Changing anything you do repetitively, including thinking certain thoughts, doesn’t happen overnight.
It can take anywhere from a few weeks to months. But key is to play the long game… and keep practicing until the new habit or thought becomes automatic.
You’ve probably heard that it takes 21 days to ace a new habit, but if you don’t make the switch that fast, don’t beat yourself up. You’re normal!
Although, there are some interesting findings about the 21-day theory.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz wrote the bestseller Psycho-Cybernetics. He used to be a plastic surgeon and saw that it took at least (notice I said “at least”) 21 days for amputees to cease feeling phantom sensations in the amputated limb.
He also noticed that when he performed a surgery that made someone look different, often one that enhanced a person’s looks, it took them at least 21 days to actually “see” the change.
Meaning, it took them weeks to see their new image instead of what they used to look like even though the mirror reflected their new image. Wild, right?!
He talks about neuroconnections and neuropathways needing the new habit practiced at least 21 days in a row.
Gotta play the long game, baby.
I’m no rookie to the topic of practice. Many years ago I created an audio and eBook titled The Art of Practice.
What’s interesting about practicing something is that you have to be very observant of yourself to ensure you truly are practicing the new habit.
For example, when I waterski, I practice skiing on the edge of my ski rather than letting the bottom of the ski slide flat across the water.
Water sprays in my face if I’m not on my edge, so I get instant feedback if I’m doing it correctly. I catch myself wanting to be on my edge but not shifting my body weight to make that happen.
Why would I not do the very thing I want to practice? My focus gets locked onto my arms feeling tired, or on the speed of the boat, or that the sun is in my eyes, etc. My attention is focused on things I don’t want.
It takes practice to practice!
I have to really make an effort to decide what I want to focus on before I jump in the water. I have to make being on the edge of my ski more important than any other factor while I’m skiing.
I always recommend that my clients practice one new habit or skill at a time; otherwise it becomes overwhelming and is easier to give in to the old ways or give up.
You can break the new skill or habit into baby steps to make it even more digestible.
I used to have massive eating disorders in my twenties and early thirties. When I decided to finally kick the habit of controlling my weight with a no-fat diet, I didn’t just tell myself to eat whatever I wanted with no guilt.
I would’ve freaked out, thinking I would gain weight immediately.
The first step I practiced was not reading the nutrition labels on food. I still ate low fat but wasn’t counting calories. The next step was to feel okay about not counting calories and fat content. The next step was to slowly include cheese, ice cream, burgers, and fries into my diet. All my practicing paid off.
I now eat whatever I want, when I want it, and I feel great.
Practice will allow you to master any new habit or skill, but playing the long game and practicing baby steps is the key.
Getting support with your new practice will make it less of a struggle. Although you may need practice with asking for support! 😉