Dr. Maxwell Maltz wrote the book Psycho-Cybernetics in 1960. The book contains his thoughts on behavior change. You will still hear many of the principles outlined in this book quoted (or misquoted) today. One of them is the 21 days principle.
Dr. Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 1950s. And he found it usually requires a minimum of 21 days to effect any perceptible change in a mental image. For example, it took 21 days for a patient to get used to a new face after plastic surgery. When an arm or leg was amputated, the sensation that the limb was still present persisted for about 21 days. When someone movs into a new house, they must live in the house for 21 days before it begins to seem like home.
So his conclusion was it takes a minimum of 21 days for an old mental image to be replaced by a new one.
The European Journal of Social Psychology published an article in 2009 that stated it takes, on average, 66 days to form a new habit. So it takes just over 2 months to form a new habit. But it can take from 18 to 254 days. If you are interested, you can read the results of the study here.
I am in agreement to a point.
But as with everything, it depends…
It depends on the individual’s current mental state before starting the process; the individual’s background and the baggage they may have from family history or personal experiences; or it may depend on their current situation or experience.
Here’s the bottom line. It takes some time to form a new habit or change your behavior. It takes the desire to change. It takes patience. How strong your desire is will determine how much time and effort you are willing to put into forming a new habit or changing your behavior.
But here is the good news. If you are willing to put in the effort and have the desire to change, you can develop new habits that could potentially have a huge effect on your health, success, and legacy.
And it you are willing to put in the work to make the change, you will easily outpace your competition because most people are not willing to put in the small amount of effort required to develop a new habit or institute a change in behavior. You could potentially be in the top 5% to 10% in your field just by making a few small changes.
You’ve probably heard of the “2-minute rule”. If it takes less than 2 minutes to do, then do it now. The name of this strategy is attributed to David Allen. He is an author and productivity guru.
What would happen if you applied that rule to forming a new habit? As you can see, this does not require much effort.
But I also understand some people have an “all or nothing” mentality. If they can’t put everything they have into a project then they will not do it. The tendency for some people when they want to form a new habit or make some type of personal improvement or do something different in their business is to try and jump in with both feet. This could potentially work for some people. But for most people, it leads to frustration and burnout because they can’t keep up the initial pace.
Or if they can’t do it perfectly, then they will not do it. So they may waste a lot of time perfecting something (that never reaches perfection and does not get done). The reality is…this is nothing more than another form of procrastination. What I find, in general, is these type people rarely accomplish anything.
The first step in developing a new habit or changing behavior is consistency.
But if they focus on consistency first and developing the new habit or behavioral change second, they are more likely to experience success. Consistency is the key.
“Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.” – Tony Robbins.
Let’s say you want to develop the habit of walking 30 minutes a day. Believe it or not, that can seem overwhelming to some people. I’m not sure if it’s the walking or doing the same thing for 30 minutes every day. But rather than starting the first day with walking 30 minutes, start walking for 2 minutes every day.
2 minutes of walking is doable for most people unless they have physical limitations. You will notice after a few days, you are walking for 3 minutes…then 5 minutes…then 10 minutes. And before you know it you are walking 30 minutes every day.
Or maybe you want to write a book. Get up first thing in the morning (or pick a time of day that is most productive for you and spend 2 minutes writing. This can be just nonsensicle stream of consciousness writing. Don’t get caught up in perfection or editing yourself. For now, you are just developing the consistency part of the habit.
I know from personal experience that doing this will lead to a daily writing habit. And your writing will improve organically from doing it on a daily basis which leads to you spending more time writing. This puts you in a position where you can finally write that book you’ve been “thinking about” or “working on” for the past 3 years.
Doing something consistently every day for specific amount of time will lead to better habits and changes in behavior. And you are much more likely to accomplish your goals.
In addition to the 2-minute rule, what are a few additional steps you can take to change your habits and behavior?
Create a plan.
If you don’t know your destination and you don’t have a map for getting to your destination, you will get lost. It will be more difficult to reach your destination, if not impossible. So, take some time today and map out your daily regimen or steps for developing the new habit or behavior change. Again, don’t seek perfection. Create a plan that is realistic and doable on a daily basis.
What is one habit you want to change? What are the steps you need to take to make the change?
Don’t start looking around at what everyone else is doing.
You will get discouraged and it will mess with you psychologically. Do YOU! Focus on what you are doing and forget what everyone else is doing. Especially in the internet marketing world, there are so many so-called “gurus” out there talking about their “million dollar launches” and how they created an ebook that generated $100,000 in the first week. Believe me, there is more to the story and you cannot get bogged down in this hype. I’m not saying don’t learn from others, but don’t get caught up in the hype to the point you get discouraged. And as a side note most “million dollar” product launches” net a fraction of that million dollars.
Commit to lifelong learning.
The development of new habits and changing behavior is dependent on your commitment to lifelong learning and self-improvement. It is essential for maintaining your mental well-being, your health, and attaining your financial goals. Commit to reading and learning daily. If you are having trouble getting started, review the 2 minute rule.
Accept the fact that you will fail.
Accept the fact that you will not only fail, you may have multiple restarts. That’s okay. The key is to not quit and to keep moving forward. If you miss a day, just pick up the next day with whatever your daily commitment may be and don’t get down on yourself. Beating yourself up is not a productive way to move forward. Get over it and know you are moving forward and you will get there in your own way.
There is something about that sense of accomplishment that builds upon itself once you get started and are seeing results. It grows and you find yourself naturally accomplishing more and getting closer to your idea of success.
So think about the new habit you want to develop or the behavioral changes you want to make. That change can occur by starting with consistent effort for 2 minutes every day. This is not difficult. Consistent effort and a desire to succeed will overcome any obstacles you may face.
Wishing you all the best on your journey,