Step One: Begin Writing

The first step is always the hardest. This is true of many things including writing. There is also a saying that after 21 times repeating the same thing you can make it a habit of it.

Interestingly enough there is an article in the Huffington Post written by James Clear that challenges this notion. It turns out that the 21-day rule was actually just an observation made by a 1950s plastic surgeon named Maxwell Maltz. In Maltz’s book Psycho-Cybernetics, he says that “it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” People all over the world jumped on to this notion and took it to mean that you can change any habit for a better one in just 21 days. Well, it turns out that is not necessarily the case.

Clear reports in this same article that a health psychology researcher at the University College of London named Phillippa Lally conducted a study to find out just how long it really took to change a habit. Lally research showed that it actually takes on average over 60 days for a new behavior to become a habit. That is significantly longer than the 21-day rule previously proclaimed. Lally also noted that for some people changing their habits could take up to eight months.

Now, as Clear points out, we should take this as a sign of hope and not despair. If you look at your own life how many habits did you attempt to change in a short amount of time? Wasn’t it frustrating when it didn’t work? Well, luckily for us it turns out that we are pretty normal. In fact, for many of us changing habits, or starting new productive habits, can take a lot longer than expected. This fact should allow us to drop our unrealistic expectations and settle into the process of change.  We should celebrate the small successes we make towards a larger goal. We should take the time needed to make a change that can produce a real difference in our life.  Whether it is eating better, or writing more, keep at the process.  One day you will be amazed at where you ended up.

Clear wraps up his article by saying:

At the end of the day, how long it takes to form a particular habit doesn’t really matter that much. Whether it takes 50 days or 500 days, you have to put in the work either way.

The only way to get to Day 500 is to start with Day 1. So forget about the number and focus on doing the work.

I guess every journey does begin with a single step.

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