Automation is at the heart of forming habits
Automation also helps to illuminate the essence of this research: how long it took for a behavior to become a habit. On average, all participants who provided enough data took 66 days to develop a habit. However, there were significant differences in how long it took to form a habit, depending on what everyone was aiming for.
How easy is it to adopt a welcomed habit?
Those who wanted to drink more water after breakfast were able to automate their behavior after about 20 days, while those who wanted to eat a fruit took at least twice as long make this a habit. Researchers were able to determine that in some cases, it may take up to 254 days to establish a habitual behavior!
The 21-days rule might apply if your goal is to drink more water during the day, but not if you want to do 50 push-ups before breakfast. The more difficult and painful it is, the more likely it is that it will take longer to automate.
If we want to be honest and set our expectations right, the truth is that it will probably take us two to eight months to build a new behavior in our lives. Not twenty-one days.
It is a fascinating fact, however, that even if an opportunity to implement the new behavior is missed, this does not affect the habit-forming process.