It’s wishful thinking to believe you can create any habit in 21-days.  Yes, for years that was the going belief, but it’s bogus most of the time.

It can take you 21-days, or it can even take you less.  Most of the time it takes longer, or it never sticks.

Unless the habit you’re creating is so simple and doesn’t conflict with anything you have in your mind (subconscious), it has a higher probability of not sticking.

But if the new routine is created properly, it can almost take immediately.  Think; brush teeth after meals in addition to waking up and going to bed.

That’s a new routine for me.  It’s one I had to implement, because I’m wearing Invisaligners.  It took in a couple of days, because it was easy, and I saw the value right away. 

Did you catch that?  My mind, both consciously and subconsciously, realized the value of brushing my teeth more often, and it was simple.  My new routine was in place almost immediately because of it.

But not all new routines or habits take that quickly, in fact most don’t.  Sometimes, you don’t seem to get them to stick even though you work on it – for long periods of time.

At the first interruption, you’re back to old habits.

For instance, as long as you are home, you can stick to your plan, but the moment you go on vacation – it’s out the window.  Then when you return home, it’s often not easy to get back into the routine.

Required Strategies

That’s why when you decide to make a change and create a new routine or habit, you want certain things in place.

To get past challenges and obstacles so you create a sustainable new habit or routine, you must give it repeated, focused attention and time.  You want to catch AIR; Attention, Intention and Repetition.

Additionally, you must decide on a plan of action that is ridiculously easy for you and is nearly impossible to fail.  I invite you to check out the book; Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results on how to get started with this.

Finally, you must enjoy it to some degree, and it can’t place a huge burden on you.  The happier you are while doing the new habit or routine, the faster it will enter your long-term memory and for the new pattern to be accepted by your brain.  The easier transformation takes place.

Stretching

Attention

When you are giving your new habit attention, it must be focused attention.  This means, you want to place a lot of attention on the new habit and always return to the why, your intention (we’ll get to this in a moment). 

Find ways to bring it to your attention and stay there.  Some people use apps like Panda Planner or Habit Bull.  Others go old school and cross off days on a calendar.  Going old school, though reminiscent of when you were in elementary school, and having a wall calendar full of stars can be very rewarding.

It’s a sign you’re accomplishing what you set out to do.

However, attention doesn’t stop at reminders, you also want to bring in your why and review how you feel as you are DOING the new habit and once you complete it.  Your why can be critical for getting you through challenges, excuses and rationales and do the new habit.  However, it’s your presence of mind and attention on how you feel emotionally, physically and what’s coming in through your senses that will help to solidify the habit in your long-term memory and support convincing your mind of the habit’s value.

Confidence

Intention

When you begin a new routine, you want to understand WHY you want the new routine.  And then you need to determine if you have any needs or desires in place that will contradict the habit you’re after.

You want to know, understand and define your intention for doing the new routine, or habit.  You must be very clear with yourself about why this is a good thing for you to implement.  You must show more value for the new over the old – to yourself.

This means you have to dig deep.  You want to lose weight, but WHY do you want to lose weight?  How will it make you feel, act, behave?  Who will benefit from you losing weight and how will they benefit?

Is it really losing the weight or is it the journey of losing weight? 

For instance, almost everyone I work with wants to lose weight to one degree or another.  However, when they dig deep, it’s more about the self-esteem, confidence they will gain.  This usually comes from having a plan, taking action and keeping commitments to oneself rather than losing weight.

When you dig deep, you may find that you need to feel more inclusive, be more involved and not an outsider.  You will be able to enjoy more physical activities, both physically and emotionally.  You can join in and not be separated from your group, family, tribe, community because you can’t physically participate, you don’t stand out and emotionally you are no longer subconscious about your physical self.

When you dig deep and feel how what you are reaching for internally, you understand what your needs, wants and desires are – only then do you have the information you need to make a plan that will work.

Your understanding of why you want what you want and what your needs and desires are will help you bypass ‘self-sabotage.’  The reason there are quotes around self-sabotage is because you’re not sabotaging yourself.  The reason why you don’t follow through is because your subconscious is acting on either a need or a want.

All or Nothing

Let’s take a moment to address the “All or Nothing” syndrome. Is there ever a time when conditions are going to be perfect?  Nope, and as an example suppose you decide you want to of meditate daily, not even when you are seasoned meditator will it be ‘perfect.’ 

For instance, you want to meditate every day because you hear it will help with stress.  And you have a LOT of stress.

Great!  Meditation is a great way to calm your mind and body, let go of anxiety, stress and it’s not hard to do.  It doesn’t cost anything, you can do it in a few minutes, and you can do it just about anywhere.  Perfect!

Meditation

But what if you live in a house where you feel crowded all the time and can’t seem to find a quiet corner where people will respect your space, and worse, they quietly make you feel like you’re ‘weird?’ Maybe not even quietly.

Your NEED in this case might be that you need to feel respected in order to feel like you are an important member of your tribe, your family.  You may feel like you need to work at being respected and might not have the confidence you need to practice meditation, despite their doubts.

Consciously, you want to practice mediation, but subconsciously – you don’t.  Your subconscious will beat out your conscious almost every time – unless you push yourself.

Or maybe, you have desire to get away to a retreat and feel great, less stress and know how to meditate perfectly.  You don’t desire to deal with the hustle and bustle of home life, the interruptions, and the ‘quiet’ snickers.  It’s got to be perfect, or why waste your time?

In both cases, it will be very easy to become distracted and not follow through with your want to meditate to reduce stress.

Repetition

Finally, there’s no getting out of it, you have to do it – repeatedly.  You must repeat the process over and over again until you don’t have to think about doing it.  Your brain is a pattern recognition machine, and if you want to change a pattern by creating a new habit, it needs to be a recognizable – pattern.  That means, repetition.

At first glance, this may seem like hard work.  However, having to include repetition in the plan is great.  Remember my new habit of brushing my teeth and how easy it came to me?  That’s because, it was simple, and the value was there.  My brain accepted the new pattern quickly and easily.  It didn’t take a lot of repetition in this case.

If you want to create a new pattern, but the new pattern isn’t sticking, you have awesome information to work with.  You can break down why it’s not working and tweak your plan, so you can do it.  If you were building a house and you had the wrong sheetrock, you wouldn’t stop building the house.  You would find the right sheetrock and continue.  Same thing here.

What To Do If It Doesn’t Stick

If your new pattern isn’t sticking, get curious and break it down.  Here is a list of reasons why your new pattern is taking a long time;

  1. Not simple enough, or too much of a change at one time.
  2. You have a need that’s not being met.
  3. You have a desire that’s not being met.
  4. Your intention isn’t strong enough to show more value for the new over the old.
  5. You’re not giving the new pattern enough attention.
  6. You don’t enjoy the new pattern, or something about it rubs you the wrong way.

However, even when you think you are doing all of these things, it still may not stick.  I have seen habits disappear very quickly, even after years.  Exercise routines come to mind immediately for me.

Prior to losing my step-mother I was running on a regular basis, and I had my third 21-miler at Big Sur coming up.  However, her death changed all my plans and I immediately went with my father to support him and help manage things.

Running

I did run a few times while I was with him, but the environment was very different, and I didn’t have a set routine while I was away.

When I returned home, I was dealing with grief, needed to catch up at work and home, and my mother’s health wasn’t good.  My exercise routine didn’t come back.  In the back of my mind, I thought it would once everything calmed down.  But it didn’t. 

My brain had a new pattern, that it liked more.

I didn’t have a need as an obstacle.  Instead, I had a big desire in the way.  I desired not to have to go through all the work I had done over years to get to that fitness level again.  I desired to take it easy on myself after losing both mothers, moving, changing careers, etc.

Though I said I wanted to lose weight, get back in shape and run again – I had a hard time getting that routine, pattern, back in place.  In fact, I’m still working on it.  Did I say this was easy?

It is, if you have the right mix.  Otherwise, not so much.

In my case, my desire to skip the time, effort and pain that comes with training for long-distance running was a sticking point, because I wasn’t making my beginning routines easy enough.  I had it in my head easy was ____, and yet that’s not what my brain was accepting.

I had to use a lot of willpower to get it done, and often I didn’t have much on hand.

Willpower

Yes, there’s a lot of science about willpower, and you can do some things to increase willpower, so you can muscle through the process with repetition.

However, I’m going to invite you to use the lack of willpower instead.  When willpower is lacking it’s an indicator that something is off.  We’re back to using it as data like described above when a routine doesn’t stick.

Think about it, when you are in the groove, there’s no need for willpower at all.  When you are in the groove, you are engaged, interested, energized, in the pocket, enthusiastic, etc.

So instead of fighting willpower, get in the groove.  You can do it by going back over that list;

  1. Not simple enough, or too much of a change at one time.
  2. You have a need that’s not being met.
  3. You have a desire that’s not being met.
  4. Your intention isn’t strong enough to show more value for the new over the old.
  5. You’re not giving the new pattern enough attention.
  6. You don’t enjoy the new pattern, or something about it rubs you the wrong way.

For instance, I had decided I wasn’t ready to run again, because I gained weight and didn’t want to strain my knees and legs. 

Therefore, instead of running, because it would be too much, too soon, I decided to swim.  I love to swim, and I was a swimmer before I was a runner.  We also have a great gym with a nice pool.

Swimming

Then, I hit another snag. I do not enjoy the locker room.  They blow forced air making it really cold.  It’s also very noisy and crowded, making hard to change clothes. My desire was to avoid all of that, because it set my nervous system off. 

My new plan was to dress for the pool and wear sweats over my suit.  I go to the pool, undress in the pool room and store my bag on the bleachers – swim.  Then when I get out, I head over to the sauna and dry off in there, get dressed – go home. 

To make it more enjoyable, I now head to a spa around the corner that has a membership program and hit the steam, jacuzzi or the relaxation room, take a shower, get dressed – go home.

Swimming is much more of a pleasure and I do it on a regular basis now.  No need for willpower.  Instead I look forward to it.

You can use resistance, lack of willpower, and any negative emotion as a sign you need to go through the list and analyze why you’re not keeping commitments to yourself.

An Invitation

If this resonates with you yet you’re not sure how to do all the steps, such as dig deep to know you why or uncover needs and desires, I invite you to try my program designed to support your ability to accomplish mini goals.

Click on the button below and start your free trial.  This program includes a complimentary call to help you determine your goal and set up a process of doable steps, then you’re on your way.

Set & Accomplish Daily Mini Goals

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a person in your corner who can help you understand your obstacles so you can tweak your plan as you go, ensuring success? 

A person who knows how to keep you on track, not just accountable, and can help you enjoy the process.  That’s the key to having more confidence and feeling great about yourself, and isn’t that why you want to work on improving yourself in the first place?

Your partner in health,

Justine Cécile

P.S. You may also be interested in:

How To Use The Lack Of Willpower To Your Advantage

Your Superpower For Reducing Stress

4 Reasons Why Your New Habit Might Not Stick