Whether you would like to admit or not, we all have habits. Some of them are good, such as exercising or even reading everyday. Some are bad, such as smoking a cigarette or eating fatty foods. And others are indifferent, not necessarily good but not bad either.
What exactly does that mean you ask? The dictionary defines a habit as “
The trick is to get your own habits to work for you, instead of against you. Let’s use an example. If you can create a habit to call 25 new prospects each day, then you would have called 125 in a week. If you kept that up for a month then you would’ve called 500 new prospects. And what if you stuck with it for a full year? Then you would’ve called 6,000 new prospects.
Now even if you’re not a “great” salesperson, you should be able to close 1% of that or 60 of them. That’s 60 new prospects doing business with you! But my guess is, you’re better than just 1%. You can probably get 5%-10% of them to start using whatever product or service you’re offering. That’s 300-600 new prospects in just one years time. But why can’t we get ourselves to do that on a consistent basis?
That’s because old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form. Our behavioral patterns we repeat most often are literally etched into our neural pathways. But, there’s hope. It’s possible to create new and positive habits. Think of it as exercising your brain.
In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, and her team figured out just how long it takes to form a new habit.
The study examined the habits of 96 people over a 12-week period. Each person chose one new habit for the 12 weeks and reported each day on whether or not they did the behavior and how automatic the behavior felt.
Some people chose simple habits like “drinking a bottle of water with lunch.” Others chose more difficult tasks like “running for 15 minutes before dinner.” At the end of the 12 weeks, the researchers analyzed the data to determine how long it took each person to go from starting a new behavior to automatically doing it.
On average it took 66 days to form a new behavior that became automatic. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. But again, on average, if you want to create a new behavior then you can expect it will take at least 66 days.
One of the most interesting findings from this study, in my opinion, was that to create the habit you didn’t have to be perfect. In other words, you could miss a day or two throughout the week and still form a new behavior. It’s about effort toward creating the habit more so than perfecting it. So back to my original question. Why can’t we get ourselves to do what we know will greatly benefit us on a consistent basis?
I think it’s because somewhere in our life, someone or something told us it should be perfect. Well. It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort, and when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.
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