We have all heard “it takes 21 days to form a habit”. This is a complete myth. So stop trying to 21 day fix yourself, or doing every 30 day challenge out there.
The truth is the actual length of time varies depending on the behavior you are trying to change, the person (YOU), and the circumstances. On average it is more likely that forming a new habit will take around 2 months, or 66 days to be exact before that new behavior will be automatic. For some people it will take more or less time for certain habits.
A study by Phillippa Lally at University College London showed that forming a new habit took 18-254 days. In other words, you want to be sure to set your expectations appropriately and it is more likely it will take upwards of 2-8 months to really establish a new behavior in your life. Not 21 days.
If the length of time it can actually take to form a habit has you feeling down, then this might lift your spirits. Research has also shown that “messing up” in your execution to perform a behaviour does not significantly impact habit formation. Building better habits is not an all or nothing process. So do not give up when things don’t go as you intended.
“It’s about the journey not the end.” Sounds a little corny, but with habit formation, it really is about the journey; mostly because it takes time and practice for form new habits and behaviors that work for you and your lifestyle.
We live in a world of instant gratification, and we all want results and we want them NOW. Quite often with our health and fitness goals we overestimate how much we can achieve in the short term, and underestimate what we can achieve long term (by continuing the journey).
Everywhere we see marketing that promises fast results, the problem is that in many cases there are so many changes all at once that they either fail because they are disruptive to real life. Or the focus is so much on the goal and not paying any real attention to mastering the habits needed to keep those results long term. Without the habits to keep them there, they are left right back where started and those amazing results slowly drift away over time if they don’t continue to do what they were doing to achieve it.
So instead of letting the good marketing get into your head. Take your time with the journey and chip away at achieving the good habits you want slowly over time.
-PVA Trainer Becky