There seems to be this conventional wisdom that it only takes 21 days to form a new habit. The idea, here, is to start something new, like exercising, and keep at it, hell or high water, for 21 days and it will become so internalized that you will want to do it automatically and, in fact, feel kind of funny if you don’t do your new habit (I love run on sentences. Don’t you?) Of course, this is assuming that it is a habit and not an addiction like drinking or drugging or smoking.
A habit is something like getting on the treadmill or getting onto your computer keyboard every morning to bang out a new blog post. In fact, I’m sure that the Darren Rowse program — 31 Days to Build a Better Blog — comes from. (side note: I Googled 30 days to better blogging and came up with dozens of results – all different). Here’s a news flash for you. It doesn’t always work. At leat, it doesn’t always work for me.
I have tried many times to get this 21 day thing down. Treadmills, blog posts, eating habits, work habits…you name it. As far as I can tell, I haven’t changed…or, at least, not noticeably. I’m still fat and I still am writing to myself on these blog posts (I know. I know. I need to buy one of those “get a gazillion hits a minute” programs). There has been more than one occasion that I’ve banged out a blog post for 21 days….then stopped. I’ve gone on the treadmill as soon as I jumped out of bed at 5:30 in the morning for 30 minutes for 21 days…then stopped. I’ve taken m y blood pressure reading for my doctor for well over 21 days and kept a log…then stopped.
New habits are supposed to replace old habits. Eating fruits and vegetables is supposed to replace eating pizza and subs. Walking on a treadmill is supposed to pump up the endorphins and make it so I never want to miss a day of exercise again. Writing is supposed to encourage that creative flow and the flying fingers across the keyboard.
I’m here to tell you that it isn’t as easy as it sounds and it doesn’t always work. I don’t know if I’m wired wrong or if “21 days” is really an estimate. But, I will tell you that “21 days” doesn’t always mean that the new habit replaces the old habit.
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