How long does it really take to create or change a habit? Is it true that you can create a new habit in 21 days?
The answer is truthfully no. A new habit needs a minimum of 21 days based on a principle introduced by Maxwell Maltz a Plastic surgeon in the 1960’s. From clinical experience Dr. Maltz found it took a “minimum” of 21 days to recognize the changes in their appearance, such as a nose job, or face lift, or an amputee from experiencing phantom limb syndrome.
The success of his book caused a whirlwind of programs being created on this principle of 21 days to a new life. From creating new love for yourself, detoxing from sugar, and building your multi-million-dollar business, each program encourages you to give 21 days and you will see a new you, in 3 weeks’ time.
If this premise is not true, then why so much “supposed” success has arisen from all of these programs? Why can’t we see through the supposed “smoke and mirrors” that many of these programs tell us we can achieve?
Let’s be real, the mass majority of us want results quick, change me now, make my bad habits stop. We become desperate for change so we need to know that we will change in a very short period of time
The principle of change as quoted by Eva Rykr, “longer time gap between intention and action, change is less likely to occur.
So if you intend to do something, do it now. Quick. Before you talk yourself out of it or change your mind.”
We lose interest or “intention” if we don’t take action right now. And if that action will only take 21 days to do, that seems doable, right?
Take for instance one of my clients, we will call her, Serena. She came to us with a need to change, wanted to lose the fat, get back on eating right and stay consistent with her exercise. So she tried our 42-day program. The commitment for 42 days seemed doable for her and had an end date.
Her daily habits prior to the program were inconsistent with change. Since it was after the holidays, her excessive eating and drinking became a crutch, and continued until we gave her the tools to change. Our recipe consisted of meal planning, accountability and strategic workouts to get results.
As a born skeptic, Serena, followed the plan, however still had doubts until we did her measurements after 21 days. She lost 10lbs of fat within the first 3 weeks and she was sold she could do it.
She didn’t want it to end and asked how she can keep this going. So she joined our gym for the long term and is still on the path to being consistent with her changes.
If Serena hadn’t made that decision to start at least with the 42 days and threw in the towel after 21 days, her life would be so different right now. Serena viewed herself fitter and leaner than she was 21 days before she started. She saw that she could make this work for the long haul.
Let’s be real, if Serena hadn’t seen “tangible” results; loss of body fat, smaller number on the scale, clothes fitting better, etc. she most likely would have checked out.
Let’s look at the truth about our world today, if I told you it was going to take you at least 6-8 months to be truly consistent with a new habit, would you want to even try to do that? With the idea that change “should” happen within 21 days, does that mean we suck, if we don’t see “any” change?
NO, absolutely not!
It means you need to address what you quantify as change. Yes, I know we all want to be leaner, stronger and feeling better.
However, most of the time, (and I have totally done it too), value the leaner as the primary focus. And somehow we all seem to forget about the other two, stronger and feeling better. I have totally sacrificed feeling good and strong, just so I could look lean. It was all about the “quick” results, not the long lasting habits and healthy living.
There was a time in my life, that in order to look my leanest, I would spend hours doing cardio, taking thousands of dollars in unnecessary supplements and ignore how I felt otherwise (weak and tired all the time). These were not long lasting sustainable habits, and so not worth the short term pay offs.
This is where it is tough as a professional in my world of fitness. When there all of these programs out there that are touting extraordinary loss of weight, fat etc., in 21 days, sure you can totally get those results. Yet I also know you can crash and burn, because these are not habits that can last for the long term.
There is true value in offering someone the option of 21 days, however it needs to be in the right way.
So this is how I see it as a professional in this crazy world of fitness, based on my personal and professional experience
• It is my job to bring you in, with the promise that if you are willing and able to embrace the process, you can start your journey of habit change in 21 days.
• It is up to me to educate you, to give you the tools and let you take the responsibility toward embracing that change of habits.
• It is up to me to put it back in your court, help you redirect your focus on what it is, you truly value as a long lasting change.
• And as Dr. Maltz observed sometimes it can take at a “minimum” 21 days or more to notice there are any changes.
Remember this: The more energy you put into changing your habits, for the better, the less energy you will have for perpetuating your negative habits. And guess what the more positive energy you will have overall.
Would love to hear what you think, post it over on my Facebook Page Jenn Brango