There is a misconception that it takes 21 days to form a habit. In reality forming a habit depends on the individual and the changes that one wishes to make. The misconception stems from a plastic surgeon called Dr. Maxwell Maltz.
Back in the 1950s Dr Maltz observed a pattern emerging from his patients. It seemed on average it took a minimum of 21 days for a patient to readjust and accept the life changing surgery that had altered their appearance. This observation left Dr. Maltz to question his own experiences.
“These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” – Dr. Maxwell Maltz (1960), Psycho-Cybernetics.
However, here is how the misconception started as over the years self-help gurus have misquoted and shortened the minimum of 21 days to the belief that it takes ‘only‘ 21 days to form a habit! This is simply not true and habit formation depends on may different factors.
The author of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg wrote that habits are not born, but created. Every bad, good or insignificant habit starts with a psychological pattern that he referred to as a “habit loop.”
This “habit loop” is a three-fold process.
- The first step is the trigger that tells your brain to acceptance certain behavior.
- The second step is the behavior itself, or the routine it creates and finally the
- The final step is the reward, or “something that your brain likes that helps it remember the ‘habit loop’ in the future.”
ACCEPTANCE + ROUTINE + REWARD = HABIT
How long does it really take to build a new habit?
A Research study conducted by Dr. Phillipa Lally (2009) concluded that on average it took 2 months (66 days) for a new behavior pattern to become automatic and the participants to start seeing noticeable results.
“To change a habit, make a conscious decision, then act out the new behavior.” – Dr. Maxwell Maltz
20 odd days to accept the new behavior pattern as observed by Dr. Maltz, a further 20 days to build a routine and finally 20 days to ensure you are rewarding the brain for the new routine it is establishing.
Get the ball rolling for forming a new habit with community support from the #15x100Challenge. The 100 day challenge focuses on one goal for a minimum of 15 minutes per day for 100 days. This walks you through the ‘habit loop‘ to ensure you are not just setting better habits to achieve your goals, but you are starting to see noticeable changes in your life.
Are you up for the challenge?
10 ways to build a new habit…
1. Stop with the Self-judging
Research shows it can take months to build a new habit NOT weeks. So don’t be hard on yourself if you are not seeing the desired benefits straight away. 21 days is merely the point of acceptance and recognition. Push past this phrase to see success.
2. Let go of perfectionism
It is worth noting that making a mistake once or twice has no measurable impact on your long-term habits. This is why you should treat failure like a scientist, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and develop strategies for getting back on track quickly!
3. Get into a daily routine
Your brain loves routine and habits are more likely to take effect if you work on a good daily routine. You will need to stick at this routine for a minimum of 66 days before it starts to become automatic. So choose a time that you can stick to on a daily basis.
4. Discipline over motivation
There are a lot of articles on improving motivation, but this can be another misconception. The most successful of people will tell you that it is discipline rather than motivation that initially drives them. They continue even when motivation is low. Discipline drives motivation so by pushing through the difficult patches it will help motivate you in the future.
5. Learn to love the process
Remember habits are a process rather than a goal with a deadline. You need to embrace and enjoy the process.
6. Breaking goals into Small chunks
New habit formation will work best when you set small manageable daily or weekly goals rather than focusing on everything all at once! Focusing on the bigger picture can sometimes feel overwhelming especially in the beginning.
7. Stop paying attention to negativity
Don’t pay attention to the negativity of others when forming a new goal. What they are really revealing is how they feel about themselves. Equally it’s your own choice if you listen to your own negativity or choose to push pass this. The most successful of people accept this is a stage that we all go through when building new habits and have learnt through experience that it will pass.
8. Don’t focus on the number
21/66/ 100 they are all but numbers, love the process and reflect upon your progress at regular intervals. Not making the progress you want? Reflect on goals and pivot if you have to just don’t give up!
9. “If we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always got“. – Henry Ford
If we keep doing the same things we will always get the same results. If you want to form a new habit then you must embrace change.
10. Get Accountable for your actions
I read a blog post once that said keep goals to yourself, actually the opposite is true hold yourself publicly accountable for your goals. You never know who might be able to help you or inspire you to continue when you feel like giving up.
Join the #15×100 Challenge, where you choose to focus one thing, i.e. learning a new language, mindfulness practice, exercise for a minimum of 15 minutes per day for 100 days with full support from an awesome community of goal-getters.
What new habit would you like to form? Let me know in the comments section below or on social media using the hashtag x15x100Challenge.
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65 15 minutes x 100 day inspiring challenge ideas…
1. Learn a foreign language by practicing for as little as 15 minutes per day for the next 100 days.
2. Give a compliment everyday for the next 100 days.
3. Draw or paint a picture everyday for the next 100 days and build a portfolio.
4. Write in a journal for the next 100 days.
5. Exercise daily – doesn’t mean joining a gym!
6. *Give up alcohol for 100 days and research ways to detox.
7. Give up watching TV for 100 days and use the extra time to find a new hobby.
8. Listen to a different song everyday for 100 days.
9. Spend 3 – 15 minutes just focusing on your breath every day!
10. Take time out each day to observe your thoughts without judgement and note your mood.
11. Take a photograph & add some effects to it… every day for the next 100 days.
12. Work on writing a story or song 15 minutes per day for 100 days.
13. Grow your vocab – learn a new word a day!
14. Teach others something new every day.
15. Think of your worst habit that you’ve been meaning to ditch and work on giving it up over the next 100 days.
16. Do some gentle stretching exercises for 15 minutes everyday for the next 100 days.
17. Do some yoga everyday for the next 100 days.
18. Read an inspirational and motivational blog a day…extra kudos if it is in a language you are learning!
19. Write a blog post everyday for the next 100 days!
20. Spend 15 minutes a day repeating positive affirmations and practicing positive thinking.
21. Keep a laughter journal. Write down one thing a day that really made you laugh.
22. Work on those abs – Do 50 sit-ups a day.
23. Scribble or write some quotes on the back of a postcard everyday for the next 100 days.
24. Prepare or cook something healthy everyday for the next 100 days.
25. Cycle for at least 15 minutes everyday for the next 100 days.
26. Keep a worry journal, rate worries from 1 – 10 and write a solution for the main worries. Notice any patterns occurring? Note these down too, along with an action plan.
27. Write and reflect upon a gratitude list for the next 100 days.
28. What have you always wanted to do but never have? Write a bucket list and spend the next 100 days completing as many items from it as possible. #BucketList
29. Take up knitting or crochet. Random I know, but knit or crochet an item a day! Post your creations on Instagram or Pinterest with the hastag #15x100Challenge for extra credit and as a record of progress being made.
30. Don’t bitch OR moan or saying ANYTHING negative about people for the next 100 days!
31. Live on a really strict budget for the next 100 days and save some money!
32. Wake up at 5am to do 15 minutes meditation every morning for the next 100 days.
33. Spend 15 minutes every morning playing devils advocate with yourself to challenge your own beliefs.
34. Face a fear! Push yourself out of your comfort zone and work on a phobia for the next 100 days.
35. Spend 15 minutes learning to love yourself.
36. Learn a new magic trick everyday for the next 100 days.
37. Plant a flower a day — in your garden or at random places.
38. Write a motivational quote on a sticky note everyday for you guessed it the next 100 days and pop them in random places, such as in library books or on trees!
39. Business owner? Work on your social media marketing for at least 15 minutes per day everyday for the next 100 days.
40. Get you and your friends to write down cool ideas for things to do and put them in a hat and pull out a different thing each day for the next 100 days.
41. Can’t draw? Then practice every day for the next 100 days record your progress in a sketchbook and post on Instagram, prepare to be amazed with the results!
42. Learn to play an instrument in 100 day, i.e. the ukulele, flute, guitar…
43.*Stop smoking over the next 100 days. If you need some support check out this awesome NHS site. #SmokeFree.
44. Learn something new over the next 100 days…
45. Make a patchwork quilt in 100 days.
46. Research a different culture, religion or philosophy every day for the next 100 days.
47. Read about a different period of history every day.
48. Do one thing each day that makes you feel inspired.
49. Revamp your house in 100 days.
50. Deep clean, sort and tidy your home by focusing on one small area everyday for the next 100 days.
51. Spend at least 15 minutes in nature whether it’s your garden, a park, the countryside or the beach.
52. Go caffeine free for 100 days.
53. Ditch social media sites for 100 days, or limit yourself to just 15 minutes per day.
54. Spend 100 days as a vegetarian or vegan
55. Do at least 1 random act of kindness everyday.
56. Visit a new website everyday.
57. Read a chapter of a book. Finished the whole book then start a new chapter of a new book!
58. Ditch your car and walk.
59. Be positive for 100 days straight even if things go wrong, focus only on the positives.
60. Change sleeping patterns i.e. go to bed earlier or wake up earlier and stick to those times EVERYDAY for 100 days (even weekends).
61. Spend 100 days fundraising for a charity or promoting a good cause.
62. Grow those brain cells… Do a brain training puzzle everyday, like sudoku, crosswords or Lumosity puzzles for 15 minutes per day, everyday for the next 100 days.
63. Reflect upon and write down something you love about your partner or a close family member every day and give them the list after your 100 day challenge.
64. Read or write a poem a day.
65. Dance or sing everyday — whether you’re good at it or not.
BONUS. DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for 15 minutes, everyday for the next 100 days!
Thank you for reading this post. I wish you all the best with whatever challenge you decide to do over the next 100 days. If you decide to try out any of the challenges mentioned then please keep in touch or share your progress on social media with the hashtag #15x100Challenge. I’d love to hear how you get on.
On Twitter? Why not hold yourself publicly accountable and Tweet about the challenge you would like to do!