All Posts Tagged: habit change
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!
Unless you are Mowgli from The Jungle Book, or children of parents who provide zero boundaries or guidance, we are all brought up needing and seeking permission to do things. From home, to school, to college, to work, we usually have someone we can turn to for guidance that will say yes do it, that’s a good idea! Or no, you can’t/shouldn’t do that…
When we become adults, it can be hard for some of us to let go of that feeling of needing someone to reaffirm all our decisions. There is nothing at all wrong with seeking guidance from your closest people when you need it, I highly recommend it. It’s always reassuring to know that someone else would make the same choice as you, for sure.
Just for a minute though, imagine what you would do if you could make no wrong decisions? What would you do then?
Ultimately the decision is yours, no matter how much advice you take, so it’s understandable to feel the pressure of, ‘Am I doing the right thing’, or ‘Am I even on the right track’, and it can often lead to anxiety. Totally takes the fun out of things doesn’t it!
Trying to better yourself in any area of life is often scary stuff – it’s pushing boundaries and feels totally uncomfortable at times. Anxiety in these situations and the need for permission, both stem from the same place… A lack of trust in yourself somewhere…
For example, take a young thirty-something woman who knows she wants to do more with her health and body than she is now, but she is very busy and the thought of the whole effort seems so long and hard, that she puts it off and continues her daily routine. Then, when she has had enough of feeling crappy again, she goes for a gym membership, but only keeps it up few weeks or less, because she is filled with anxiety every time she goes to the gym on her own. Then it puts her off again for another few months, or more…
Why does anxiety show up for the party?
The minute there is an element of distrust in yourself, there will be anxiety, there will be insecurities. It means that there is a part of you that thinks you can’t do it, or that you are not good enough, or that you need this or that for it to work… We have ALL felt this at some point, it’s natural. When we feel like this, we seek reassurance as a form of permission from others. Someone to say, yes you’re doing awesome, keep going!
But what about when there is no one to give you the go ahead?
What about when you are branching out into something new that none of your friends and family are doing and it feels like you are the only one doing it?
In that case, you may not get the response you wanted from your usual support sources. They may be scared for you and they may judge from their own experiences (naturally). So many of us look for the permission to do it (or not do it) in the version of ‘a sign’ instead. Ah look this has happened, it’s a sign I shouldn’t do it etc etc…
Here’s what to do…
How to know what is the right thing to do for you? No one can answer that but you. After you have weighed up the pro’s and cons, remember that feelings and emotions are flippant, they can change like the wind and they don’t always help the situation. Listen to your gut, not the menacing self-talk. What do you really want? Whatever it is, I can almost guarantee it will not be a non-stop happy ride there. It will have ups and downs and hard times. It will probably feel VERY uncomfortable at many points along the way too and make you question if you are indeed doing the right thing.
Usually the best things in life come after a period of feeling uncomfortable because that is when the change occurs, that is when your brain is expanding to new things, new comfort levels! These things feel scary to everyone at first, but the more you practice, the more confident you will become and the fear subsides.
Your brain will physically change its structure to accommodate your behaviour over time. All you have to do is repeat it. We will go into all that and feeling fear on a separate blog.
For now, remember that you don’t need permission from anyone to be you. No one. If your heart desires something and it comes from a place of love, you do not need to seek permission or a signal, or the perfect circumstances to do it. You just have to do it and TRUST YOURSELF that you are good enough, you are worthy enough and even if you don’t quite know enough yet, you can learn whatever you need to know. It’s your unique life, you can’t live it wrong!
One to one support available soon to increase your personal value, trust and confidence whilst decreasing the anxiety and overwhelming situations. Contact us for more info.
I love the feeling of enthusiasm for a new venture or plan. Like the anticipation of starting a new ‘eat clean’ diet, or when you feel all motivated to join a gym, or buy a new exercises DVD. It’s a great feeling and one that we hope will last…
A week or two later you may not be seeing the results you wanted, only feeling the aches and pains from suddenly doing loads more exercise and eating clean has felt more like daylight robbery of all your favourite things. To top it all off, the joys of a busy life, tiredness and unexpected things occur to throw you off track with your goals.
So how do you make it past that first week, or even the first few months of trying to make major positive changes, without going back to old habits when life throws in a bunch of hurdles? Read More