How Long Does It Take To Build A New Habit?

habits productivity Nov 29, 2020
How long does it take to build a new habit

“It takes 21 days to build a habit.”

A common modern-day myth

That’s what most people believe nowadays but they would be wrong! It’s one of those ‘myths’ that have done the rounds on the internet more times than a cat meme.

So who was the one that came up with this?

Is the statement even true?


The backstory

Let me share with you the real story behind this modern-day myth.

In the 1950s, Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, started to notice a pattern among some of his patients.

After most of the operations that he performed, he observed that it took about 21 days to adjust to the new changes that his patients had received.

In the case of a nose job, he observed that it took the patient about 21 days to adjust to their new face. He even tried it on himself and came to the same conclusion.

That’s when he published all of his quotes as well as other thoughts with respect to change in behaviour in a book named “Psycho-Cybernetics.”

More than 30 million copies were sold, thereby turning it into a blockbuster hit. That’s when it all began.

Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

In the book, Maxwell Maitz mentioned that
“It took about a minimum of 21 days to build a new habit.”

People shortened it down to,
“It took about 21 days to build a new habit.”

This is how the 21-day myth went viral in society.

If enough number of people say something for enough number of times, other people start believing it. The reason why this myth became so popular is that the time frame is short enough to be inspiring however, it’s long enough to be believable.

Who wouldn’t love the idea of changing their lives in just a matter of 3 weeks?

But wait!

The question is, “How long does it actually take to build a new habit?” and that’s what we will take a look at now.


How long does it really take to build a new habit?

According to Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher in University College London, “It takes a time period of more than 2 months (exactly 66 days) to develop a new habit.”

Lally and her research team observed habits of about 96 people over a time period of 12 weeks.

Each of them chose a single habit and reported when the behaviour felt automatic over the course of 12 weeks.

As we mentioned above, “It takes a period of 66 days exactly to build a new habit.”

However, the exact time frame for a single person to develop a new habit totally depends on the person, behaviour as well as circumstances.

According to Lally’s research, it took about 18-254 days for people to develop a new habit.

Alongside the researchers found out that it won’t matter if you mess up every now and then. Developing a new better habit isn’t an all-or-nothing process.

Don’t feel disheartened! This is just a case of mind over matter.


Not just a matter of 21 days

Don’t feel disheartened when you try to develop a new habit for weeks and fail at it. It’s just supposed to take longer than a few weeks.

You don’t need to judge yourself if you didn’t develop a new habit in just 21 days. Consider it as a challenge and soon, you will see yourself successfully overcoming all the obstacles in your way.


You will make mistakes

While developing a habit, you don’t actually need to be perfect.

If you make a mistake once or twice, it won’t really affect your long-term habits.

Failure is just one step towards success. You will make mistakes but you need to learn from them.

Develop a strategy to get back on track and soon, you will see have mastered your new behaviour. This is where Accountability Coaching can come in to support your efforts in achieving your goal. It can be very difficult to stick to a habit if you aren’t inclined to hold yourself accountable.

Accountability Coaching is the process of where an external person holds you ultimately accountable for making progress with your habit or goal.

Having someone outside of your normal sphere of influence that you have to report to can make a real difference.


Building a habit isn’t just an event

“I will have to do it for 21 days and soon, it’ll be done.”

That’s what this “21-Days” myth makes people think but it isn’t that simple in reality. As I said above, it’s actually 66-days but of course, everyone is different.

If you really want to make this new habit a part of your life, you need to embrace the entire process.

You’ll have to commit to the system and build it into your life. The longer timelines will help you realise that developing a new habit is a process and not just an event.



In the end, we can conclude that you shouldn’t focus on the number of days that you need to keep on doing something for it to kick in permanently.

It’s all about dedicating yourself to it.

Sometimes, it will take a matter of days to develop a new habit.

And sometimes, it will take months.

However, you shouldn’t feel disheartened when you aren’t able to observe any progress. All I want you to do is to stick to it.

Forget the numbers and focus on working hard on your new habit.

That’s the only way you will truly adopt your new habit and make it a permanent part of your life.

Get the coaching that you need to achieve the motivation you have been dreaming of.


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