I always try my best to look at things from a positive point of view.
And this is what I have been doing since the Covid-19 crisis broke out.
Most people look at this time as a very dark one.
One of the things that makes them feel depressed is not knowing what to do with their FREE TIME.
This is not surprising considering that we live in a world where we are expected to always be in a hurry, where we don’t have time to devote to ourselves and our personal growth.
It looks like personal development is becoming more and more of a luxury.
How can YOU be willing to work on your personal development when YOU are supposed to be at work most of your day and for most of your week?
Where can YOU find the energy to study, to work out, to start something new after working a 10-hour day?
This was exactly where I was before being put on furlough, just running the Corporate Rat Race without having time to invest in myself.
As YOU can read in my story, for me this unprecedented circumstance has opened up plenty of opportunities.
At first, I also felt disoriented, I didn’t know what to do.
But it didn’t take too long for me to decide that I wanted this time to become one of the best in my life.
I started considering being on furlough a blessing that could enable me to take possession of my time and begin a new stage in my life.
I started meditating on how I had been living till then, and on what I wanted my life to look like once Covid-19 was over.
By analyzing how my past THOUGHTS, BELIEFS, CONVICTIONS, IRRATIONAL FEARS, and ACTIONS had led me to feel unhappy most of my days, I became AWARE that if I wanted to live a different life I needed to think, believe and act differently to what I had done before.
I needed to build new EMPOWERING HABITS.
And so I followed what Aristotle said:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. - Aristotle
But the million-dollar question is, how long does it take to form a new habit?
A week, a month, or a year?
THE URBAN MYTH: “21 DAYS TO ESTABLISH A NEW HABIT”
It turns out that, the 21-day time frame required to establish a new habit is just the latest myth whose origin can be traced back to a self-help book called “Psycho-Cybernetics”, published in 1960 by Dr. Maxwell Maltz.
In this book, Maltz states:
“It usually requires a minimum of about 21 days to effect any perceptible change in a mental image.
Following plastic surgery, it takes about 21 days for the average patient to get used to his new face.
When an arm or leg is amputated the ‘phantom limb’ persists for about 21 days.
These, and many other commonly observed phenomena, tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to gel”.
Thanks to its success, more than 30 million copies sold, and the foundation of a widespread misbelief was laid.
For the following decades, this myth influenced almost every motivational and self-help guru in personal development.
Professionals such as Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar embraced the concepts showed in the Psycho-Cybernetics book.
This myth became very popular with the general public because it conveyed the idea that changing one’s habits is easy and quick.
Unfortunately, this is not true, most of the time three weeks are not enough to form patterns in your brain that make a new behavior automatic.
So if the 21 days time-frame is a legend, what is the real period necessary to form a new habit?
66 DAYS: THE AVERAGE PROVEN TIME-FRAME
According to a study published by the European Journal of Social Psychology, there is a considerable variation in how long it takes people to reach their limit of automaticity, i.e. to form a new habit.
Phillippa Lally and her team, from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, asked a group of 96 participants to carry out a health-related activity (eating healthy food or jogging 15 minutes daily) for 12 weeks.
The new behavior had to:
- be completely new,
- occur every day and only once a day.
Each day, the participants were asked to measure how “automatic” the activity felt.
When the participants’ automaticity measurement reached its highest point and then plateaued, this signaled a habit had been formed.
The average time necessary to reach the plateau was 66 days, with a range from 18 to 254 days.
This depends on the activity itself.
As YOU can see from the chart below the time needed to reach the automaticity threshold is different if YOU consider drinking a glass of water rather than doing 50 sit-ups.
The higher the complexity of the behavior is, the higher the impact on the development of automaticity is!
The researchers also found that:
- if YOU miss a day, this will not affect the process of forming a habit (a missed opportunity was classified as an occasion when the behavior was reported not to have been performed but was immediately preceded by three occasions when it had been performed),
- YOU may fall into the “habit-resistant category”, research showed that some participants took a longer period to make a new behavior automatic.
It all comes down to 66 days being the best-estimated time-frame necessary for a new behavior to become automatic.
But at the same time WHO YOU are and WHAT YOU are trying to achieve affects the time needed to establish your new habit.
As far as I am concerned the time to form a new automatic behavior doesn’t matter.
Whether it takes 18 days, 254 days, or even more it’s always worth working on forming a new positive habit.
Throughout the process, YOU have the possibility of becoming a better version of yourself and, at the end of the day, that is what matters.
So FORGET the number of days needed, JUST take the FIRST STEP toward a LIFE-CHANGE.
ENJOY the process and the fact that your mind is rewiring.
DON'T BE AFRAID of the challenges that forming a new habit implies because, as long as YOU are CONSISTENT and DETERMINED, YOU WILL SUCCEED.
2 SIDES OF THE SAME COIN
For most of our routines, we could state that human beings are creatures of habits.
How often are YOU completely conscious during your daily actions?
I guess YOU agree with me that most of the time YOU are on auto-pilot.
Your brain likes habits because they’re efficient.
When YOU automate actions, YOU free up mental resources for other tasks.
This helps YOU to avoid reinventing the wheel every day, but at the same time, it can become a TRAP and prevent YOU from exploring new possibilities.
The more YOU embrace a habit the more it’s difficult for YOU to see different choices.
YOU lose your flexibility of thinking and YOU end up only relying on what YOU have been doing for a long time.
YOU run the risk to be caught in the MONKEY TRAP.
This trap “consists of a hollowed-out coconut, chained to a stake.
The coconut has a banana inside which can be grabbed through a small hole”.
The monkey’s hand fits through the hole, but its clenched fist can’t fit back out. “
The monkey is suddenly trapped.”
The irony is that the monkey could FREE itself by just letting go of the banana.
What does this “story” teach us?
The monkey is not trapped by anything physical.
It’s trapped by an idea, unable to see that a principle that served well – “when you see a banana, hold on tight!” – has become lethal.
Like the monkey, we can find ourselves trapped by our cognitive rigidity.
What I mean is that once a habit has been established we struggle with letting it go even if it turns out to be a disadvantage.
Automatisms are therefore traced paths that are easy to follow, but difficult to abandon.
This is why it is of paramount importance to create constructive habits and get rid of those that hinder your personal development.
HOW CAN YOU FREE YOURSELF FROM A HABIT?
YOU MUST become AWARE of the habits that no longer serve YOU, of the ones that can turn out to be harmful to YOU.
Start by asking yourself:
What have I been doing is leading me towards what I want out of my life?
Where will I end up if I carry on behaving in the same way?
Are my habits USEFUL, USELESS, or HARMFUL?
YOU MUST take some time to think about how YOU are leading your life, which kind of THOUGHTS, BELIEFS, ACTIONS, and HABITS drive YOU every day.
Another helpful technique consists of visualizing yourself in a situation where YOU can respond in two opposite ways, a good one or a bad one.
Imagine yourself choosing the good option and focus on what YOU feel.
This will ease your first step to forming your new useful habit.
MY LIST OF EMPOWERING NEW HABITS
As stated above this period of Covid has been a game-changer for me and the main reason is that I have been taking up new empowering habits.
I will share with YOU some of the most important ones.
1)START your day laughing! It will boost your mood and YOU will be ready to start your day with the best possible attitude.
YOU will notice that YOU will become less susceptible to rage and YOU will tackle the daily tasks with calm and patience.
2)HUG your household as often as possible, it will foster a better relationship with them and YOU will feel loved,
3)TAKE CARE of your appearance (e.g.moisturize your skin with organic oils etc...), it will enhance your self-esteem,
4)START and FINISH your day describing yourself with empowering words in front of a mirror.
As I mentioned in my article, words have the power to shape your life and so it’s worth investing time to find a new vocabulary with new empowering words.
5)WRITE DOWN in the evening what YOU are going to do the day ahead.
In the article about the importance of setting goals, I stressed that this practice will help YOU to have a clear target and to invest your time and energy most effectively.
These are just some suggestions, YOU can find alternative empowering habits to improve your life.
Remember that 21 days may not be enough and that at first improving your life will be challenging, but as YOU get momentum YOU will experience what living a fulfilling life means.
I am looking forward to hearing what new empowering habits YOU have taken up.