How long does it take to build a habit?

Don’t underestimate the importance of daily progress

There is a popular myth that says you can build a sustainable habit in 21 days. While that is not impossible, it’s also not very likely. The 21 day myth may well come from a book published in 1960 by a plastic surgeon. Dr Maxwell Maltz noticed that amputees took, on average, 21 days to adjust to the loss of a limb and he argued that people take 21 days to adjust to any major life changes.

The amount of time or repetitions it takes to habitually engrain an action into your behavior depends wholly on the difficulty of the action itself.

We call this “Habit Automaticity”

Some habits, like drinking water every day, can become automatic behaviors more quickly than, say, completing 50 sit-ups every day.

On average it is going to take 66 days to form a new habit. But that is not to say that all habits can be formed that quickly or that some habits can’t be formed even sooner.

It is important to note that while research suggests that skipping a single day here or there isn’t detrimental in the long-term, the early repetitions (the first 15 days give us the greatest boost in automaticity.

That being said, in the grand scheme of the year, 66 days is NOT that long. 66 days is only 18% of an entire year. If you focused on only 1 new habit at a time, and each one took you around 66 days to become automatic actions, you could engrain 5–6 new behaviors into your lifestyle by this time next year.

Remember, habit building is a process, not an event. It is about your daily lifestyle choices, which will inherently lead to goal achievement.

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