The Science Behind Establishing NEW HABITS

In the quest for personal growth and self-improvement, establishing new habits is a cornerstone. But what does it truly take to integrate a new behavior into our daily lives seamlessly?


One of the most pressing questions in the realm of habit formation is: How long does it take to establish a new habit? While the popular belief, stemming from Dr. Maxwell Maltz's observations in the 1960s, suggested that 21 days is the magic number, more recent research paints a slightly different picture.

A pivotal study by Phillippa Lally and her colleagues at University College London delves deep into this question. Their research, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, suggests that the number of days needed to establish a habit range from 18 to 254 days, indicating that the complexity of the habit, individual differences, and circumstances play significant roles in this process.

THE FOUR STAGES of Habit Formation

Understanding the stages of habit formation can provide valuable insights into how we can more effectively embed new behaviors into our lives.


Every habit starts with a cue, a trigger that initiates the behavior. Recognizing and intentionally setting up cues can help in establishing new habits. For instance, leaving your running shoes by the bed can be a visual cue to go for a run. Having a bag with gym equipment near the table where we eat breakfast can help us muster the initial motivation to kickstart the habit.


The craving is the motivational force behind the habit. It's not just about the action itself but the reward you anticipate. To build new habits, it's crucial to associate them with a positive and rewarding experience.


This is the actual behavior or action. The easier and more satisfying the action is, the more likely it is to become a habit. Breaking down complex habits into simpler, more manageable actions can facilitate this stage. For example a magical quote in terms of dieting is "a good diet you can follow is better then a great diet you cannot". Therefore choose the activities that seem more manageable.


The reward is what your brain remembers and what reinforces the habit loop. Ensuring that the new habit provides a tangible or emotional reward is key to its adoption and repetition. That is why it is important to measure progress. And when we see the initial gains (for example more strength at the gym) it helps us to continue to build the habit.

Factors Influencing HABIT FORMATION

While the 66-day average provides a benchmark, it's essential to recognize the factors that influence the duration and success of habit formation:

1. Complexity of the Habit: Simpler habits are generally quicker to form than more complex ones.

2. Consistency: Regular repetition in a consistent context can significantly enhance the habit formation process.

3. Motivation and Goals: A strong underlying motivation and clear goals can drive quicker habit integration.

4. Support Systems: Supportive environments and accountability can bolster the effort to establish new habits. Therefore making a public commitment is one way to cheat the system. It's a way to put external pressure on ourselves to make us more accountable for following through with our initial commitment.

Embracing the JOURNEY

Establishing a new habit is less about finding a one-size-fits-all formula and more about understanding and leveraging the psychological mechanisms at play. Patience, persistence, and a mindful approach to developing new behaviors are crucial. Remember, each day of practice is a step closer to transformation.

In the context of The Challenge, where we explore and embrace new habits monthly, understanding these principles isn't just academic—it's a practical blueprint for personal evolution. Whether you're trying to incorporate a daily meditation practice, improve your diet, or establish a consistent exercise routine, recognizing the science of habit formation can empower you to make meaningful, lasting changes in your life.

And taking up on of The Challenges could be a strong initial habit forming exercise.

As we navigate the journey of self-improvement together, remember that each small step, each repeated action, is a building block in the architecture of your personal growth. Embrace the process, trust the science, and watch as the tapestry of new habits weaves a path to a better, healthier, and more fulfilled you.