21 days to form a habit? I don't think so!

I've never believed - and honestly get a bit irritated when I hear it - that "it takes 21 days to form a habit." After all, I've done things for 21 days, or more, only to drop them again... and then wish I could more easily get back into a routine with whatever it was.

I don't think I'm a hopeless case, and I don't think I'm all that unusual either. So (naturally!) I figured the statement must be one of those things that is massively misquoted.

Well, it turns out I was partly right - and partly wrong too.

A study done at the University College of London found that there is a wide range of time needed to change behaviour, depending on the difficulty of the habit. The easiest habit can be set in as little as 20 days; more difficult ones can take 84 days to really get into a routine. The average number of days to set a habit is 66.  

The concept of willpower, so closely related to habits, has also been studied and it has come as a surprise to some that we humans have only so much willpower. Once we're maxed out by stresses and decisions during the day, that's it. We're done.

Researchers have concluded what you may already have noticed - your willpower is strongest in the morning and weakest in the evening (ice cream in front of the TV anyone?). In addition to that, the more rested you are, the larger your willpower reserves for the day are too. So add that to the many benefits of getting plenty of sleep.

Now maybe you don't find this stuff as fascinating as I do, but here's your takeaway:  whatever it is that you are trying to change or implement in your life, be patient. Ignore what we've heard so many times. After all, if it was an easy habit to change or create, you probably would have done it already! If you can, work it into your schedule earlier in the day rather than later. Get plenty of rest, and just take it a day at a time.

Tell me in the comments below: what habit would you like to develop?  


Photocredit: Matthew Kane