So, is it really true that a person can form a habit in 21 days? Some people believe it is possible while others think that it is a myth. I guess it boils down to our own perspective and the kind of habit we want to create.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz was a cosmetic surgeon who wrote a book called Psycho-Cybernetics in the 1960s. This book became a bestseller and influenced the future self-help community. He went on to write numerous books in the self-help genre. Psycho-Cybernetics was written based on Maltz’s observation of his patients. He discovered that most of his patients' self-image did not change after plastic surgery. He believed that behavior and thought patterns had to change in order to lead to a happier more fulfilling life. Dr. Maltz states in his book Psycho-Cybernetics,
“Happiness is not something that is earned or deserved. Happiness is not a moral issue, any more than the circulation of the blood is a moral issue… Happiness is simply a “state of mind in which our thinking is pleasant a good share of the time.” If you wait until you “deserve” to think pleasant thoughts, you are likely to think unpleasant thoughts concerning your own unworthiness.”
The major takeaway from Dr. Maltz’s observation is that he identified a pattern of consistency. A majority of his patient’s perceptions of self-image changed with behavior modification usually within 21 days. Realistically, if you continue to do something over and over again, you will begin to form a habit and it may take a short or long period of time. For example, every year people try to quit smoking as a New Year’s Resolution. Some can quit cold turkey and never pick up a cigarette again while others stop and start over and over again.
21 days should not be considered a rigid rule. It is a timetable that seems attainable without the added pressure of failure. It is possible that changing a habit in 21 days is a myth. Many have refuted Dr. Maltz’s ideology that behavior modification can be achieved in 21 days. There is no magic number in terms of the duration it takes to form a habit. 7, 14, 21, 30, or 60 days could change one’s behavior, it all depends on the person. Consistency and intentionality is key to forming a new habit and could evolve into a successful healthy habit. 21 days seems like it is an attainable goal and usually, the habit that we want to create is a behavior that we want to sustain for the long haul, so realistically it will take time. Ultimately, you can’t create a new habit until you start. So start now.
Live well, love well, be well!