Change is a process not an event! Real change happens with behavior modification, and that only happens when you develop lifelong habits. The best example is brushing your teeth. Think about how you acquired the habit of brushing your teeth. Do you ever stand at the sink and say, “I have a really busy day today, I think I’ll skip brushing today and just brush my teeth longer tomorrow?” No, you don’t. Why? Because the physical action of brushing your teeth every morning has become an automatic reflex – a habit.
There is no definitive scientific evidence for applying a specific number of days necessary to form a habit, however, Dr. Maxwell Maltz M.D. developed a theory that 21 days played a key role in habit formation, based on his work as a plastic surgeon rehabilitating amputees.
He noticed that on average, after daily therapy, it took 21 days for the amputees to adjust to the loss of a limb. He then postulated that brain circuits produce neuroconnections and neuropathways only if they are bombarded for 21 days in a row. Today, much has been written about the brain patterns of habit.
One thing we know for sure – to establish a habit you must have a specific set of ACTIONS that are performed with focus, consistency, and accountability. We have discovered that success of any kind is the result of consistently doing what matters most, and have found that a 21 day commitment is the best place to start.
The brain patterns of habit
Ann Graybiel and her group at the McGovern Institute at MIT have done extensive research on how the brain forms habits, showing that “habit formation appears to be an innate ability that is fine-tuned by experience — specifically, the costs and rewards of certain choices.” Psychological research on habit-forming was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. Their research found that it takes anywhere from 18 days to 8 months to form a habit, depending on the complexity of the behavioral change.