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The 66 Day Habit

November 6, 2015 by  
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I thought that changing the habit of driving on the right side of the road to the left side as I did recently in Ireland was a tough habit to change. Well, believe it or not driving my new car here in America is proving to be just about as hard. Ok, I can hear you asking, how can driving a new car on the right side of the road in the country you grew up in require a person to form a new habit?  Well, the car is different from every car I’ve ever had. It’s a Tesla and it can operate almost completely on its own. So why would that require a change of habit? Because all of us are in the habit of controlling our car and it’s counter-intuitive to turn that power over to the car and its computer.

Especially if you are traveling at 80 miles an hour on the freeway in traffic and going around curves.

I’ve had the Tesla for a little over a month and I am still working on shifting my usual driving habits. I remember reading many years ago that changing or developing a new habit takes 21 days. I think I read that in an old classic book by Maxwell Maltz, Psycho Cybernetics. So here it’s been over a month and I’m still trying to relax and let the car take over.

I began to question the 21-day thing and found out that was a bit of a myth started by Maltz all those years ago. A more recent study done by Phillippa Lally, a health psychologist at University college London, studied 96 people as they tried to change a habit. Her research showed that a change in habit or developing a totally new habit takes a little over 2 months–66 days to be more accurate. This is a very good thing to know because our habits, good and bad, really make or break our entire lives and if we held on to the 21-day myth we could easily become disappointed when we failed to change or develop a habit after 3 weeks. This could cause us to give up.

When I look at my own life with its big ups and downs I can’t help but see where some bad habits have held me back, causing me pain and failure. But then again, when I look at the good habits I have, I can see why it was such a good thing that I worked hard to form them. My dad for example, pushed and pushed me to form the habit of reading good books, which I finally did. I also pushed myself to develop the habit of working out, running, walking a ton and playing tennis virtually every single day and now at almost age 72 I am seeing the huge benefit of this habit and it’s not even hard to do anymore.

I also have to attribute my wealth to forming some very powerful and productive financial habits that have served me so well. Some are very simple, like saving at least 10% of every bit of income, which I did even when I was poor and making only $600 a month. Early on I also formed the habit of reading every financial book I could get my hands on as well as investing every penny I could into wise investments.

So I would plead with you to look at yourself and your habits and make a list of both your good and bad habits noting how the good ones serve and the bad ones aggravate your life and your family. Determine to keep up with the good ones but also add new habits and to change the bad ones. Stick with each new or changed habit for at least 66 days and watch the results! Try also to get your kids, significant other, parents and friends to do the same thing. I pretty sure you won’t be sorry.

A well ingrained habit is second nature and we will do it automatically, even those things we don’t enjoy doing all that much. The thing is, we love the results and if you keep your eye on what good habits can do for you, you can do it 66 times and beyond.

 

 

Re-training Your Habits

February 8, 2013 by  
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On January 4th I posted a blog about the great book called “The Power of Habit” and how it can change people lives for the better. The author, Charles Duhigg makes so many excellent points showing how habits are formed and how to change habits that you don’t like in yourself and are not good for you. You see, we all respond to certain cues or triggers which set us off to follow certain routines which then give us rewards.  If we want to change a habit we should think through and plan out, in mind and on paper, what our “new routine” is going to be when we face “the cue” again and then follow that new routine which also needs to have a reward attached.

Duhigg uses this example: At 3pm every day he eats a chocolate cookie. This habit has an obvious reward—the cookie. To change this he plans a new routine so when he is hit by the cue or trigger—the hour of 3pm—he takes a walk around the office building instead. This starts to form a new habit.  To make the reward more rewarding, if he can find a friend or co-worker to do it with him. Having someone to talk to adds to the physical exercise reward with this chance to socialize.

If you do this activity and reward replacement over and over again until you hardly even think about it, then you have a new habit!  So, if you have habits you’d like to change, take some time to think of new routines that may interest you that you can attach to these unwanted habits so when you are hit with the cue or trigger you can start a new and healthier habit. Try it. You will love it because it really works. Even though it sounds simple, it’s obviously not going to be all that easy because you will be facing a strong instinct to fall into the prior habit but if you stick with it you will end up with a new habit and soon you won’t even give it a second thought.