You’ve heard it before. Do something for 21 days, and it will become a habit. Have you ever developed a new, good habit in 21 days? Didn’t think so. It hasn’t worked for me and I suspect I’m very much like most people in this regard. I’ve exercised 84 of the last 95 days, including streaks of more than 21 straight days. I still wake to an alarm and have to resist the sweet, sweet allure of rolling over and going back to sleep. One day I will make it a habit – it’s easier now than at the beginning – and when I do, it will be because I set a specific goal I am going to achieve – to lose 8 pounds – which keeps me making good decisions, not because I managed to do it for 21 days.
Image courtesy of kjnnt / http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
That said, I have developed new habits in less than 21 days…they just weren’t good ones. I am hooked on Twitter. There is a very real pull to check the latest Tweets when I’m not mentally engaged in something and this habit did not take 21 days. We are hardwired to form habits and the quicker the positive feedback, the quicker the habit forms. Social media is very quick. Trouble is, how many really good habits give immediate feedback? You… oh wait, that is hilarious! @downgoesbrown is just the best… just one second while I retwee…. oh, sorry… damn you Twitter and your instant rewards! Where was I? Oh yeah, good habits and immediate feedback…You don’t go for a run and lose 5 pounds. If you run every day you will lose weight, but the longer term payoff doesn’t seem to get you up and running in the morning without deciding to do it. The automaticness (yes, I did just make that word up) is what defines it as a habit and for most, reaching automatic takes months, even years. Without having a specific goal, the immediate reward will always win over the deferred one. Tracking the activity, in my case, exercise frequency, reminds me of the many good decisions I’ve made so I don’t want to let them go to waste. Tracking the results – weight loss – tells me over time that the activity is making a difference.
Vince Lombardi said, “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” Tracking a goal reminds us how hard we’ve worked for something, shows us that the hard work makes a difference and keeps us making good decisions. Consistently making good decisions creates good habits… just not in 21 days.
About Mike Bonn: I offer Business Coaching Services and facilitate the unique LMI process to help individuals and organizations improve performance. If you would like to contact me to discuss any of my blogs, or to learn more about how I can help you, give me a call at 613.743.5642 or send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.