We say and agree that it takes 21 days to start a new habit, and I now also know that it takes 90 days to see results (courtesy Leon!). Pretty straight forward statement, right? Pretty easy to understand and pretty easy for it to make sense, right? I’m guessing that’s probably why I haven’t tried it till recently. For some reason I don’t follow the easy path. If I battle with something I always analyse it to death to understand what I’m doing wrong and the follow the route of affirm how I’ll fix it and believe it will come true.
I created an epiphany for myself by accidentally trying it. I’m not very good at my bedtime routine. Some nights I’ll brush my teeth, some nights I’m a bit lazy to. It bothers me, so one night, randomly, I decided that for the next 21 days I will brush my teeth, even when I don’t feel like it. Some nights I still felt lazy, but I committed to doing it for 21 days, so I just did it (like the Nike slogan). I think that was just over a month ago. Now, even on the nights I feel lazy I brush my teeth. The thought of not doing it doesn’t cross my mind.
This got me thinking. Yes, brushing teeth is a pretty simple habit, but what if I could learn how to apply it to the bigger things in my life. The biggest burning thing for me at the moment is my eating habits. For multiple reasons. I know I’m not fat, but I used to be able to loose weight whenever I wanted to. I would fatten up slightly in winter and trim down for racing season in summer quite easily. I’ve been battling with this the past couple of months, and need to prove to myself that I can be in control of my body and my eating habits. The other reason is that my energy levels are suffering badly. And my relationship with food is not great.
So I broke it up into smaller pieces. What annoys me the most? When I eat empty calories just because it is there or because someone offers. That is something small, and I can change it by not eating the biscuits in our 9th floor boardrooms, or sugary food people offer me just because I want to be polite. For 21 days I can say no and not eat the biscuit. It’s a small thing, and it’s a simple decision. Next up would be the way I look at my body, what I think of my body, what I say. But this small habit, I can do, easily. It’s been 3 days and so far, so good. I still sometimes wait too late to eat breakfast or lunch, or not drink enough water or too much coffee, but I have been in control of the foods I want to exclude from my diet. Easily – because it is a simple decision.
My opinion – we over complicate things, I over complicate things. Small steps are exactly that – small enough for me to master, and not necessarily knowing where it will take me. In 21 days for all I know I have proven my point to myself and I can decide without guilt when I have sugar and when not. Or in 21 days my energy levels are still terrible and I need to make a habit of drinking more water or eating more protein or even completely change how I eat. I don’t know, but for now, I am just focusing on the one small habit for the next 21 days, or the 19 that are left.
One word of advice, because I’m so excited I have now identified a bucket full of habits I can work on. Choose one, and stick with it. After 21 days, take up the next one. Don’t do more than one at time. Firstly you start mixing up the numbers, or create admin to keep score :). But more importantly, I think you overwhelm your brain if you do too much. Our brains are fabulous, but they also have their limitations. Our souls are limitless, but we need to coach our brains into believing that by changing we don’t mean it harm, only good. Keep it simple!
What are you doing for the next 21 days?