We all have habits, good ones and bad ones. Many people have a desire to create new habits that replace habits they wish they didn’t have.
Back in the 1960s there was a book published called, Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.
I remember reading this book and it all sounded good back then.
In fact, many of today’s self-help gurus like Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, Bob Proctor, and others have used information from the book to launch successful careers in teaching and coaching people to have better lives.
Maltz was a plastic surgeon and he noticed a pattern among his patients.
When he would do a nose job or an amputation, it would take approximately 21 days for the person to become accustomed to the new situation.
Maltz experimented with changing his own behavior and found that it took him about 21 days to get used to a new habit.
His book was based on his anecdotal evidence and it sold millions of copies.
So, dozens of books followed with titles like “21 days to ___”. And people started saying you could change your life in just 21 days.
In fact, Maltz said a “minimum” of 21 days to get used to a new habit.
A habit implies something that you do automatically.
On Sunday morning, you may get up and shower and go to church, rain or shine. It’s just what you do.
You brush your teeth twice a day. It’s just what you do. You don’t have to think about it.
And habits can be extremely hard to break. Just ask someone who has quit smoking or drinking.
A study done by Phillipa Lally at the University College London found that it took about 66 days to fix a new habit into one’s routine. So, you might get used to doing something in 21 days but it takes longer to fix it as a permanent habit.
So, if you want to get up earlier every day, you’ll need to challenge yourself to get up early for at least 66 days to fix it in your head.[mlsp-cta campaign=”buildmyebook” popup=”false” layout=”standard” align=”left”]
Have you ever heard of Self-Determination Theory or SDT?
SDT says there are three basic psychological elements to motivation.
I’m not going to get into long discussion here about this subject, there have been books written.
Basically, we are motivated by a desire to master ourselves and to control our lives. Pain comes from feeling we are not in control of our circumstances.
We also are social beings, we have a need for acceptance but also a need to be able to care for others. Our desire to help improve the situation of our families can be a strong motivating influence.
And finally, there is an innate need to experience rewards for our behavior changes. Giving several options to choose from increases a person’s intrinsic motivation.
Studies have also shown that deadlines and other things which restrict control, reduce intrinsic motivation.
We like to be the masters of our own destiny and having someone else put a deadline on us can be de-motivating. We might do it to avoid the consequences but it won’t change things inside us until the deadline becomes our own.
A person who attributes their actions to external influences is more likely to fail at establishing a new behavior.
For example, an alcoholic who blames his problem on external influences will be more likely to succumb to peer pressure and resume the bad habit.
It takes a minimum of 21 days to get used to the idea of a new habit but it takes 66 days of practice to make it part of our lives.
Of course, people differ and these are only general guidelines.
And to motivate yourself to create a new habit, it must satisfy your cravings for self-mastery, relatedness and autonomy.
What’s your favorite quote about habits?
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