Three Tools for Real Habit Change

It’s the 23rd day of 2019 – how are you doing on your New Years Resolution or goals?

If you have a new habit goal, especially more challenging goals such as exercising or getting into the office earlier, chances are you’re not fully automated just yet.

Popular culture says it takes 21 days (or 28 depending on who you ask) to establish a new habit. But, science says something different.

In a 2009 study done at University College London, it was concluded it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit. The study also noted the time frame can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the habit and the individual.

This is great news because we no longer need to hold ourselves up to unrealistic expectations of changing habits in less than a month. So as you work on your habit changes, here are 3 tools to help you succeed.

Shift your identity

Begin to think of yourself as a person with this new habit. Holding on to your old identity will be counterproductive and make it feel like an uphill battle.

For example, if your goal is to get up at 5:00 AM, but you still think of yourself as, “not a morning person,” it’s going to be extra hard for you to get up in the morning. It’s like a fight against yourself.

Shift your self-identity to a morning person and you’ll be in alignment with your goal. Start saying, “I’m a morning person,” even though it might feel like a lie at first. Start thinking like a morning person and behaving like a morning person. Soon, you’ll be jumping out of bed with energy.

Make it a game

Games are fun, and your habit change can be too. Make a game out of your goal by tracking your wins. Create a visual calendar to tick off the days you achieved your goal. The simple act of giving yourself the checkmark each day and seeing your progress can feel great.

Think lifestyle

Rather than having the crash diet mentality of changing habits in 21 days, think about changing habits from a lifestyle perspective. Change has to be sustainable in the long run to really see the long-term benefits.

Make small, incremental changes in your life, adding on every 90 days or so after the first habit feels automatic. That’s still four new habits each year that are fully embedded into your lifestyle!

As the University College London study suggests, there is no magic number of how long it will actually take for your new habit to feel automatic. So rather than focusing on the days, focus on the wins and keeping your motivation strong.