The Time it Takes to Stick
28 Days of Consecutive Momentum.
“Repetition of the same thought or physical action develops into a habit which, repeated frequently enough, becomes an automatic reflex.” – Norman Vincent Peale.
NASA conducted an experiment on proprioception that uncovered a surprising fact about our subconscious mind.
A team of astronauts were asked to wear a special pair of goggles that flipped their vision upside down. The goggles inverted everything the astronauts saw vertically, so up was down, and down was up. Initially they were very disoriented, but within a few days they learned to perform most manual tasks with little difficulty.
A few of the astronauts were selected to keep their goggles on for more than four weeks. After 28 consecutive days, their vision flipped. Up was up, down was down, and they could see normally – while they were still wearing the inversion goggles. Taking them off, they saw everything around them upside down.
Our brain learns to invert our sight when we are babies. Because of the way that light enters the convex surface of the eye, newborns see everything upside down, but at some point, the brain inverts the picture so we see things the way we do.
During this experiment, the brain offered a similar fix to the problem the astronaut was facing – but the internal inversion would occur only if the goggles were worn for 28 consecutive days.
Every other day for 56 days wouldn’t do it. 28 days spread out over five weeks wouldn’t do it. Only after 28 consecutive non-stop days of wearing the inversion goggles would the brain accept the new paradigm.
If you have a habit you want to change, you can’t just stop the habit for just a little while and expect it to stick. You need to get momentum on your side, and that takes your subconscious mind 28 days.
The difficulty in changing your behavior permanently lies in changing something fundamental about yourself. If you change one of your core habits, are you still you? The habits make the person, so when you change a habit, you are changing the person who you are. Even if the habit makes you into a better person, that old person with the bad habit still wants to be you, and this old you is the person you have to regretfully condemn.
For a little while.
Make an offering to your inner resistance: meet your old self in four weeks. If you want to give up sugar, give it up for 28 consecutive days, and then eat a cupcake. If you want to quit smoking, celebrate by having a cigarette on day 29.
By the time you give yourself this reward, your brain has changed, and you have changed. This makes the reward a prize that somebody else wants – the person you used to be.
Select a new habit, and Commit to 28 days. You can download the app Commit for iPhone ($2.99) and every day, you get to press a friendly green button if you accomplished your habit. This will track how many consecutive days you achieved your goal. I have personally used Commit for tracking my pullups, my writing time, my backflips, and my morning exercise.
Send me a screenshot of success on day 28, and I will buy you a coffee!