We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.Will Durant (often inaccurately attributed to Aristotle)
In 21 Days?
We often hear that it takes 21 days (or any other exact number of days) to form an habit, but this is inaccurate. In reality, it really depends on the type of habit you are acquiring and how far it stands from your normal routine. The farthest, the most difficult to adopt.
However, you still need to start somewhere and although I don’t want to propagate misinformation, I would suggest trying to perform the habit daily for at least a month to begin with. Really, the length of habit formation does not matter as much as trying to perform the desired action daily. This is why I like to create posts that fall in the “30 Days Challenge” category. The habit may not stay, but it can still help you improve. Although I don’t draw dayly anymore since Inktober, I still draw much more than I used too. I also complain a bit less. Keeping scores to see the longtest streak you can do should also help to keep your motivation high.
Don’t Aim Too High
It is much easier to adopt one new habit at the time. Making all the changes you want in you life all at once is too much. Everything will go more smoothly by taking baby steps.
A trick that will make it easier to pick up a new habit, is to anchor it to an existing element of your routine. That cue will help you remember about the good habit you are trying to pick up. Similarly, each new habit that you acquire can make it easier for you to add the next one. That is why starting small and adding more later is a good advice.
The habit has to be sustainable without too much willpower involved, because daily willpower comes in a limited supply and once you deplete it, that willpower resource will not come back until you rest. This also means that it is a good idea to schedule your new routine in the morning when you are fully replenished.
Habit Formation Phases
Once you have done the habit for a few days, you may be tempted to add more or increase the difficulty level. Don’t do that just yet. Habits creation goes through phases. At first, you’ll be thrilled that you are making progress. This is normal and it is called the “honeymoon” phase.
However, as days pass, you may get bored or feel your motivation fading away. This is the phase of boredom and effort, the “battling phase” that you need to overcome if you want to reach the end state where your new habit becomes natural, and can indeed be called an habit. It is critical that you do not give up during this phase. Try to keep in mind your purpose, the reason why you were trying to pick up that routine in the first place.
Finally, through your sustained efforts you will reach the “breakthrough” phase where the habit feels like second nature. Celebrate that victory, because it is important to celebrate your achievements. However, do not let your guard down, as interruptions are likely to send you back to fight the battling phase again. If this happens to you, get back on track as soon as you can. The longer you wait or give in to temptations, the harder it will get to reacquire the habit that took you so much effort to adopt in the the first place. You can do it!
My New 2019 Habit
I decided to do at least once exercising session per day. I tried to perform regular exercise before and I always end up giving up. So, this time, I decided not to set the bar too high and follow the good advices I found researching this post.
Flexibility: I am going to do an exercise routine from one of my 7 minutes workout books or from FitnessBlender, or train on the stationary bike for 20 to 30 minutes. As long as I do one of those (or any another physically challenging activity), it counts as a success to me.
Willpower optimal: I train first thing in the morning. However, if I can’t (like when I get to the airport at 4am), I can catch up at any time during the day.
Enjoyable: I chose FitnessBlender for most how my workouts because I really like how Kelli and Daniel are providing a wide choice of videos that are fun and motivating to follow. It’s so rewarding to hear “This workout is complete” at the end!
I have been doing my new habit this every day since December 28, 2018. So far, it is going well and I have not missed a single day. I have now reached the magic number of 21 days in a row, and I can confirm that this habit is still far from feeling natural to me. It still requires willpower to get out of my bed earlier in order to train. However, it really feels good for the remaining of the day, so it is totally worth continuing. The battle is not over yet!