Focus on Habits: Trust the Process

Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? Get to work on forming new habits and breaking bad ones? Do you have your notebook at the ready? Or at least another cup of coffee?

In last week's post, I encouraged you to write down the following:

  • 1 - 3 things you'd love to become habitual about

  • 1 - 3 habits you'd really like to break

  • Reflect on the end goals (near and long-term future) if you are successful in forming new habits or breaking bad ones

We have been told over and over and over that it takes 21 days to form a new habit.


Gasp. What a thing to wrap our head's around!

Not only is the 21 days a mis-representation of the habit-forming timeline, but some people only need 18 days and some need more than 250 days to form a new habit. That's 12 times the age-old adage.

James Clear, arguably the expert on habits in this decade, shares the average time is actually 66 days, a little more than two months. He cites a study from Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London.

The good news in all of this? A longer window - two to eight months instead of just three weeks - gives us time to focus on the process and take failures in stride. Missing a day here and there of something we wanted to do daily looks like a hiccup in the grand scheme of things. And we just try again the next day.

There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs. --Zig Ziglar

I recently heard a sports psychologist share that success is boring, because it's a process. It's made up of little habits done daily and weekly and monthly for years and years in one's career. Oh how that resonates! Especially with how often teams and leaders are wanting to talk about getting back to basics and focusing on the fundamentals. With our clients. With our relationships. With our business.

Whether the new habit is small and relatively easy to incorporate, or more lofty and difficult, each of us has much more control on the outcomes than we realize (or maybe want to admit). Tracking your progress will be vital if you really want to see if you accomplished what you set out to do. Nothing elaborate or fancy. Even a Y or a N on a calendar each day (or week) to visually indicate if you did or didn't do what you had wanted.

Breaking bad habits isn't as difficult as it can sometimes seem. A wise and close friend of mine shared with me that it's all about replacing the bad habit with a good one. And James Clear shares the same advice. He has eight recommendations for specifically breaking a bad habit.

  1. Choose a substitute for your bad habit

  2. Cut out as many triggers as possible

  3. Join forces with somebody

  4. Surround yourself with people who live the way you want to live

  5. Visualize yourself succeeding

  6. You don't need to be someone else, you just need to return to the old you

  7. Use the word "but" to overcome negative self-talk

  8. Plan for failure

Looking at the calendar, we have more than 80 days left in 2022. More than two months. It takes, on average, 66 days to form a new habit - for some us, much less, and for some of us, much more time.

I am two weeks into attempting to form a a new habit. By my own barometer, I think I've been doing pretty well. But, I know it is nowhere near habitual yet.

How will you challenge yourself? With a new habit or two? Or replacing a bad habit with something else? Starting right now? Starting tomorrow? Starting next week?

Next week, we'll connect the dots on how goal setting and time prioritization, not just time management, can help us choose which habit(s) are the most critical to form or break with our own goals and journey.

Stay tuned.