Forming New Habits Takes a While - Keep at it!

Wow, sorry for not blogging for over a month. As Kermit the Frog once said, "Time's fun when you're having flies!"

Photo by monkeyc from

Photo by monkeyc from

But seriously, as readers of this blog probably know, I'm really interested in goal-setting and goal-directed behavior. I'm also keen on understanding what helps build success. So when I saw this latest post from Gretchen Rubin on her Happiness Project blog about how long it actually takes to form new habits, I was naturally intrigued.

Gretchen sheds light on an oft-quoted 'truism': Habits are NOT formed in 21 days for most of us. Recent research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology that shows that it takes an average of 66 days until we actually form a solid habit.

When I work with clients on establishing new skills and habits in the workplace to improve leadership, communication, or teamwork, I often talk to them about the challenges they'll likely face when trying to make changes take root. We can become discouraged when we try to cultivate new habits within the environment that sustained our previous habits. There will be hurdles and push-back. It won't be easy. But if we stick at it, and understand it is natural to face these obstacles, and that it can take a while until the new habit stops feeling awkward and starts feeling 'normal', we'll be more likely to succeed.

It's when we have unrealistic expectations of overnight success or short-term miracles that we get discouraged and give up on the new practices and just go back to 'business-as-usual'. And the old '21 days to form a new habit' cliché was not helping at all - it contributed to that feeling of despair and disappointment when we got to day 22 and we were still struggling. So, I hope this new research helps break through some blocks and re-energize you to practice and keep at it. What has been your experience with forming new habits? I'd love to hear about it - please use the comments below. Thanks!

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