Every year, millions of well-intentioned people make New Year’s resolutions (NYR), but less than 5% of us stick to them. A NYR is really just a positive habit (like exercising or early rising) you want to incorporate into your life, or a negative habit (like smoking or eating fast food) you want to get rid of. You don’t need a statistic to tell you that, when it comes to NYRs, most people have already given up and thrown in the towel before January has even come to a close.
Not prepared with a proven strategy to stick with their new habits, the majority continue to fail. Why is it so difficult to implement and sustain the habits we need to be happy, healthy, and successful?
Change is Painful
Yes, we are, at some level, addicted to our habits. Whether psychologically or physically, once a habit has been reinforced through enough repetition, it can be very difficult to change. That is, if you don’t have an effective, proven strategy. One of the primary reasons most people fail to create and sustain new habits is because they don’t know what to expect, and they don’t have a winning strategy.
Time to Form a New Habit
Depending on the article you read or which expert you listen to, you’ll hear compelling evidence that it takes anywhere from a single hypnosis session, 21 days, or even up to three months to incorporate a new habit into your life – or get rid of an old one.
The popular 21-day myth may come from the 1960 book Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Way To Get More Living Out of Life. Written by cosmetic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz, he found that amputees took, on average, 21 days to adjust to the loss of a limb. He argued that people take 21 days to adjust to any major life changes. Some would argue that how long it takes for a habit to become truly automatic also depends on the difficulty of the habit.
Overall you can change any habit in 30 days, if you have the right strategy. The problem is, most people don’t have any strategy, let alone the right one. So, year after year, they lose confidence in themselves and their ability to improve, as failed attempt after failed attempt piles up and knocks them down. Something has to change.
How can you become a master of your habits? How can you take complete control of your life – and your future – by learning how to identify, implement and sustain any positive habit you want, and permanently remove any negative habit?
30-Day ‘Habit Mastery’ Strategy (It works!)
One of the biggest obstacles preventing most people from implementing and sustaining positive habits is that they don’t have the right strategy. They don’t know what to expect and aren’t prepared to overcome the mental and emotional challenges that are part of the process of implementing any new habit.
We’ll start by dividing the 30-day time frame necessary to implement a positive new habit (or get rid of an old, negative habit) into three ten-day phases. Each of these phases presents a different set of emotional challenges and mental roadblocks to sticking with the new habit. Since the average person is not aware of these challenges and roadblocks, when they face them, they give up because they don’t know what to do to overcome them.
[Days 1–10] Phase One: Unbearable
The first ten days of implementing any new habit, or ridding yourself of any old habit, can feel almost unbearable. Although the first few days can be easy, and even exciting – because it’s something new – as soon as the newness wears off, reality sets in. You hate it. It’s painful. It’s not fun anymore. Every fiber of your being tends to resist and reject the change. Your mind rejects it and you think: I hate this. Your body resists it and tells you: I don’t like how this feels.
If your new habit is waking up early, during the first ten days your experience might be something like this: [The alarm clock sounds] Oh God, it’s morning already! I don’t want to get up. I’m soooo tired. I need more sleep. Okay, just ten more minutes. [Hit snooze button]
The problem for most people is that they don’t realize that this seemingly unbearable first ten days is only ‘temporary’. Instead, they think it’s the way the new habit feels, and will always feel, telling themselves: If the new habit is this painful, forget it – it’s not worth it.
As a result, 95% of our society – the mediocre majority – fail, time and time again, to start exercise routines, quit smoking, improve their diets, stick to a budget, or any other habit that would improve their quality of life.
Here’s where you have an advantage over the other 95%. See, when you are prepared for these first ten days, when you know that it is the price you pay for success, that the first ten days will be challenging but they’re also temporary, you can beat the odds and succeed! If the benefits are great enough, we can do anything for ten days, right?
So, the first ten days of implementing any new habit aren’t a picnic. You’ll resist it. You might even hate it at times. But you can do it. Especially considering, it only gets easier from here, and the reward is, oh – just the ability to create everything you want for your life.
[Days 11–20] Phase Two: Uncomfortable
After you get through the first ten days – the most difficult ten days – you begin the second ten-day phase, which is considerably easier. You will be getting used to your new habit. You will also have developed some confidence and positive associations to the benefits of your habit.
While days 11–20 are not unbearable, they are still uncomfortable and will require discipline and commitment on your part. At this stage, it will still be tempting to fall back to your old behaviors. Referencing the example of waking up early as your new habit, it will still be easier to sleep in because you’ve done it for so long. Stay committed. You’ve already gone from unbearable to uncomfortable, and you’re about to find out what it feels like to be unstoppable.
[Days 21–30] Phase Three: Unstoppable
When you enter the final ten days – the home stretch – the few people that make it this far almost always make a detrimental mistake: adhering to the popular advice from the many experts who claim it only takes 21 days to form a new habit.
Those experts are partly correct. It does take 21 days – the first two phases – to form a new habit. But the third ten-day phase is crucial to sustaining your new habit, long term. The final ten days is where you positively reinforce and associate pleasure with your new habit. You’ve been primarily associating pain and discomfort with it during the first 20 days. Instead of hating and resisting your new habit, you start feeling proud of yourself for making it this far.
Phase Three is also where the actual transformation occurs, as your new habit becomes part of your identity. It transcends the space between something you’re trying and who you’re becoming. You start to see yourself as someone who lives the habit.
Back to the example of waking up early: you go from having an identity that says I am not a ‘morning person’ to I am a morning person! Instead of dreading your alarm clock in the morning, now when the alarm goes off you are excited to wake up and get going because you’ve done it for over 20 days in a row. You’re starting to see and feel the benefits.
Too many people get overly confident, pat themselves on the back, and think: I’ve done it for 20 days so I’m just going to take a few days off. The problem is that those first twenty days are the most challenging part of the process. Taking a few days off before you’ve invested the necessary time into positively reinforcing the habit makes it difficult to get back on. It’s days 21–30 where you really start enjoying the habit, which is what will make you continue it in the future. (Excerpt from The Miracle Morning: The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life Before 8 AM by Hal Elrod)
I am personally practicing SAVERS (Silence-Affirmations-Visualization-Exercise-Reading-Scribing) from “The Miracle Morning” since Aug-2018 to this date.
This has helped me a lot to improve several dimensions of my life. Daily, without fail, I read my goals and act towards them. Once you read this book, you will love to practice SAVERS. One most beautiful thing about SAVERS is, it can be done in few minutes (e.g. 5 minutes) or you can take few hours (e.g. 1-2 hours).
Even I never skip this on holidays. As of now, it’s a routine habit for me, but initially, it was like I was living two days’ time in one day (doubling the productivity).
“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” – Stephen Covey