The “21-Day” Falsehood Exposed

A so-called statistic that people like to quote is, “It takes 21 days to build a habit.” But that’s NOT TRUE, and here’s why.

I know it sounds encouraging. Fast and easy. Quick and done. A new habit in place in less than a month–wow! We read that and we think, I can do it.

Then after 21 days pass, and the behavior we were working toward is still not a habit, we feel disillusioned with ourselves–when we should be disillusioned with the falsehood.

There is nothing wrong with you if a new habit doesn’t take hold in three short weeks.

The misunderstanding occurred because of confusing the time it takes to build a long-term memory with the time it takes to create a habit. Dr. Caroline Leaf, author of Who Switched Off My Brain tells us the real timeline:

  • It takes 21 days to build long-term memory if you deliberately work on it daily.
  • It takes an additional 42 days to turn that memory into a new habit.
  • Thus, it takes at least 63 days of work to form a new habit.

If you want to create new financial habits, realize that it takes 63 days, at least. Don’t quit after 21 days because it is still difficult. Of course it is! That is normal.

Three Tips to Help You Create a New Habit

  1. Check your triggers
    We all have things that trigger certain behaviors. Some people call it “pushing my buttons.” If a particular person in your life speaks disparaging remarks toward you, that could be a trigger to go spend money in order to treat yourself well and compensate for the unfair accusations.
    Instead of spending money, what could you do?
    Go for a walk or engage in another form of exercise? Play music that lifts your spirits? Work on your fun hobby?
    Give some serious thought to your triggers, because you don’t need to be a victim of negative outside influences.
  2. Create mini milestones with rewards.
    This is the fun part, both to plan and to do. Decide at what intervals of your journey you deserve to celebrate, and then schedule a reward for yourself. A reward could be something as simple as a walk along the lake or a movie you’ve wanted to see. If you work a lot, it could be a lazy day off. Or maybe an at-home spa experience, a new book, a new recipe, a game day with friends. Anything that is motivating, fun, but without sabotaging your goal will work.
  3. Journal your journey.
    Scientists who study the brain tell us the benefits of keeping a journal. “When you write your thoughts down, you are analyzing the pattern of your behavior, which activates the basal ganglia in your brain, along with a rush of dopamine and serotonin, which promotes cognitive fluency and flexibility in your thinking and helps you problem-solve!” (Dr. Caroline Leaf)
    The point is that doing a journal helps you analyze your thoughts and change your behavior to get to your goal. If you don’t already have a journal, may I suggest Credit Repair Mindset JOURNAL? It is a place to organize your thoughts, and it includes snippets from my own life’s journey from being a mom on food stamps to starting a new career and then becoming an author. It’s pack with encouragement. You can take a closer look here.

* The above is taken from Credit Repair Mindset, Chapter 14.

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