How long does it take to change a habit?

How difficult do you think it is to change a habit?

Many experts in the field of personal development suggest that it takes 28 days to change a habit, be it a thought pattern or the way we do a set of actions – like which sock or shoe do we put on first?

Habits can be extremely difficult to change, most of them have been with us all our lives. So difficult that the same experts generally advise us to develop new habits to replace the old that no longer serve us.

I recently had an urgent and real need to change a habit, it was an interesting exercise.

As I am right handed, when putting on a shirt, coat or jacket, I have always inserted my right arm into the sleeve first, followed by the left. I have been doing it this way for over 50 years.

Last year as a result of an active life with horses, cattle, motor bikes, rugby and an accumulation of knocks and bumps, I developed a problem in my left shoulder which drastically reduced the mobility in that joint. It also made lifting my arm above my shoulder or moving it behind my back extremely painful, to the extent that putting on a coat became very uncomfortable.

Weather conditions in a Canadian winter require that a coat and frequently a sweater or another item of warm clothing must be put on and taken off several times a day.

My old habit of right arm first was no longer serving me, I had to start the process with my left arm.

At first, this felt completely awkward and unnatural. I could get the left arm into the sleeve, but found it dificult to find the right sleeve which would be flopping about, out of sight, behind my back.

I had a huge incentive to persevere, because, although difficult at first, this new way allowed me to avoid the pain I had been experiencing.

Gradually the exercise bacame easier, after a month it was almost automatic and after 5 weeks it has become the way I naturally do it over 95% of the time.

So, I have developed a new habit to replace the old which was preventing me from doing a simple task and causing me pain.

What is the lesson here?

For me three things:

Firstly, a real motivation to develop the new habit – in my case to avoid pain.

Secondly, a commitment to take the new action at every opportunity

Third, belief that it would get both easier and achieve the desired result. My goal was to be able to put a coat on smoothly, comfortably without pain.

What is your experience with developing new habits?

Leave a comment and share your experiences.

One of the experts I follow to learn more about beliefs and personal development is John Milton Fogg, I have benefited hugely from his 90 Day Challenge. He is starting another one at the end of April, if you need to improve your listening skills, goal setting and understand more about how to get your life on a roll, this is one of the best investments in yourself you can make.

While you are about it check out his Conversations website, he provides an amazing selection of resources through recorded conversations with masters in the field of personal development.

No I don’t earn a commission if you sign up for John’s work, I recommend him because he is good and I have seen great benefits from working with him.

Wishing you success in all your endeavours.

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  1 comment for “How long does it take to change a habit?

  1. May 5, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I really enjoyed this post, especially the “examples in this post” portion which made it really easy for me to SEE what you were talking about without even having to leave the article. Thanks

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