January 15, 2021

We’ve all heard that it takes 21 days to make a habit - that if we do one thing every day for 21 days, we’ll create a pattern we can stick to for the long term. However, it’s not exactly that easy. In fact, the amount of time it takes differs by person, and differs by habit you wish to form. It has way more to do with how you go about it - not how many days in a row you do it. Whether you’re ditching alcohol, committing to a new exercise regime, or starting a new hobby, here’s 3 ways to make your new habit become a habit for life:

1) Preparation.
This one sounds easy enough, but is extremely important. As the day goes on, willpower naturally decreases from the amount of decisions you have to make throughout the day. These decisions don’t even have to be big - deciding what to wear, what to eat for lunch, or what part of the paperwork on your desk to conquer all require thought and decision. 

The key to creating lasting habits is eliminating the decision to do them in the first place. That means if you want to go for a run, set a time and have your gear ready to go. If you’re ditching alcohol, grab some non-alcoholic beer to fill the void. Whatever it is you’re trying to do, a little thought and preparation can go a long way!

2) Discipline (not motivation).
We all know the feeling of starting something new. In the beginning, we’re excited and highly motivated to do it. As the weeks go on, it becomes easier to make excuses. Motivation can come and go, but discipline will carry you to success. So, how do we create discipline? 

  • Create a routine around your new habit. Do it at the same time every day, or lay out your plan around your calendar a week in advance (see? Preparation!). 
  • Schedule breaks and rewards. If your goal is to lose weight, plan a “cheat” meal you can work towards. Include days off in your new routine so you don’t burn out. 
  • Remove temptations. Not drinking? Get rid of the alcohol altogether. Quickly sidetracked by the couch? Don’t sit down unless you’ve completed your new habit. 

3) Forgiveness. 

You’re doing something new (different from what you normally do) that’s going to benefit you for a long time. That’s no small feat, and there’s no room for “all-or-nothing” mentalities in creating new habits. If you mess up, forgive yourself and move on. Skipping a workout or having a drink doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it means you’re human. If you need a break for a while, take one. You’ve still built the foundations of something great and have proven to yourself that you can do it - know that you can always go back when you’re ready. 

Starting something new is always challenging, but ditching timelines and focusing on some easy foundations will help you create habits that will stick with you. In no time at all, you’ll be looking back, wondering how you ever lived without it.