How long does it take to establish a new habit?
In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London and her team researched how long it actually takes to form a habit.
The study examined the habits of 96 people over a 12-week period. Each person chose one new habit for the 12 weeks and reported each day on whether or not they did the behavior and how automatic the behavior felt.
Participants chose habits ranging from “drinking a bottle of water with lunch.” to “running for 15 minutes before dinner.”
Result: on average it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. 
So if you decide to stop smoking, eat healthier or start a regular Walking Routine it is all about sticking to it during 18 to 254 days!!!
Until you become stronger than the lower (ego) self, that finds hundreds of excuses in seconds, it makes sense to get support by a buddy, coach or network of some kind. But even if you get support by a coach, the goal should be to strengthen your own willpower and overcome ego, not depend on a coach.
During my first years as a Walking Coach I used to train people 3 times a week for up to 3 months. Obviously, it is fun to have a personal coach guide you along, teach you how to get most physical and mental benefit out of the exercise, motivate yourself and simply learn to feel good. Plus, having paid a private session and being picked up from home makes it a no-brainer, to just do it. And that exactly is the key: don’t think about it, just do it. Until you will want to practice your new habit, because the feel-good factor is bigger than the sabotageing ego.
Today, I work differently: 1-3 initial classes, followed by short check-ins when necessary and you do your homework! When your ego is trying to sabotage the process of sticking to the new habit, this is when it becomes really interesting and when a short follow-up session by phone is indispensable. Here is where the real change happens, when you learn to become bigger than your ego and free yourself to being trapped. All it takes is a short follow-up sessions to stick to your decision and strengthen willpower.
Anthony, my partner has been teaching Chi Kung and Aikido since 2000. He reports the same: the real positive change happens, when people start establishing their own routine, establish a personal habit, a lifestyle, and not just come to a class here and there, when they feel low. Visiting classes or checking back with your trainer or teacher may be important make sure you are still on your track. Other than this, it is all in your power. Everything!
What habit would you like to establish?
Why would you like to do that?
Is that reason or goal really strong and true?
Do you have the patience and guts to look deeper in a weak moment when your ego wants you to quit?
What strategies can you use for those moments?
Make it fun!
Any questions, please get it touch!
- Even though the study only ran for 12 weeks, the researchers were able to use the data to estimate the longer timelines (like 254 days) to form habits. Again, the exact time depends on a variety of factors and isn’t nearly as important as the overall message: habits can take a long time to form.