You’ve heard before that it takes 21 days to create a new habit, right? Well, if you’ve ever stuck to something for 21 days only to have that new habit fall apart on you, this might explain why and help you stay on track for future goals.
Firstly, according to neuroscience (which deals with the function of the nervous system and the brain), it takes anywhere between 66 and 365 days for a new pattern in your brain to become a network that runs automatically.
So, for that new pattern to become an unconscious habit (meaning, you don’t have to think about it, or put conscious effort into doing it. It’s just something you do automatically, like driving a car) it takes anywhere from 2.5 months to 1 whole year, not 21 days!
Think about how often you’ve gone to a course, read a book or listened to a podcast and gotten really inspired and motivated to make a change. And you do, but after a few days, or weeks, that initial enthusiasm has faded, reality kicks in, it feels “too hard”, or like it takes “too much time or effort”, and you let it slip for 1 day, then 2, then 3 and then it’s gone completely. You think it didn’t
work, when you just didn’t do it long enough to create the new habit.
Secondly, one of the most critical pieces in creating unconscious, or automated, habits and behaviours is repetition. We need to repeatedly do the thing we are wanting to install, over and over and over. This is how our new neural pathways get created and solidified, and it’s how we train our thoughts and emotions to align with what we are wanting to create. So when we do something 10 times, it’s nowhere near as powerful as doing it 100 times, or 365 times, and when we take a day off, it has a big impact. Consistency is key here – do the same thing every day. Build the repetition and that habit embeds deeper and more powerfully.
Know that whenever we take on a new habit or behaviour, there’s the initial enthusiasm and energy, followed by challenge and resistance. If, in these times of resistance, we remember that it takes between 66 and 365 days for that new habit to become fully automated, and that repetition is one of the most critical pieces, this can help us stay on track and continue to do what needs to be done today, so we can have what we want tomorrow.
Now go create some awesome new habits, and keep going until you get them locked down!