Habits: The Good News (and the Bad)

You may have heard that new habits take 28 or 30 days to form. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. New habits start to form as soon as we start cultivating a practice, but they don’t become habitual until the neuronal pathways that drive the new behaviour are wired in strongly. And that typically takes closer to 6 months for each new behaviour. Which, by the way, is why a lot of coaches offer 6-12 month packages for transformative changes. That’s how long it takes for real change to stick.

But could we speed it up?

Short answer: it depends.

It is easier to start a new habit f you can sandwich it in between two habitual things than to establish a routine where you have not had any routines. It is easier to change something you do frequently than something you do infrequently. And, it is easier to change something you do in only one place or lots of different places than something you do in a few places.

But no matter what the situation, establishing a habit requires a training period.
During that training period, we need to consciously practice the new habit. And it just isn’t possible to keep conscious all the time. Life gets in the way. Which means that we need compassion for ourselves as we fall off the wagon and climb back on. We need a reason to keep climbing back on. And we need often need reminders to help us notice that we have fallen off.

The good news is that the practice of noticing that we have dropped our practice and starting again IS part of the way of forming the new habit we want. Not just an annoying part, a necessary part. So when we notice that we have slipped, we get to celebrate: “Hey, congratulations, I noticed my slip.” And then when we get back to practicing, we can celebrate that, too. “Look at me getting back on this horse!”