It’s a common question. When people take on new patterns of behavior – as you have with your morning routine – they want to know what to expect. How long should it take for a new pattern of behavior to become a habit?
The answer can provide hope and security as it allows you to believe this sought after behavior will soon be yours, naturally, without all the struggle. It’s an encouraging feeling that can boost motivation, giving you that extra push when needed.
As far as the actual answer goes, there are many schools of thought. One of the most common is that it takes just 21 days! That means by this time next month your new morning routine could feel just as much an ingrained part of your day as brushing your teeth! It would be great if it were so easy, but many other thought leaders don’t think it is. There’s no real consensus on this issue, and I think that’s for a very good reason.
Focusing on an arbitrary time frame for the habituation of a habit is entirely wrong thinking. Sure, believing it only takes 21 days to form a habit feels good at first, but when it doesn’t work, you’re left frustrated, disappointed and in many cases, blame yourself. There’s also the fact that no one actually knows how long it takes to cement new habits in their life. There are simply too many variables. What’s true for one person invariably won’t be true for another.
There is something that does work: going further! What I mean by this is, if you want to have more control over your new and developing habits, if you want to control the rate at which you internalize the new behavior, the way to do it is to go further. You don’t do it by setting some arbitrary measure of time, you do it by raising the stakes. Let’s look at the world of physical exercise. If you’ve never run a mile before, the first time you run, it’ll be difficult. If you decided you wanted to make it a habit and run one mile every day, what you’d notice is that over time that one mile gets easier and easier. But how much time would it take to make running a habit and running one mile a day easy? Who knows!
Here’s the trick… If you one day decided that instead of running one mile you wanted to raise the stakes and start running two miles daily, you’d very soon find out how easy running a mile had become for you. By the time you’re running five miles daily, one mile is a breeze.
What’s the principle here? A focus on continual growth is the best and most certain way to quickly habituate new behavior. The best part is that it releases you from the need to rely on such unreliable and faulty measurements and instead turns your attention to the process.
Be diligent and learn to enjoy the experience of expansion and growth. Focus on process, and consistent growth and everything else just falls into place.