How long does it take to form a habit?
The best example of forming habits comes from a time when I was in high school. Starting in early September, every single morning I would meet my friend Shane before school. Together we would walk to school, just like so many young school kids do. The way to school was a long loop around the roads, but if you were walking, you could skirt around the edge of a farmers field, hop a fence, and be at the school in less time than it took the bus to drive there.
Every September, we would walk up the hill, and slip into the side of that farmers field. But there was no path. Every September we would have to wade through waist high grass, over rocky, uneven, tractor chewed up ground.
But after a few weeks, the grasses started to become trampled. The ground started to smooth out. And slowly, step by step, a path was formed.
That path served us well for 8 months. With every passing week the path became easier and easier to walk, until it became second nature. But come June, we would stop walking to school and take off for summer holidays.
By September, that carefully trodden path was gone, and we would have to start the same process all over again. Walking the steps again and again, slowly forming that path.
So how long does it take to form a habit? The reason that answer is so difficult to answer is because there is no end. It isn't 21 days, or 60 days, or 90 days. It's forever. Because the day you stop walking that same path is the day the path starts to disappear. The day you stop walking, the weeds start encroaching, not just making the habit harder to keep, but often replacing with counter-productive activities.
Success is a Journey
Success can be achieved by doing the right activities, consistently. If you regularly work-out, you will be fit. If you regularly read, you will be knowledgeable. If you regularly perform high-value activities, you will be valuable.
In essence, this is what Aristotle spoke of when he said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
If you have the right habits, success lies somewhere along the path.
A Shortcut to Success
Just as our path across the edge of the farmers land was a shortcut to our destination, the right habits can take you to where you’re planning to go far faster.
If you want to get physically healthier, the right eating and exercise habits will lead to that life. If your definition of success is for stronger relationships, the right communication habits, the right gratitude habits, those will help you get there faster.
But shortcuts work both ways. If your habits are taking you in the other direction, to a place you don’t want to go. Those habits will also bring you to the edge of ruin faster as well.
Beware, the Weeds
If you stop walking on the path of success, the weeds will start growing. This is a fact. If you want to be successful, you need the right habits to get there.
If you want to stay successful, you need to keep performing those habits that brought you this far. The moment you stop making strides down the old familiar path is the moment that path starts overgrowing.
Very often, those weeds represent negative activities that make our journey harder.
Creatures of Habit
We are all creatures of habit. We fall into the same old routines. Some of those routines lead us to success, and some take us on a different path. Which of the habits that you have are leading you to success? And which are taking you off-track?
Take an inventory of your habits and routines. Which paths should you keep clear of weeds. And which roads should you walk down a little less often?
Knowing that this is a lifelong journey is daunting, but exhilarating at the same time. It means no matter where you find yourself right this moment, tomorrow can always be brighter. You can start forging new paths to greater success at any time.
Your future, your success is in your hands. Seize it.