The Truth About Change and Creating Habits – It Takes 66 Days!

Posted March 12, 2014 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five

There is a common belief that it takes 21 days to form a habit, 21 days for something new to become so much a part of your life that you’re accustomed to it being there. So we think if we can just get through the first three weeks of something, we’re home free, right? Wrong. There’s actually new research on this topic that suggests the old 21 day rule isn’t so. In fact, it takes much longer to adjust to a new habit or another kind of change in your life than 21 days. This new research shows that the sweet spot is, in fact, 66 days.

I recently felt the effects of this research in my own life an can vouch for the fact that it’s true. As many of you know, just over two months ago, I started a new job. In addition to that change in my life, I also piled on a few other changes at the same time. I started working with a new trainer, I made some hefty financial goals for the year, and committed myself to new roles on multiple Boards and Committees. Overload? Probably. But I worked through it.

For two months, I coped well with the change, but I also recognized that it was and would continue to be a struggle. Any time you’re starting a new job, you’re going to have growing pains and fear of the unknown, you’ll feel like you don’t know enough and doubt your abilities. Couple that with attempting a new workout regime and everything else, and while I felt positive in general about how I was progressing at my job, I found myself stumbling in other areas. I missed workouts, I wasn’t sleeping well enough, I didn’t find the motivation to work on the non-work projects I had committed to.

But something changed, suddenly, in the last two weeks. I somehow began to feel like everything was working as it should. My workouts felt stronger, I had the energy to get to yoga for the first time in weeks, and I finally opened my home computer and actually worked on some of my Board projects and other personal things. Something clicked, and it all felt like it was working again. As I read the new study about habits and change, I couldn’t help noticing that this sudden clicking happened right at the 60 day mark in this massive change in my life.

So if you’re going through a change, or trying to create a habit, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen in a few weeks’ time. It actually takes much longer (three times longer, in fact) than that to adjust to something new in your life. Give it time and do your best to effectively take care of yourself in the meantime.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."