So far we’ve pulled our habit out, examined the whys and decided to change. The trouble is, change can be super-tough. It’s such an overwhelming feeling to face up to something you’ve probably been doing for many, many years and we torture ourselves further with thoughts like, “I can never do this again for the rest of my life.” It’s so defeating, so hard, so mean… but the reality is, if you want to change the destination, you’ve got to change the steps that led you there in the first place.
But how can we make it all less daunting? How on earth can we do this?
How to break a bad habit
Step 4. Commit to the change for 21 days
I don’t know where the magic number 21 came from, but everywhere you go in cyberspace, they’ll tell you that it takes 21 days to break a habit. I think the number is probably arbitrary but three weeks seems a reasonable amount of time to form new habits that help you forget about the old.
At the very least, stopping your habit for 21 days is a good goal to aim for. It cuts through that feeling of dread – the Drama Queen “THIS IS FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE” that screeches the minute we start something new that’s a little bit uncomfortable. I do that, do you?
Thoughts of the old habit don’t magically disappear in 21 days, but in that period of time you’ve established a nice new rhythm to your days that lets you glide over the cravings and temptations. You can even tell yourself that you only have to give up your old habit for 21 days and you can go nuts at 22 days, if that’s what gets you through. Man, tell yourself whatever you need to hear at this stage to just get started!
I know it’s a bit ‘reward chart’, but I found that crossing the days off a list really helped me stay on track. Maybe it’s my Type-A tendencies, but I didn’t want to break the chain of lovely crosses that I started. A small additional motivation and anything that helps, right?
If neat rows of Xs are your thing too, I’ve made us a fancy 21 days to break a bad habit chart! You can click on the A4 image below to save it to your computer and print out your own chart. I really think it helps.
Just quietly, I finished my 21 day chart for my night eating (and yes! I made it!) but I wasn’t done. I knew that ugly old habit was just waiting in the wings to leap onto the stage and sing “Ohhhhhh the sun’ll come out tomorra” (because that’s what bad habits always sing – tomorra, tomorra, tomorra). SO, what I did was print out a fresh chart, stick it up on top of the first one and on day 22 I just started all over again. I’m up to day 3.
Homework for today
Print out the chart and stick it somewhere meaningful. Mine is currently at eye-level on the front of my fridge door, but you’ll know where yours will work best to help you kick your own habit.
You don’t have to start checking off the days just yet (unless you want to!). You might like to read all of my steps before you feel ready to tackle your habit. But print out the chart today and stick it somewhere good today. That way you’re ready when the time is right.
Ignore the ‘three things I can do instead’ lines… we’ll talk about those tomorrow.
Would you agree that we can do pretty much anything for 21 days?