3 is the Magic Number

I keep reading this lately, in different places. If you want to set a a new habit, 3 is the magic number. And increments thereof.

In terms of willpower and effort, the first 3 times you do something, it will take a lot of mental energy. But then after that, the habit-forming part of the brain starts forming the new habit and it becomes easier to carry on without as much planning and psyching up.

The best way to think of the “3 times” is 3 days in a row. So for sticking with a new resolution to exercise, meditate, or any other new habit you’d like to build, plan to do it 3 days in a row. Then keep going–another 3, another 3, another 3. (Note the clever repetition of that 3 times.:))

And even though we hear a lot about “it takes 21 days to form new habit”, or 30 days (my fave until now), or 40 days (shows up in many ancient teachings), a recent study showed that“autopilot” with a new behavior occurs after an average of 66 days.

That’s right. It’s 3 x 22.

But please don’t despair if that seems like a long time. After all, if it’s a helpful habit you are aiming for, then continuing to strive for it–and maybe a experiencing a few re-starts along the way–is not a bad thing.

After all, it’s what you want! And it’s good for you. AND (ooo–bonus bonus bonus) your reward for staying consistent is it not feeling so hard any more.

Hey, you: Go, go, go! (See, the clever 3x repetition yet again. I think I’m forming a new habit.)