How long Does it Really take to form a Habit – the 21day Myth?

Have you ever heard the phrase “it takes 21 days to form a new habit”?

Have you ever wondered where it come from, or put it to the test and figured it wasn’t really true… maybe it took less time, more time or didn’t really turn into a habit?

Maybe you want to go to gym regularly, eat better, play sport more, train more, drink less, smoke less… the list goes on.

The Myth

The 21day Myth stems from the research of Dr Maltz in the 1950’s. What he observed was when patients lost a limb, had some plastic surgery or similar, it would take them a minimum of 21 days to recognise the change, for their brain to register it as true. For example, an amputee would still feel like they had their limb initially until they got used to it, and the natural feeling of the limb (phantom limb) went away. After the study was published, this timeframe quickly spread and people wanted to believe it as true for so long… if enough people say it, it has to be right… right? Well actually No. Dr Maltz publish that 21 days was a Minimum.

Why Form New Habits?

So why do we want to form new Habits? Well, once a new habit is formed, it develops a level of automaticity that is effortless, requires less energy and if we set our goals right will give us even more satisfaction and enjoyment from work and life in general.

“habitual action – Actions which are automatically responding to habit cues”

The Facts of Habit Change Timeframe

Further research in Habit based Psychology and Neuroscience has determined it takes anywhere from 18days to 254days to form habits. On average then it takes 66days for a behaviour to become a new habit. How long it takes for us to form a new habit (or break a habit) is going to depend on a number of variables; The complexity of the goal, the type of habit, how tight our mindset it, how habitual we are in general, and more.

If you think something should be getting easier after doing it for a while and it’s not, but it is aligned with your goals and preferred reality – stick at it, because what you’re chasing could be just around the corner.

“Don’t give up after 21 days – The next 21 could be life changing”