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Brain Coach: How long does it REALLY take to create a habit?

The following is a brain-based coaching insight, complete with coaching tips on the bottom. It is the first part of a 5-part series.

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According to a study by Lally and Gardner (2013), the average time for their research participants to reach “automaticity” (e.g., habit) was 66 days, with a range of 18-254 days.

The more complex the task, the longer it took for a behavior to become automatic, which means it takes much longer than the oft-quoted 21-30 days to form a concrete habit.

Coaches are in the business of supporting people to create “habits”—good habits, supportive habits, invigorating habits, life-giving habits, success habits, happy habits!

How do we coach our brains (or our clients’ brains) to get on board with routinizing habits that will bring us more freedom, fun, and fulfillment?

Whatever habit we want to adopt, it will be much easier to create “automaticity” if we first adopt a sense of optimism. Our outer lives are a reflection of our inner thoughts. If we think “it will never happen,” we are priming our brains to look for evidence that, indeed, “it will never happen” and our actions will follow suit.

So how long does it REALLY take to create a habit? FOREVER! . . . IF IF IF your brain has convinced you that “it will never happen!” Habit formation is closely tied to our optimism/pessimism.

Coaching Tips:

1. Increase your awareness around your optimism. One way to do that is to take the Optimism Test at www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu.

2. Keep things in context. If something “bad” happens, make it “negative specific.” For example, “This audit from the IRS certainly wasn’t on my Christmas wish list, but there are lots of other good things happening in my life right now.”

3. Shift from “negative specific” to “negative general.” For example, “I’ve weathered other tough things before, and I will get through this one, too.”

4. Think twice about how you “label” things. Ponder the wisdom of Shakespeare,

“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Or, paraphrased for today’s language:

“Nothing is good or bad, unless we label it so.”

5. Start to consider how life will change when you operate with greater levels of optimism. What would you notice first? What would open up for you?

Insights? Actions?

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