I recently jumped into a podcast. I understand the irony of that sentence—a common start to a column post. Okay, I acknowledged it. You acknowledged it. Let’s move on.
The short podcast was on how important consistency is! In your pudding and gravy for sure, and also how often you work.
The podcast talked about forming habits and how 21 is the magic number. I thought that was pretty cool (I mean, I’ve heard some form of that for a while), and I decided to do a little research of the subject and found out where that MYTH started (plot twist).
Check out this post I read from Jamesclear.com (a highly reputable name? It’s okay; I found a few different sites that said the same thing, and I just like the way he worded this one, so here we go).
“Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 1950s when he began noticing a strange pattern among his patients.
When Dr. Maltz would perform an operation — like a nose job, for example — he found that it would take the patient about 21 days to get used to seeing their new face. Similarly, when a patient had an arm or a leg amputated, Maxwell Maltz noticed that the patient would sense a phantom limb for about 21 days before adjusting to the new situation.
These experiences prompted Maltz to think about his own adjustment period to changes and new behaviors, and he noticed that it also took him about 21 days to form a new habit. Maltz wrote about these experiences and said, “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”
In 1960, Maltz published that quote and his other thoughts on behavior change in a book called Psycho-Cybernetics. The book went on to become a blockbuster hit, selling more than 30 million copies.
And that’s when the problem started.
You see, in the decades that followed, Maltz’s work influenced nearly every major “self-help” professional from Zig Ziglar to Brian Tracy to Tony Robbins. And as more people recited Maltz’s story — like a very long game of “Telephone” — people began to forget that he said “a minimum of about 21 days” and shortened it to, “It takes 21 days to form a new habit.”
And that’s how society started spreading the common myth…”
Many people post after their first run, the first day of a diet, or when they are writing a song, and they finish one (the first in maybe six months). I’m happy that you did it, I mean that. BUT, if you’re trying to master a skill, it really doesn’t mean a lot if you only do that once every six months. Even once a week will not get you to where you want to go. What about posting after you’ve done two songs a week for 2 months?
I know that you know this. This is nothing new, and I’m not trying to make you feel bad about posting that you’re starting something new. I know that keeps you motivated and feel like part of a community.
How do we get to the place where something feels natural, so it’s easier to master that skill.
Ahh, we had a spoiler at the top of this post. It’s 66 days! 66 days in a row to break that mental hump and get something feeling natural (for better and for worse). At this point, boredom comes in, and now we have to combat that to keep working on and on and get better and better.
How can we cheat this system?
I have preached this for a while. But all you really need is 15 minutes a day to actually feel like you’re doing something!
All it takes is a little planning. It doesn’t have to be in a Franklin Covey planner.
Now you might say that you’re the exception to the rule, and I say to you.
No, you’re not.
And if I didn’t convince you that what works for literally billions of people but somehow doesn’t work for you, then maybe ask yourself if you’re really doing something you want to actually master! Maybe you just think it is cool! Like the way, I think being a lawyer would be cool, but I don’t really want to be a lawyer. I don’t care enough about it to put in the time. So I admire it from afar, and if I ever need to satisfy that itch, I watch the back half of a few Law and Order episodes. Done. Cured.
Your output doesn’t have to be prolific, but your practice MUST be.
Dang, do you also feel overwhelmed thinking about how long that must feel? I mean, I think about writing for 500 days straight, and my stomach does a flip. The trick is to make it feel natural, and after 66 days of repeating something, science says it’s supposed to be easier. So here is my biggest piece of advice.
We’d all love to pretend that we could sustain a 5 hour a day practice routine. But for 99% of us, this isn’t going to happen. Not at this point in our life, not unless it’s financially (and emotionally) viable. So take a quick moment, start small and decide what something that is actually feasible, something that will jumpstart that feeling of routine. Until you hit that 66th sunrise, though. Just assume it’s going to be a grind.
Reward yourself a little every day, a healthy (so you don’t have to break a bad habit afterward) tiny reward goes a long way.