How Many Habits Have You Built in 21 Days?

Have you ever heard the phrase “It takes 21 days to form a new habit”?

I’m sure you have. I’ve likely heard it hundreds of times.

Have you ever actually tried it though? How many habits have you formed by doing something for 21 days?

I’ve tried many things for at least 21 days. Heck, I’ve even practiced handstands every single day for 130 days! After that though I stopped. It wasn’t a habit. I didn’t continue doing it here and there or even at all. So what happened?

I recently read an article by James Clear called How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit? Like most of his articles, I really enjoyed it.

The phrase itself came from Dr. Maxwell Maltz. His actual quote came from his experiences around forming new behaviours and was specifically written as: “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”

Not quite “It takes 21 days to form a new habit”.

Like many quotes it’s been shorted and paraphrased down to a simpler form and, unfortunately in this case, steers people in an unrealistic direction. It sounds nice, but it’s rarely successful.

So how long does it really take?

Jame’s article goes on to talk about a study by Phillippa Lally at University College London. The study revealed that it actually takes 66 days on average to build a new habit.

The average is 66 days but the variance was between 18 to 254 days. This is a far cry from 21 days!

In the world of fitness this hasn’t exactly been a hard conclusion to make through observing people’s patterns.

How many thousands if not millions of people flock to the gyms every new years? Of those, how many do you think build a strong habit after just one 1 month?

I don’t have any accurate facts on this but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was less than 10%.

Most of those memberships drop off after 3 months, still proving that a habit can take a really long time to be built.

What can we learn from this?

For me, it’s that there isn’t a quick fix. You may get quick results, but if you want them to last you’re going to have to dig in for the long run. If you truly want to change your life and build a new lifestyle, you’re going to have to focus on long-term.

As James concludes in his article “embracing longer timelines can help us realize that habits are a process and not an event”.

I’ll leave you yet again with my favourite quote:

“Never give up on a dream just because of the length of time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” ~ H. Jackson Brown

Have you struggled with the “21 days” concept? Share your experiences of habit building in the comments below.

Do You Suffer From Athletes Brain?

Athletes Brain is a term I’ve come up with for a common scenario I run into. At least I think I’ve made it up… Please correct me if not!

I use it to reference a time where people think they can do more than they are physically capable of. Or more specifically, their brain remembers what they used to be able to do but their body can no longer do that. Their brain remembers when they used to be an “athlete” of some sort, but their body is no longer at that same level.

It comes along with common phrases like:

“I used to be able to do that”
“I used to be able to lift more weight”
“I used to run way faster”
“But I should be able to do way more than this”
“Oh my god, I can’t believe how sore I am after such a simple workout”

As you can see, the theme is that the brain is still in the past. Your brain remembers everything you used to be able to do and for some strange reason your body isn’t doing it any more.

Your brain says “yes” and your body says “no”.

Guess what, your body wins.

The challenge with this scenario is that it can be frustrating as hell. I just want to be back where I used to be. Why can’t I be there now? I don’t remember it being this hard.

Fact is, in the past you worked really hard to get yourself to a certain spot in fitness or sports. You pushed, you overcame obstacles and you got results.

But then you stopped.

For whatever reason your life changed course and you stopped pursuing that path.

Maybe it’s been months, maybe it’s been years. Either way, it’s been a while. When you don’t keep at it, you don’t keep the results. As my university professor used to say: “If you don’t use it, you lose it”.

Your body has become de-conditioned and it now has to start all over. Although unfortunate and often frustrating, it is what it is. The only way to move forward is to accept it and just do what you can.

If you suffer from Athletes Brain, you’re going to have to tell your brain to shut up. Just like your parents when you were 16, it doesn’t know what’s best for you!

You need to get your brain to stop talking and start listening. Listen to your body and just do what it can. It may mean you start a little slower, but the good news is that won’t last.

You’ll start seeing results pretty quickly even at a modified level. If you don’t believe me, you might be suffering from All or Nothing which is a cousin of Athletes Brain.

Your body will actually re-gain a decent level of fitness pretty quickly. Within a few months (yes months, not weeks) your athletes brain will regain it’s value. Your body will have re-built a foundation and now you can use that same brain to start pushing yourself again. You’ll use it for good instead of evil and launch yourself into success!

Have you ever had Athletes Brain? Did it frustrate you and cause you to quit? Share your experience in the comments below.

Is Your Workout All or Nothing

I work with a lot of clients who really struggle to be consistent with their workout routines. Actually, for MOST of my clients, the #1 thing we focus on in the beginning is developing their consistency. I’ve written about it recently.

A big struggle they have comes from a belief that seems very common.

I call it that All or Northing belief.

The basic principle is that my clients believe they need to be all or nothing. As in, when they workout, they need to do the whole workout, at 100% capacity for it to be worth it. Otherwise, what’s the point. There’s some level that they SHOULD be able to achieve and if they can’t then there’s no point.

Have you ever thought this?

You had a 60 minute workout planned, you only have 30 minutes so there’s no point. Right?

Many people think they need to do the program 100% to get results. They need to be able to get a personal best or put in their best efforts for it to be worthwhile.

If they’re sore, they need more rest.

If they don’t have enough time, they need to do it later.

Often, these are really just justifications for why you can’t do it now. The problem is that this creates negative habits that get harder and harder to overcome as time goes on. You get so used to putting it off that you really struggle to get up and do it when the time is right.

You end up doing nothing.

To get a different perspective, let’s do some simple math:

If you have three 60-minute workouts in a week and you do none of them, how much time have you spent working out?

Right, ZERO!

Now, if you have three 60-minute workouts in a week but you run out of time in each one and only do half, how much time have you spent working out?

Right, 90 minutes!

Now, go ask a 5th grader: which is bigger; 90 or 0?

Right, 90!!

My point here is that you’re going to be better off in the long run even if you only do half of your workouts. Half the time or even half the intensity. It’s not worthless if you can’t do the full thing.

JUST DO IT.

Besides, reduced capacity workouts are actually a great thing for your body and mind. It can help the muscles recover and you get a sense of accomplishment, not failure.

Doing 50% of a workout still feels like you at least did something.

Doing 0% of a workout feels shitty.

If you’ve ever run into this thought pattern, break it immediately by doing something. As I wrote recently , the perfect program is the one you’re doing. Stop thinking you need to do it all or nothing and just get out there and do what you can.

Have you ever done this? Share your experience in the comments below.