Ah yes, those excellent programs and courses that promise to sort out your bad habits in just 21 days. Apparently after completing the course, your habits will be changed for life! Wow, now wouldn’t that be fantastic? Your brain has spent years learning various habits, but in just three weeks you can unlearn them and learn new ones that will last a lifetime. Never mind who you are, or how you learn, or your current health and situation etc, this is one size fits all, everyone can do it apparently. Sounds great huh?
So, you pay good money to have your life and habits turned around, because 3 weeks is seems manageable, and the course doesn’t sound too challenging either.
Then the 21 days is up and you are feeling great for keeping up and completing the course. If you managed to keep it up that is…
Now fast forward one year…
Since the end of the 21 day program a bunch of things have happened. You have gone through many highs and lows and 365 brand new days since then. Your brain will have changed and grown. If you did complete the course and it contained useful, actionable information and you really did take action on it every day, it may have had a temporary chemical effect on your brain, BUT unfortunately that pesky habit will not be changed for life.
It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the way it is. The whole 21 day theory comes from Dr Maltz, plastic Surgeon, back in the 1950’s who was observing how long it took clients to adjust to their new faces. That then inspired him to look at how long it took himself to adjust to learning a new habit. He published a book with his findings in the 1960’s, which went on to become a blockbuster hit and that’s where it all started.
Here’s the quote from Dr Maltz himself:
“These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”
Notice, he says MINIMUM!? Yes, minimum of about 21 days and that is his own personal observation nothing more!
So that 21 day concept has been passed round like a an old five pound note like it’s fact, then you have a bunch of people making a business out of that concept and selling it back to you! Come on you are worth more than that right?
Here are just five very basic reasons (there are more) why 21 days means diddly squat when it comes to guaranteeing you stick to the new habits for life:
- Everyone learns differently and at a different pace, so habits are also learnt at a different pace.
- It depends what the habit is and how long you have been doing it for.
- Some habits can have emotional ties that make them even harder than other habits to give up
- Just because you do something repetitively for 21 days doesn’t automatically mean you will want to carry it on after that time is up.
- It takes longer than 21 days for the neural pathways in your brain to physically change with the new behaviour.
It’s true your brain will have a physical reaction every time you do something, so if you repetitively did something for 21 days then it would have an effect, but by no means is that guaranteed to stick with you for life. Your brain can change and adapt so easily (known as neuro plasticity), that for most of us, after a year or two, that 21 days is a distant memory. Unless you have kept the behaviours up of course.
So, don’t feel bad if you go off the rails after the 21 days, because you know that it’s not possible for most people to have physically ingrained habits after that short amount of time. I want this blog to provide some relief for many of you that are finding it hard to keep things up for more than a few weeks or months. Nothing is more effective than practice, but it’s not just practice, it’s largely down to your unique brain and how it responds to different scenarios. It is possible to prime your brain to learn things easier, but that’s another blog post on its own.
This whole 3-week concept, to me, is as bad as trying to lose weight as fast as possible. It’s not healthy to believe that the quicker, the better. Trying to rush to the finish line with any goal in life results in an unbalanced attempt. Slow down, enjoy the moment, do something good today that you will appreciate tomorrow, then do the same the next day and the next.
Step by step, one thing at a time. Then you will nail it as you go. 21 days is just the start of ingraining a new habit, not the end. Try keeping something up for over a year or two, or even longer, that’s when real habits form in the brain. In fact, to fully ingrain a new habit, where there is no chance in hell of you going back to the old way, can take up to around eight years. Yes, you read that correctly.
That’s why when some people give up smoking, alcohol, or drugs, it’s not uncommon to go back to it as if they had never stopped, even if they had stopped for months or even years. The important thing is to acknowledge this and if you break the new habit, know that it’s normal. Pick yourself back up and get back on track the same day. If you are going to spend your hard-earned cash on 21 day habit change courses, go into it with the mindset of knowing that it is only the beginning and that habit change takes commitment and work, no matter what.
If you want to know how habits are formed, how they become ingrained and why they are so hard to break, give the Size HH book a read today for a head-start. As with anything, the sooner you begin, the sooner you will see results, so what are you waiting for? Let’s go!
No matter what kind of person you are, confident or not, you have and will experience some gut-wrenching, mouth-drying, fear at some point… You can feel it rise up inside, tying your stomach, throat and tongue together in its wake. It can freeze us, make us run, make us stronger, make us weaker, and do all sorts of funky stuff to our behaviour.
Anxiety is like fear’s side-show, or warm-up act. It gets us into the ‘right’ frame of mind so that rational decisions go out the window and clarity is nowhere to be seen. Now fear has the stage all to itself and it wants to dominate YOUR show. You gonna let it?
What are you actually scared of? Apart from the obvious fears and phobias, let’s look at some everyday life scenarios that can make you scared enough to stop you in your tracks…
- Doing it alone. Everything feels less scary when there is someone there to do it with us, but in life we find ourselves in many situations where we need to find the strength to do it alone. You got this! Trust yourself.
- They won’t like you anymore. Do you think that if you say or do something that feels right to you, then others may not like you anymore? Well you can’t please everyone and when you start speaking YOUR TRUTH, your kind of people will be there and loving it. Don’t be scared to be you.
- You have never done it before. Sure, first time we do anything it is scary but the more times we do it, the more normal it becomes.
- It won’t work. It is scary to think about putting in loads of effort and cost, then not getting any results. Yup, but it’s even more scary to think about having a life where you didn’t do anything in case it didn’t work…Take calculated risks and work your butt off to make it work.
- Looking stupid. We all have this fear! Be honest with others and yourself, do not promise more than you can do and always be willing to listen and learn. This will significantly reduce your chances of looking stupid. There is something undoubtedly attractive about a person who doesn’t think they know it all, doesn’t try to do things they won’t finish and is totally open to learning something from everyone.
If you want different results and new experiences to happen in your life, you have to practice different behaviours and make new habits. This is scary for the above reasons.
Remember, by practicing new habits and behaviours, you are not changing who you are to fit anything or anyone, you are simply expanding your mind, your comfort zone, and your abilities to deal with situations. Many of our behaviours and habits do not benefit us, so we develop more habits to counteract the effects of the first ones.
Like when we have bad eating, drinking, or thinking habits and it has bad effects on our health or weight, so we try a new diet, surgery or products to counteract the effects…Guess what, it doesn’t work because you never addressed the first habit, just the effects of it. Remember from the Size HH book, habits are neural pathways in your brain, the more times they are used, the clearer that path becomes and the easier it is to do it again. That goes for all habits, good and bad.
That also means, if you keep giving up on things when they become scary, it will be easier to do the same in future. Your brain will routinely get to the point you are not comfortable with, then the receptionist of your mind will say ‘whoa there girl this is danger zone, turn round and head back to safety’. You can’t blame her for being protective, but before listening to her and heading back to safety immediately, find the rebel in you and ask yourself this question – What if I couldn’t make a mistake?
What if nothing is a mistake (society just made us think it is), but everything is a lesson and learning curve instead? From that mindset you can leave some of that
fear at the door and think ‘Right, if things don’t go to plan here, at least I will know more about this first hand and will have learnt XYZ’.
Your purpose on this earth is to turn energy into matter. That means if you have a desire, an energy to do something, don’t ignore it! Don’t listen to the negative self-talk that anxiety produces. Turn that energy into matter. Turn it into a physical experience, turn it into a real product, or art, or, book, or invention or the physical gift of affection, forgiveness, whatever! Just do it.
No one gets to do any of these things without bumping into anxiety and fear along the way, no one. So you might aswell learn everything you can about how and why you feel it, and how to move past it quickly.
It’s also worth remembering that everything good usually comes after a feeling of being uncomfortable, especially for women (think child birth). If it feels fine and dandy, perfectly comfortable 100% of the time, you are not expanding and your habits will stay the same.
Of course, you and only you have the power to say when you will and will not tolerate feeling uncomfortable, because every situation is different. Ask any successful person though, they will tell you that good change feels uncomfortable first, pleasurable after, not the other way around.
Now let’s stop giving fear so much attention. If you feel anxious but still have the desire to do it, take the first step anyway, regardless of the outcome. You don’t need to see the whole path as they say, just keep taking it step by step. You will be so proud of yourself for having done something you were initially so scared of.
That my friends is how you kick fear up the proverbial butt, expand your mind and make your dreams into reality. Is it easy? Of course not. Is it worth it? Hell yes!
** I double dare you to do something you desire that makes you feel uncomfortable today! **
Have you overcome a fear and feel proud of yourself now? Tell us in the comments!