Sunday 14 September 2014
According to 1950s plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz, it takes 21 days to form a habit. In 1960 when Dr. Maltz published that statement, along with a few of his other theories regarding behaviour, the world jumped on the ‘21 days to form a habit’ bandwagon. Since then, many a self-help guru or motivational speaker has espoused the 21 day theory.
Somewhere in the vicinity of 2009, Phillippa Lally published an article based upon her research regarding exactly how long it takes to form a habit in the real world. It turns out that the 21-day theory is incorrect. Through the study, Lally found that it took between 18 and 254 days for a habit to form; that on average, it took approximately 66 days for that habit to become automatic.
Where is this all leading? Good question. It all comes down to a discussion that I had earlier today, about my current inability to write any blog posts. I sit, night after night, in front of Dysfunctional Mac (incidentally, for those who know the story, Mac has been very good for quite a while) expecting to write lots of new posts, and all I actually write is . . . nothing at all. Not a thing. Not a single word. I figured that because I hadn’t written in over 21 days, I had created that habit – the need not to write every day. It replaced my previous habit of sitting down to write every night.
So, here I am, sitting in front of Dysfunctional Mac, tapping away on the keyboard in the hope that something of worth just happens to come out because it was once a habit. If Phillippa Lally’s research is correct, I’m above the 66-day average of having the habit of not writing becoming automatic, and that means that I’m going to have to push through this predicament to get back into writing every day. Again, if Lally’s research is correct, I’ve also got an advantage in that although I’m well over the 18 day minimum, I’m nowhere near the 254 day maximum of creating a new habit.
Of course, this not writing thing could all just be in my head. Maybe I’ve picked up a bout of writer’s block or I’ve simply run out of stories to tell and things to say. It’s possible. Anything is possible – unless that’s another one of these statistically inaccurate sayings in the same category as the 21-day habit.
Was there any important point to this post? Nah, not really. I simply needed to get back into writing, and I needed to have at least 1 post to schedule for the coming week. Mind you, it was fascinating reading about Maltz’s theory and Lally’s research, so it hasn’t been a complete waste of my time. Your time, however, well, that’s up to you to decide.