By Dr. Wayne Andersen
On average, a habit takes 66 days of repetition to form. If you miss a day, you can pick the habit back up and still form the habit by the end of 66 days. If you miss two days in a row, restart the counter at day one and try again.
This is the process I use when I talk to patients about Habits of Health, and we often make the process even simpler by building habits in layers. Instead of starting someone on an ambitious five-day fitness program, we begin with a microHabit so easy it is nearly impossible to fail: one push-up a day. If you can do more, do more, but always do at least one.
Once the microHabit is installed, we build on it with more Habits of Health. This accumulation of sustainable change leads to the incredible transformations we have seen in the lives of thousands of people around the world.
On this journey, however, no one reaches their goals without at least one stumble. They might miss a day in their habit streak. They might overeat at a family gathering. Whatever it is, a misstep on your journey does not mean that all is lost. Unfortunately, I often see that this experience of making a mistake and slipping backward into Habits of Disease creates feelings of immense self-doubt and inner turmoil.
“I was doing so well, but then I screwed it up. I don’t know if I can do this.”
Just as a habit is not the product of a singular choice (but rather several), the reflection of who you are and what you are capable of is not visible in a singular decision. In fact, a stumble on your journey can be a valuable learning opportunity that makes you even more successful in reaching your goals. If you reframe a stumble as a unique chance to learn about yourself, you can rebound with not only renewed enthusiasm but also with a key insight that makes your Habits of Health easier to maintain.
When you experience a “miss” in your Habits of Health, here’s what to do:
Stop. Pause the hustle and bustle of your life to recognize the choice you made.
Reflect. Why did you make this choice? What happened around you that led to the decision?
Plan. How can you prevent this situation from occurring again? What can you do differently?
Visualize. Rehearse the situation mentally so that you know what to do or say if you find yourself facing the same challenge.
Get Support. Talk to your health coach about the challenge and get his or her input. They have probably been in similar situations themselves and know how to help.
Don’t allow a simple stumble to define or derail your journey. Use the experience to learn, and then pick up where you left off.