I read a really interesting article in Forbes. (That makes me sound wicked smart, but I assure you, I don’t regularly do this).
I was always under the impression that it takes 21 days to kick a bad habit or start a good one. When I made this sobriety pact, I thought, just get to day 21 and you’ll be fine.
I imagined my Fairy Godmother was going to fly into my apartment at the stroke of midnight, on the eve of my 21st day sober, and “POOF” away any future desires to drink or smoke (and also bring me a million dollars and a boyfriend).
According to Forbes, the 21 day theory is bogus and according to my parents, Fairy Godmothers aren’t real.
Luckily, the dudes over at Forbes like to burst unrealistic bubbles and replace them with solid boxes, full of tools you can actually use to be more successful and accomplish what you set out to do. They replaced this ever-so-popular 21 day theory with 3 phases of change. These phases don’t answer to the boundaries of time and will vary based on the person and the goal. The most important thing is to be aware of what phase you are in and what’s to come.
- The Honeymoon: This term gets thrown around a lot, and for good reason. It’s pretty on point. All new things go through a honeymoon phase; jobs, apartments, relationships. When you’re speaking in terms of a habit formation or reformation, the Honeymoon is the first few days of change. At this point, you are feeling incredibly motivated, maybe you heard an inspiring lecture or spoke to a successful friend, or if you’re like me, it’s January 1st and in the spirit of being a walking cliché, you declare change all over the internet and receive tons of amazing encouragement to get you going. Basically, this is when change feels really good.
- The Fight Thru: And this is when change feels really bad. The dust has settled, the butterflies in your stomach have turned into moths, no one gives a hoot about your blog. You think “this was a stupid idea”. The struggle begins. The most important thing to do at this point is to recognize that you’ve come to this point. When you’re making big changes and hoping for big results, you have to be acutely aware of what you’re feeling, thinking, and doing on a daily basis. I know, it sounds like a lot of work, and it is. But, as every teenage girl on Facebook once said, “no one said it’d be easy, they just said it’d be worth it”. You also need a crystal ball. When you come to the intersection of “you got this” and “give up”, the only way to know which path to take is to look into your future and be painfully honest with yourself. Ask the big questions like, “how is this choice going to make me feel?” and “what will my life be like in 5 years, 10 years, or even just tomorrow if I do this?” I’ve had more urges to journey down Give Up Rd. than I can count, and I’m only on day 22. Every time I feel my proverbial feet wandering, I remind myself, that one cigarette or one drink now, will lead to many more later. I will inevitably find myself spiraling back into my old ways and, at the very least, in five years, I will be exactly where I was one year ago, and I will be miserable. When I reflect on that future, I feel it in my bones, and it feels awful. I don’t want that. So I sh-sh-shake it off and I sprint a few more miles down You Got This Dr.
- Second Nature: “And she lived Happily Ever After”… not. According to Forbes, “second nature” just means you’re “in the groove”. Personally, I have no rhythm, so staying in any kind of groove is difficult and I don’t think I’m alone in this, which brings us back to recognition. There are a few things you should recognize, that can send you back to the fight thru stage; discouragement, disruption, and success. Discouragement kind of goes hand-in-hand with my “no expectations” rule. When you’re making a change, be aware that it may not always turn out how you planned. Be at peace with that, release any control of the outcome, and embrace whatever that outcome is. Disruptions can be positive and negative. This is what I touched on when I was talking about my fear of birthday parties. The typical day-to-day routine is starting to feel a lot more second nature, but when you throw a birthday party or a vacation at me, my heart falls into my butt. The only thing I can do is recognize that it’ll be a little scary and do it anyways. Again, embrace it. Success seems a bit funny to throw into this group, but Forbes says it applies, so let’s analyze. The more positive results you get, the easier it can be to tell yourself “that’s not [the change I’ve made], that’s just how [great/lucky/perfect] I am” and before you know it, you’ve successfully talked yourself back into your bad habits. I haven’t experienced this component yet (womp, womp), but I can understand the mindset. I wonder, if tomorrow I found my career skyrocketing, would I attribute any of that to my 22 days of sobriety? Actually, I probably would. Ok, so maybe this seems like a bit of a stretch for me, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who can relate.
Making a change is a lot of eff-ing work! To quote my new friends at Forbes, “…good habits require consistent commitment. Highly successful people have learned to develop good habits.” Although, if the highly successful kids are doing it, it may be worth a shot, don’t you think?