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How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit

How long does it take to change a habit? Popular thinking is that a habit can be changed in around 3 weeks. Many business and health challenges run for a month, but the truth is that it can take much longer to change to a habit. Don’t lose heart. It’s all good. And it’s more to do with decisive resolve and acting on your intention than automating your responses.

How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit

This article explains the science behind changing habits and has some interesting links that I’ll include here too, to save you clicking out a few times.

It details how, although this study only ran for 84 days, when data was analysed, it was clear that some habits may take up to a year to break.

Have You Spent A Year Trying To Change A Habit?

How often have you given something up, like smoking, sugar in tea, late night snacks etc .. managed for a few weeks/months, slipped off the path, and found yourself back in your old groove?

It’s pretty easy to run that route a few times before your continuing resolve dictates that you keep returning to trying to ‘give up’ that old habit again by actioning your intention and, not surprisingly, achieve your goal.

We are, simply, creatures of subconscious habit. Habits we form that aren’t personally beneficial can be tough to break. However, without positive habits, our life is a simply a series of conscious decision over minutiae that holds us back from productivity. Good habits are .. essential.

So what’s the answer?

According to William James, author the book ‘Habit,’ we need to keep in mind 3 rules to change our mindset. Here’s my interpretation of it and a way of reinforcing your changes in stone:

  1. Be sure of your decision and the reason for it.
    • Perhaps write down your reasons – to consolidate it in black and white.
    • Note down all the positives that will result in this change.
    • Ensure that you keep around you the right people/circumstances to reinforce and encourage the change.
    • If appropriate, make your decision public. (Public accountability can be a supporting factor in achieving goals.)
  2. Never allow a day to pass when you don’t stick with your decision. A single slip will undo more than one single positive. (I’ll talk more about this point below!)
  3. Seize the moment! When a resolution comes to mind, act on it as quickly as possible. It’s action that will create results, not the resolution itself.

His disclaimer is this:

‘A character’ is a ‘completely fashioned will,’ and a will is the result of a continuous tendency to act promptly, decisively and positively to resolutions.

He speaks truth in his thinking that by avoiding effort, the desire to make that very effort can so easily dissolve. Think: “I’m going to do a work out today” (like I did yesterday, for instance!) put on your exercise gear, sit at your desk and sure enough, resolve soon dissolves into apathy, lack of decision making and … oops … the exercise doesn’t happen.

By the way, I’m in my fitness gear as I type this, with the absolute intention of cycling as soon as I’ve completed this article. I’ve posted a photo here to show you I ‘acted’ on my resolve today! See my bike in the photo? 😉 If you’ve been following my Friday fitness updates, you’ll notice they petered out a few weeks ago. Have still been walking, but not rebounding or cycling. I’m back on it now. Join me!

Regarding point 2, above, I’m all for saying “Don’t beat yourself up if you slip off the path when trying to make changes.” I say that because guilt has no place in moving us forward when trying to form new habits. I believe in patting yourself on the back for the achievements you’ve managed to date. One day of change is a positive.

I can also see the truth in William James’s theory that every time we slip, it’s effectively harder to jump back on .. and may never happen.

I’ve always said:

  • If you slip one day and eat all the wrong things, don’t wait until next Monday to start again.
  • Do it at your next meal.
  • That’s ACTION.
  • Not just resolution.
  • If you wait until next Monday, your resolve will weaken. If you do at the next meal, you’ve skipped a beat, but you’re still on track.

I’m going to concede that for me, getting back on the exercise train has been a tougher nut to crack. I know you’ll have your own weak spots too, so I hope the advice from William James will help you!

Do Something, Every Day Or Two That You Don’t Want To Do

Ever put off something? The metaphorical ‘elephant’ in your room?

We’re probably all guilty of that one, right?!

William James’s theory is to do something, every day or two, that you don’t want to do. Why?


His theory is that buying house insurance may make you feel out of pocket at the time of payment, but if a fire happens, you’ll be glad you did.

It’s the same for anything. Looking for a new job. Wanting to change your lifestyle. Making changes to your eating/exercise habits.

So .. what are you going to ACT on today? 🙂

See you soon!








About the Author Sarah Jackson

I love to experiment with food, write poetry, read, walk in nature, take iphone photographs, sing, cycle, watch good movies, documentaries, dramas and comedy.

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