Consistency is the key to creating new habits
How long does it really take to form a new habit, one that sticks? Consistency with sticking to your new behaviour is the fundamental key. Creating healthy and helpful habits is a popular topic and one I focus on in my book, Creating Healthy Life Habits. However, it appears no one is really absolutely sure how long it takes. A common time frame was between 21 and 30 days minimum, and recent research says 66 days. However, from my experience, I believe creating lasting habits can take a lot longer. Maxwell Maltz, in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, endorses this. However, because we are all different, the length of time varies and may depend upon your level of commitment. I know it can take much longer. Maybe six months or even a year. The question, therefore, is how can we stick with it long enough to make it a habit?
NASA did a fascinating experiment that showcases the importance of consistency
Furthermore, a fascinating study by NASA illustrates this principle well. In the earlier days of the space program, NASA designed an experiment to determine the psychological and physiological effects on astronauts. How exactly would the spatial disorientation they would experience in the weightless environment of space affect them?
They were keen to discover if being in this weightless environment would have any unexpected negative consequences that could put them and their mission in danger. Would they blackout? Above all, if they did, would they be able to still function? Would they experience a psychological effect that would leave them incapacitated?
The goggles turned their world upside down
Each astronaut was equipped with a pair of convex goggles. These goggles literally turned their world upside down as their entire field of vision was flipped 180 degrees. Next, all the astronauts were instructed to wear the goggles for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even when they were sleeping.
At first, as you can imagine, the astronauts experienced physical symptoms of anxiety and stress. Their blood pressure was elevated, respiration and other physical signs, but over time they gradually adapted to their new reality. At day 26, an amazing event occurred.
One of the astronauts saw the world the right side up, even though he was wearing the goggles 24 hours a day.
And then something amazing happened at day 26 related to consistency
Between day 26 and 30, the exact same thing happened for each of the remaining astronauts.
What happened is the brain adapted. It was able to create new brain cells and rewire itself, confirming the concept of neuroplasticity. With consistency, the astronaut’s brains had created new neural pathways that literally ‘rewired’ their brains to see the world normally again.
What was even more astonishing is the results of a second experiment they undertook. This time, they made a slight change and instructed some of the astronauts to remove their goggles for a short period of time partway through the experiment, before putting them back on. On the 30th day, their worlds were still upside down, but when they continued on, at 26- 30 consecutive days wearing the goggles, uninterrupted, everything was suddenly the right side up.
Consistency is required to create new neural connections
The scientists concluded that the brain requires approximately 30 uninterrupted days for new neural connections to form, and to form new habits.
If you apply this to your life, for you to be successful in embracing a new behaviour and turning it into a lasting habit, you must find a way to stick with it. Consequently, you need to embrace consistency as a value. It may take way longer than a 30-day challenge to lock the habit in, especially if you forget to stick with it every single day. Indeed, latest neuroscience research from Dr Caroline Leaf, suggests a minimum of 66 days is required to truly lock in a new habit. Furthermore, more than one round of 66 days may be required.
Persistence and kindness is also vital in the pursuit of embracing a new behaviour. Furthermore, when your are kind yet persistent, you have a far higher chance of turning your behaviours into a lasting habit. However, this is where many people fall down. To stick at something new takes a conscious effort, will and energy. Furthermore, intentional thought and purposeful action. You also need consistency to help build belief in yourself and to prove that you can stick with it. Moreover, to overcome that syndrome we suffer from not doing the things we know are good for us.
Hard work is another ingredient necessary to create great results
All this can seem like hard work to the part of us that is hard-wired to be comfortable and safe. Furthermore, it takes hard work which goes against our innate hard-wiring to be motivated towards pleasure and away from pain. Consequently, finding a way to keep yourself plugged into your long-term vision to stick with your new habit is key. This is where focusing on creating a champion mindset comes in.
The longer you stick with your behaviour, the easier it becomes. Furthermore, by around ninety to one hundred and twenty-days research shows it becomes almost natural. Almost as if it was part of who you are and how you live your life. Do you remember when you were young and you were told to clean your teeth? You probably had daily reminders from well-meaning parents helping to make this a natural habit? Now, I don’t know about you, but I would never go to bed without cleaning my teeth or start my day without cleaning them? It might even become one of your critical keystone habits.
The more you embrace consistency the more normal your behaviour becomes
A second key to help you create a new habit is to start small. Pick one thing and add it to something you already do. This avoids overwhelming and feeling as if you have too many things to do. Ultimately make it a daily ritual and consistency your new best friend. If you exercise for only ten minutes four times a week, it will gradually become a natural more enjoyable habit. Once you have made it a natural habit, then you can increase the time and or frequency that you exercise. A third step is to embrace the proven technique of visualisation, mental rehearsal.
Imagine what you can create in a year if you pick one small habit a month and stick with it, and you make consistency your friend? You will have created twelve new habits by the end of the year. This consistency word might just be the very thing to transform your results and your life? All you have to do is make a decision, create a winning plan for your new habits and get started.
About the Author
Mandy Napier is a Global High Performance Mindset Coach who is dedicated to supporting high achievers fulfil their potential and achieve extraordinary results professionally and personally. Transformations are the norm, and results guaranteed.
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