How Long Does It Take To Create A Habit?

What do a pizza delivery ad, a gym workout routine, and a business management degree all have in common?

They all emphasize how long it will take before you’re fed, fit or educated.

All of us have reasonable time expectations regarding every activity we undertake. You won’t stand in an ATM queue unless you know you’ll get your money within ten minutes, just like you won’t hope for an instant reply to a handwritten letter you dropped in the mailbox an hour ago. Not knowing when to expect to see the finish line will mean you lose the enthusiasm required to get you there.

Therefore, if you’re deciding whether Fabulous for work could work to improve your team’s overall performance and health in building positive, lifelong habits, it’s only natural to wonder:

How long does it take to create a habit?

Well, the good news is, it doesn’t take too long. The bad news is, it almost definitely takes longer than some of you might have hoped!

There Is No Magic Number

Some of you might be reading this with a specific number in mind. One particular number entered popular culture several decades ago and refuses to fade from our collective memory. Everyone from parents and teachers to coaches and classmates have at one time or another quoted this number. According to this old adage, it takes 21 days to create a habit.

This number is attributed to noted plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz, who in the 1950s observed that it took most of his patients about 21 days to get used to physical changes after facial surgery or an amputation. The book he wrote about this phenomenon became immensely popular, and for a good reason.

21 days is a catchy number. Short enough to prevent you from losing motivation, yet long enough to make you feel like you’ve achieved something concrete. Unfortunately, what Dr. Maltz originally wrote was that “it took a minimum of about 21 days.”

Dangers of Believing In A Magic Number

Telling someone that they’ll create a habit in 21 days is not just scientifically unsound but also possibly counterproductive. What happens when three weeks pass by and you’ve still not mastered a challenging habit?

You might feel so disappointed that you abandon the whole routine, returning to square one. Or worse, you might start believing you’re at fault for not creating a habit in time. Feeling like you failed at a task that everyone normally achieves can severely damage your self-esteem.

It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination

When you make the decision to change your life in a positive way, it’s natural to have a mental image in mind. A “destination” to which you want to arrive in the future. Setting a goal or target to achieve is what gets your heart excited, your mind racing, your body ready for action.

However, studies have shown that focusing on the outcome or end goals alone can unintentionally hinder progress. Instead of constantly keeping an eye out for the final destination, the key to success is focusing on the journey.

Enjoy the Journey

Instead of letting worry chime “Are we there yet?” over and over again in your mind like a backseat passenger, spend time appreciating the journey. Observe how your environment begins to transform as your new habit shapes your thoughts and actions.

Which means if you are, say, hoping to adopt a regular exercise routine, don’t fixate on crossing off the days on the calendar. Instead, pay more attention to the daily targets you want to achieve. When you begin focusing on the action rather than the outcome, it makes the experience immensely more enjoyable. And slowly, you’ll start reaping the diverse benefits of Mindfulness, which not only enhances mental and physical health but also allows you to fully savor the activity you are engaged in. This inner joy is what drives the fittest people to stay active and the smartest people to continue studying.

Every Journey Is Different

Creating a habit, like embarking on a journey, has a lot of variables. How tough is the habit? How dedicated are you? What’s your physical and emotional support system? How conducive is your environment?

All these aspects influence the time it’ll take for you to master a habit. So before getting started, make sure you understand all the contributing factors. Maybe you’ll need to change your physical environment or reach out to someone in order to gain support. Making those tweaks will ensure you’re in the best position to start the transformational journey.

The “Fabulous” Number

You’ve now hopefully shed any short-sighted hopes of perfecting a habit within three weeks. You’re preparing for the long haul, and the excitement within is growing. Well, in that case, here’s a number that’ll probably boost your enthusiasm!

Users of the Fabulous app have reported seeing changes in their behavior from the 30-day mark onwards. The app’s Journeys allow them to embark on a long term plan, while the mix of Make Me Fabulous sessions and stand-alone Challenges provide regular doses of dopamine that ultimately help cement positive habits.

So you know “how long” it takes to create a habit, as well as “why” it takes that long. The only question remaining is: When do you start?

And the answer is simple: Start today!

Whether your goal is to improve your health by changing your eating habits, enhance your mood through regular exercise or simply become a neater, more organized person, check out Fabulous for Work and learn how we can help your team excel and your company thrive.