The link below goes to an interesting article by blogger Jeremy Dean. Though Jeremy Dean works in the IT industry, he has a graduate degree in psychology and based his blog post on a well cited study.
There is a folklore on the internet “that it takes 21 days to form a habit”.
That is, you have to do something new for 21 days before it begins to feel automatic, before it has momentum, before it FEELS easier to do than not to do.
According to Dean this is not true. This idea came from a pop self-help book author who wrote the famous “Psychocybernetics”( postive thinking). Maltz, the author, was a plastic surgeon who observed that amputees would feel phantom limbs for up to 21 days after the loss of a limb.
The study that Dean looked at said that establishing “automaticity” ( a habit feeling more natural to do than not ) varies by person and by new habit. There comes a point where a new habit comes to feel as natural, as “automatic”, as it is ever going to feel. For some people and some changes, this point of “automaticity” can take up to 256 days to reach. The average was 66 days for most people and most habits.:
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