult. When I started trying to get up at 6 am every morning it took me 6 months before I stopped having to negotiate with myself to – get up or sleep in for 5 more minutes.
I measure if something is becoming a habit based on the mental battle I have with engaging in the activity. Once I start taking action without questioning myself, I know something is becoming a habit.
Regarding motivation, I’ve discussed intrinsic and extrinsic rewards before. An extrinsic (external) reward such as weight loss, monetary gain or prize does not provide long-term motivation. Although when a habit satisfies an intrinsic reward – which has a personal meaning to you or satisfies an internal goal, it becomes much easier. Although without that internal drive, you’ll struggle to stay motivated and commit for the long term.
I’m currently undergoing 30-days sober challenge. But there is no way after these 30 days that I’m not going to want a cold beer on the patio with friends during the summer or enjoy a glass of Shiraz on date nights with my fiancé.
I enjoy doing these 30-day challenges, but not because they’ll become a habit. It’s because after going without something for 30 days, you realize the alternative is not that bad. After surviving 30 days, I tend to engage less in the thing I had given up after the month is over.
So next time you’re trying to form a habit or change an old one, make sure it has a personal meaning to you. The intrinsic reward received from creating the habit is satisfying and might make you want to try again – creating what I like to call the chain reaction to success!
Start by investing in yourself today.