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How long does it take to form a habit?

Plus a suggestion for a new 30-seconds habit

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Angelo Belardi

Jun 28 2020

2 mins read

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This number varies greatly between people, but about two months can be seen as a reasonable estimate to establish a new daily habit, according to a study from 2010¹:

The average modelled time [until the habit was perceived as automatic] was 66 days, but the range was from 18 to 254 days. (p. 1007)


The question about “how long” might also be ill-formulated altogether. Habits are based on repetition. Thus, the more precise question might be: “How many repetitions does it take to form a habit?” Still, since research in this field often focuses on daily habits, and not habits you might do repeatedly on one day, the two numbers are closely related.

Two months might sound like a lot of work until a habit eventually is perceived as automatic. James Clear’s blog post on this topic clears up with an older myth that stated it takes 21 days to establish a habit. One of his insights after realizing that it takes longer for most people to fully develop a habit:

[…] embracing longer timelines can help us realize that habits are a process and not an event. 


I think it helps us to not give up too soon when we start out with a habit, especially when we see that the variance between people is extremely large. For some, it might even take over two hundred days.

References:

¹ Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998–1009. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.674


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”We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” - Will Durant

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