Can you change a habit in 21 days?

Scientists believe it takes 21 successive days of acting in a desired way to create a new habit. I heard about a simple method using this wisdom on a congress. At home I started studying on the internet and distracted a simple model. As a professional coach I am always on the outlook for effective tools and believe highly that you should walk your talk. Time to give it a test run!

The basis is simple: You set a goal. Put a bracelet on one wrist till you flunk. Pass it to the other wrist. Start over again, and again and again. Until you reach 21 flawless days in a row! So simple I could not resist. Can you?

My first goal became: to stop saying: “I have to!” Not the words but what they do is frustrating to me.

When I say “I have to…”. I feel a tremendous pressure. All my energy and time goes to lists of things made up by my mind. Finishing the things on the list does not make me happy in the long run.
“I have to…” at the same time turns my audience down. I clearly don’t have time or space. Three words, two unhappy people. Time to make this simple change!

I started wearing the bracelet and was glowing with pride on the 7th day. At the end of that long day somebody asked me: “Can I see you tomorrow?”  “I don’t know”, I said, “I have to…” came in my mind; I could not think of an alternative so quickly and out of my mouth it came: “I have to…” Shit. I dully changed the bracelet to the other wrist.

Why did I miss that beat? I pondered on it and found the following adjustments to the process that helped me considerable:
– Set two goals instead of one. As has been argued before it is hard for us NOT to do. Do NOT think of a pink elephant. Indeed a pink elephant in your mind’s eye. If you want to stop something, know what you want to start instead.
– Know what your start and stop habit represent for you. For me “I have to…” represents not being in contact with what I want. My alternative became to say “I would (not) like to…” followed by an “and…”.

Having the alternative ready makes all the difference when you are in a difficult situation. Knowing what your habits represent gives you the opportunity to make more than a superficial change. Only changing words will do me no good.

For me it works like this: The key to my “stop habit” is when I start formulating a sentence with “I have to…”. I pause for a split second and start my “start” habit. What do I want? With that thought my world changes. The pressure is gone! I am able to receive what other people are trying to tell me. And knowing what I want makes me happy and boosts my energy. Will it work for you?

Today I will start fresh again. Keep you posted!