A habit requires more than just 21 days to change or create.

iStock_000038677298MediumWe have all heard the saying “It takes 21 days to change a habit.”  The thinking behind that is that after 21 days of committing to change a habit or trying to create a new one, is that after the 21 days, the new behavior will become automatic.  In essence, you will no longer have to think about this new habit or the change you are trying to make, it will be ingrained in your behavior and it will run on auto pilot.  If it is this easy, then why aren’t more people able to sustain the change?

From my personal experience, when trying to change a behavior pattern or a bad habit, the first step is to become aware of the underlying thought patterns that are keeping it in place.  These are not the “easy to see” thought patterns that live on the surface.  The thought patterns I am talking about are the ones that lay under the surface that are buried deep down inside of you that you don’t like to think about.  For me, I usually have to ask myself a serious of questions, like a two year old (when they are asking why about everything) to get to those thoughts.  Once you get there you know it’s the right thought because it will feel right to you when you say it.  When I hit that thought, it’s usually an emotional one and I sometimes start crying.  Once you get there you are able to fully address it.

The second step is to not put a time limit on how long it will take to create or change a habit.  When you say, I need just 21 days to make this permanent, it will only stay permanent for 21 days.  You gave it a time limit.  You just have to push through these 21 days.   Because you gave it a time frame, subconsciously your mind will recognize that as all the time you need before you go back to your old behavior patterns.  Do not put a time frame on change.  It will take as long as it takes.  If it takes 3 weeks then great, and if it takes 3 months, then great.  As long as you are working on it every day and you are seeing changes that is all that matters.

Habits are hard to change.  I am sure it took you longer than 3 weeks to develop whatever habit you are trying to change so the assumption that it will only take 3 weeks to change is absurd.  Stay focused on your goals daily.  Daily reinforcement will keep you on track.  Having a goal that is attached to an emotional feeling will be one that you will want to keep working towards.  Know where you are going and why you want to get there and work every day on those goals and you will be able to change any bad habit you want.