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According to the famous University College London habit study, it can take anywhere from 20 days to 254 days for a habit to form, with the average habit taking approximately 66 days.
A habit is formed when brain cells (neurons) form a long-term synapse. A synapse is a neural pathway that is created in the brain when two or more brain cells repetitively communicate with each other. If that communication continues long enough, a part of the brain called the basil ganglia, reaches its tentacles out (axon filaments) to the synapse, marking it as a habit. Once a synapse is marked as a habit by the basil ganglia, that synapse, or neural pathway, sticks. This is why habits are so hard to break – the neural pathway becomes practically permanent, the moment it is marked as a habit.
100 Day Challenge
Consistency transforms behaviors into habits. Adopting good daily habits can only happen if you consistently engage in a productive/good activity every day.
One strategy to make good habits stick is something called the 100 Day Challenge.
Here’s how it works:
For 100 days in a row, focus on engaging in one new productive/good habit. By the end of the 100 days, the neural pathway will be strong enough to get the attention of the basal ganglia and will in all likelihood become a permanent habit.
The key is to focus on only one habit during this 100 day period.
Here are some new habit ideas:
- New Exercise Habit: For 100 days, run, jog, walk, cycle, lift weights for 20 minutes a day.
- New Self-Education Habit: For 100 days, read for 20 minutes a day, or listen to a podcast, or watch TEDx talks, or study something related to your job or career.
- New Skill Habit: For 100 days, practice some new skill for 20 minutes a day.
- Healthy Eating Habit: For 100 days, reduce how much junk food you eat by 300 calories a day.
- Change TV Habit: For 100 days, reduce how much TV you watch by one hour a day.
- Change Social Media Habit: For 100 days, reduce how much time you spend on social media by one hour a day.
- No Gossip Habit: For 100 days, avoid gossiping about anyone.
After 100 days, the synapse or neural pathway will be strong enough for a permanent habit to form. Then, apply the 100 Day Challenge to another individual habit.
Tom Corley is an accountant, financial planner and author of “Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life”, “Effort-Less Wealth”, “Change Your Habits Change Your Life”, “Rich Habits Poor Habits” and “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.”