Most use external motivation to help them achieve some big goal in life, such as running a marathon, losing 30 pounds, or to pass some test. There is a lot of debate over external motivation. Some argue it does not lead to long-term changes in habits and behaviors. Others argue that it can completely change your life. So, who’s right?
They are both partially right. External motivation works in altering your habits and behaviors but only when that external motivation is long enough for the habits you created to stick.
What is long enough? According to the famous University London study on habits, it could take as long as 254 days to form a habit. If your big goal requires less than 254 days to accomplish then it is likely the habits you forged during the goal-seeking process will not stick. So, if you want to forge long-term habits you need to set big goals that will require at least 254 days to accomplish.
It’s neurological. It takes 254 days in order for the neural pathway inside your brain to become so strong that the brain (basal ganglia) marks the synapse (brain cells talking to each other) as a habit. Once brain cells are designated as habits by the basal ganglia, a habit is forged. And it will never go away – ever. Brain cells marked as habits will stay with you until the day you die.
So, set big goals. Goals that require at least 254 days to accomplish. Otherwise, all of the habits you created in order to make that goal a reality will eventually fade away, replaced by older habits.