Do you feel as though something—or someone—is holding you back from achieving your goals? Hard to pinpoint what or who it is? Maybe your habits are keeping you captive.
It’s often convenient to blame external factors when we come up short. Things like: My personal trainer doesn’t work me hard enough. I have “fat genes.” My stress level is off the charts. I don’t like vegetables. My spouse makes me eat ice cream with him/her. I’m postmenopausal. I was a wrestler in high school: I know what to do, I just don’t do it.
With a closer look, you might discover that change has to do with habits—recognizing the cue or base cause for the habit and then changing it as a result of understanding what causes the habit you want to change.
New York Times writer Charles Duhigg has developed a method for changing habits and has packaged it neatly in a best-selling book: The Power of Habit. Duhigg took a look at his own “bad habit” of going for a chocolate chip cookie every work day at 3 p.m. and discovered a truth that helped him break his habit. At last count, he has lost 12 pounds from the change. Here’s a handy flowchart from his book that summarizes the steps:
How long does it take to create a new habit?
There is a belief floating around that it takes just 21 days to create a new behavior or habit. James Clear gives a compelling argument—backed by research—that suggests 21 days to change is not exactly a magic—or accurate—number. (Spoiler alert: Depending on the person, it may “take you anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behavior into your life.”)
My own experience would suggest that there is no magic number to break a bad habit or create a new one. Though I cannot quantify it, my gut tells me that so much depends on how badly you want something. What do you want more: the apple fritter or to wear the jeans that have been hanging in your closet “until you can fit into them again”?
Seems like there is a switch in your brain that you have the power to turn on or off—once you decide what it is you want. It’s all about choice. Taking stock of your situation. Understanding what you really want. Making a commitment.
I have the most wonderful clients I can possibly imagine in my fitness practice. And, for many of them, they have come to the conclusion that they will do whatever it takes to feel better and stronger, and are changing their habits to support a healthy lifestyle. Regardless of how many days it takes. A switch flipped. They made a choice to invest in their health and well-being. They recognize that they’re in it for the long haul and realize that habits are a process, not a product.
Twenty-one days or 21 months? Do whatever it takes to break in your new habits—ones that will help you feel alive, vibrant and at home in your magnificent body.
Set a course and Go Well!