If you followed this website for any amount of time you would know that I thoroughly believe in the idea of forming habits in order to achieve any worthwhile results.
Habits change the way your subconscious works, and as such are far more effective in terms of changing your life for the better.
But a certain question remains – how to form habits?
how should you go about forming a habit that actually sticks?
Should you go on just trying to make a change with yourself and hope for the best?
Well, not quite.
You see, forming habits takes time.
Not really surprising seeing as they are a long term solution, and all long-term solutions in psychology (and most of them in life) need you to go through a process.
How long, though? Well, some people would have you believe that it’s about 21 days.
Why 21 days? Well, a doctor by the name of Maxwell Maltz published a book called The New Psycho-Cybernetics way back in the 1960s.
In this book, Maltz has stated that it takes 21 days for someone, anyone, to adopt a new habit.
By the way, his original work was re-made into a truly helpful and powerful book named Psycho-Cybernetics: Updated and Expanded.
I would highly recommend it to anyone, it’s worth its weight in gold and has helped me on more than one occasion, to say the least.
Judging from the positive reviews I am not the only one.
Right, so anyway let’s get back on track.
That statement of 21 days struck me as odd, to say the least.
How could you just say something like that? “Work at it like I say and in 21 days you will get results 100% of the time!”
Doesn’t that sound ridiculous to you? Some guy just gives you a blunt number for you take as a fact.
When I first started changing my life for the better I read a lot of books and studies, which I know summarize for you so you won’t have to.
Back then I stumbled upon his original work, and took is the number with a grain of salt.
When I started working on my habits I had results that, naturally, varied. I didn’t have to work 21 days for some of my habits, some of them I haven’t quite used fully to this day!
Humans can be generalized in some categories, but when it comes to something like self-improvement it’s a lot more complicated than that.
There are too many factors to consider, one can’t just “decide” on something like that.
Some habits might take you a little as a week to adopt, others may take you closer to a year, or maybe somewhere in between.
It may come off as being discouraging, but I myself find it comforting in a way – changing your habits plays a key role in making any change in your life, success and habits go hand in hand, and since success takes a while, it stands to reason that habits will take time to form as well.
They also stand on the same rule – If you don’t stop trying, you aren’t going to fail. You only fail when you give up.
Sure, it’s a cliche if there ever was one, but if you think about it, it does make sense: Habits are formed through persistent behavior more so than anything else, so as long as you will keep up with your persistence the habits are going to come along with it, as a force of habit (Pun fully intended).
Alright, So what actually makes habits so difficult?
So we talked about why habits take a while to form (some less than others), but why is that?
Well, in my article about the subconscious mind, I talked about how the subconscious mind is that much stronger than your conscious mind, and how in order to make any permanent change you are going to have to work on your subconscious rather than the conscious part.
All that being said, though, you still need to take a conscious decision to make a change and then just go with it, some people may advise you to work on your levels of energy (like me), but it runs deeper than that.
A lot of people go into this “change your habits” stuff because other people told them to, not because they came to that conscious decision themselves, and that difference means the world – if you don’t want it bad enough then it isn’t going to happen.
Sounds about right? Good.
You need to get stuck with this idea of making your life better. If you want to recover from your anxiety and depression you need to be desperate, borderline obsessive with your need to recover, a halfhearted attempt only to say ” I tried, but it doesn’t work for me” isn’t going to end up helping you in any way.
I have seen too many people give up too early because the journey was too difficult for them, or maybe they just didn’t see results quickly enough, something that caused them to just come up with an excuse and walk away.
And that’s the thing, all of their reasoning amounted to excuses and nothing more.
Alright, so here are a few actual pointers
With all of that being said and done, here are a few pointers to keep you on the right track
- Burn your bridges – most reactions that people have to things are emotional, and only after that, they try to come up with reasoning to back up their choices.So when the road gets too difficult and you want a way out you just go around looking for an excuse to stop doing whatever it is that you were doing.Maybe you don’t like to meditate, maybe there’s no point for you to speak in public, maybe it just isn’t for you.
Well, it is.The important thing here is to not leave yourself a way out, an excuse to just quit.
As long as you have options you will take them, and your willpower will only help so much, it would be wiser to erase temptation and be done with it – burn your bridges, don’t leave yourself an “easy out”.
- Create a chain of behavior patterns – Just shoving down a habit outside your normal pattern of behavior will contradict the way you act badly, to the point where it will actually become harder for you to accept these habits as a part of your life.To avoid this issue try to drop your habits into a behavior pattern, certain actions that you take at certain times (before you go to bed when you wake up etc) and/or under certain conditions.For example, instead of saying “I will workout every day!” you could say “I will put my timer a bit earlier, and when wake up I will brush my teeth, dress up, and start working out immediately”.The latter would be much easier to act upon than the former since you don’t just decide to “work out”, but you set up a time (morning) and condition (after I wake up), thus making you more likely to act upon your decision.
I like it when my plans end up working, don’t you?
- Create a penalty – this one is a bit nasty, but it breaks down like this: In psychology, people are broken down to two groups, prevention focused and promotion focused.Promotion focused people work based on what they have to gain, while prevention focused people work on based on what they have to lose.So, if the option of a better life isn’t good enough for you, you could try this the other way around – create a certain penalty for yourself.When I couldn’t get myself into waking up early every morning in my military days I talked to a friend and told him that if I don’t get out of my bed in 10 seconds he was to flip my bed to the side, dropping me on the floor.
It was a bit extreme for him at the time, but one of the symptoms of depression is a general lack of energy, I was dead tired and constantly got penalties and punishments because of that, at some point I got sick with that and, well, one thing led to another and ever since then I always dragged myself out of my bed in time.The results were shocking to me.
- Slow and steady – Working on one habit is hard enough, you don’t need to push yourself with more habits and more regulation to your behavior.
Adopt one habit at a time, or maybe create a routine that includes a few of them, but make it a point to tackle them slowly. The most important thing is to get started and fall into a pattern before it becomes an actual habit.
Habits are the foundation mental health
And that’s pretty much it.
Short and to the point, how to form habits that stick.
If you were to follow these few steps you will find out that forming good habits really becomes that much easier.
All of these are based on psychology and because of that they aren’t a cheap form of pep talk but rather they are actual science.
Alright, so while you go and build yourself your powerful routines, here’s a quick question for you – Have ever had to adopt, or drop, a habit? How did it work out for you?
Make sure to answer in the comments below, I read every single one of them!
If you have any issue that you would like to talk with me about feel free to drop me an email, I will make sure to answer you as soon as I can!