There is no magic number of times that you have to do something to make that new habit stick. 21 days, 90 days, all of these little maxims are misleading and honestly almost seem like some kind of scheme.
The truth is, every day you have a choice. A choice to do what you know makes you feel clean, healthy, satisfied, and supported. Or to not do that. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t, but don’t find solace in some arbitrary number of times you have to do something before you have to stop trying. That’s just not how it works.
How to make your habits about making intentional change in the present.
- Don’t establish an end date for your goals
This is I think the most dangerous piece of the philosophy that there is a magic number of days you need to repeat some habit to make it last. It implies that there is a date when this habit will stop being a priority. If this habit is only worth 21 days of effort on your part, then it may not be something you truly want to be a part of your life in the long-term.
- Avoid the opportunity for failure.
If your habit is that you want to stop eating ice cream at home, don’t buy ice cream! Don’t even walk down the freezer aisle at the store. Willpower is a fickle friend, and why create the need to use it?
- Don’t worry about doing everything, do what you can and be generous with yourself when things don’t happen in order.
If your routine you’re wanting to implement feels like a checklist that you have to do in order at a specific time of day, you’re setting up little limiting factors to you day. Your routines are not an in order process, they’re a list of ways you can be better, at this moment. Do what you can in the moment and focus on the action and not the perfect process you may have laid out originally.
- Make your routines granular and approachable.
In that same vein, don’t set yourself up for an overwhelming experience of your goals. Look carefully at the habits you want to form and make sure there are small pieces (actions you can take in 5 minutes or less) so you have specific actions you can take without it meaning a 3 hour diversion from you day. Small, quick wins will keep you on track.
- Identify mental loops that help you avoid the work
I don’t know about you, but my brain has a specific language it starts to use that alerts me that I’m on a path towards procrastination and avoidance. Be aware of your thoughts around the work that needs to be done, and when you start to feel an internal dialogue that is helping avoid your healthy habits, literally stop yourself and identify what is making you feel that way, and take some small action to stop the loop.
These are steps I take every day to lead me incrementally towards my goals. How do you find ways to keep your goals and routines top of mind an manageable?