30 day challenge: Build a new habit

Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.
Warren Buffett

I hate mornings. I know I am not alone.

In the last month, I have been crazy enough to get up at 6:15am every morning to do The Miracle Morning ritual.

I must admit I was skeptical about the claims of the book. The author, Hal Elrod, writes that his miracle morning ritual has made such a big difference to his life that he now doesn’t start any day without it. Even though he is not a morning person. Really?

But to my surprise (should I say shock?), I have really enjoyed building this new habit. And I am motivated to get up every morning to go through the ritual. When the first thing you do in the morning is an activity you really enjoy, it’s that much easier to get up.

I encourage you to read the book, but to summarize, the ritual consists of:

  1. Meditation
  2. Affirmations
  3. Visualization
  4. Exercise
  5. Reading
  6. Writing

In fact, the ritual is a stack up of 6 habits in one go. And they are all great habits to build.

My conclusion is that habits do change the kind of person you are. They define who you are. I guess I have now become a sort of morning person. I don’t get up at 6:15am at the week-end or on holiday, no, but I still do my routine then.

Since I have built many other habits in the last several months, I have become pretty attuned to the different stages of habit building.

Here are the different stages to the 30 day challenge of building a new habit.

Building a habit in 30 days

Typically it takes one month to build a new daily habit. In some cases it can be more or less than that, but on average 30 days is a good rule of thumb and an easy to follow milestone.

If your habit is not a daily one, you will need to increase this duration proportionally. For example, if you exercise 3 times a week, you will need about 70 days to build your new habit (30 days * 7 days / 3 times a week).

Depending on your level of motivation, your existing skills and the difficulty of the new habit, you will experience the following stages with more or less force. These stages are based on what Hal describes in The Miracle Morning and Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Chef (he is talking about learning new skills but I have found that habit building follows the same pattern). They also reflect my experience.

Below, the duration of the stages is typical of a daily habit. If your habit is not a daily one, you will need to adapt the number of days for each stage accordingly (divide 7 by the number of days a week you are practicing your new habit, then multiply the number of days for each stage below by the result of your calculation).

Stage one: Sugar high

The first four days or so will be pretty easy. The novelty of the task and your motivation will push you forward. You will feel good for starting your new habit and you will feel rapid progress.

Stage two: Drop and low point

Once the novelty wears off, after about 4-5 days, it will become much harder. You will feel down. You will feel resistance.

This is the stage at which you are most likely to give up. Be prepared for it so that you can weather the storm. This stage will take you to day 8-10.

Hal Elrod calls this stage the “Unbearable” phase. From my experience, the first 10 days can be a bit of a roller-coaster, depending on how committed you are to building your new routine. Having strong reasons for doing the activity makes it much easier to get through that stage.

Stage three: Progress again

Fortunately, the low point is followed by a phase during which you will feel more confident again. For weathering the storm, but also because you will start anchoring the habit and feel positive about it again. This takes you to day 12-14.

Stage four: Plateau

Then follows a long plateau, which might feel like driving on a long straight road. This is a crucial step during which the anchoring of the new activity in your routine takes place. The plateau shouldn’t be too painful, but it will last 10-12 days.

This stage is what Hal calls the “Uncomfortable” phase. I’ve experienced this stage as easier to get through than the first 10 days, although this point is when I might start questioning whether I will benefit from this new habit as much as I thought. The danger of giving up in that phase is also high.

Stage five: Inflexion point

Finally, the last 8 days or so will be much easier to get through. You will start seeing results that will motivate you to continue with your habit.

Now, the activity will pretty much be part of your routine already. So it will be natural for you to do it. This last stage is still very important as this is the time when the habit gets fully imprinted in your mind.

Hal calls this stage the “Unstoppable” stage. If your new habit is to exercise, at this stage you will start to feel more in shape. If you are building a habit of reading or writing every day, you will feel more excited about it and will want to build up on your expertise and go further.

Make it a habit

Once your new habit has been built, after 30 days, review your plan.

At this stage, you can decide to either carry on with you habit and raise the bar to develop it further (e.g. by exercising every second day instead of twice a week or by doing new exercises) or to start a completely new habit. This is entirely up to you and dependent on your end goals and how comfortable you are with building new habits.

This plan for one habit doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build several habits at the same time. Feel free to build two or three at a time. You can even stack them up and do all of them at a specific time, like in the Miracle Morning ritual. I wouldn’t recommend building too many in one go though, as it can deplete your daily energy quite a lot and put a big dent in your motivation.

In short, make it a habit to create habits (pun intended) every time you are working towards your goals. Habits are crucial stepping stones. With them, you can do miracles, literally. I’m getting up earlier now, which is kind of crazy.

And don’t be afraid to create unusual habits, that will allow you to reach your goals.

Sasha Hostyn (known by her username Scarlett), a Canadian professional video game player, can stay alert and focus for long stretches, without the help of stimulants like coffee. Afterwards, she can sleep for almost 48 hours stretch, to recover.

She needs to stay alert for long stretches for her job as a professional gamer. She has trained herself for highly specific skills. So be creative!

The progress of building new habits might seem slow sometimes, especially at the beginning, but keep pushing. You will reap the benefits afterwards.

Make it your 30 day challenge to build one or a couple of habits. Then, carry on. You will never want to look back!

Are there any useful habits you are planning to build?

What has been your experience with the process of habit building? Did you go through the five stages?

Please share your stories and thoughts in the comments section below.

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