Today is the third-annual Blog Action Day. This year’s theme is climate change, and all participating bloggers are asked to write on the topic from their perspective.
When I first learned about this year’s topic, it was the word change that caught my attention. To make any sort of behavioral change — to help the environment, become uncluttered, stop smoking — is difficult. We’re creatures of habit, and we find ways to rationalize our behavior even when it’s detrimental to ourselves and/or others. Even major life events don’t always motivate us to change our ways.
But, we all know a kid who was a troublemaker in high school who became a law-enforcement officer in adulthood or an alcoholic who is more than 10 years sober. I was a someone who had so much clutter in her home that I had to walk along a pathway of waist-high boxes from my bathroom to my kitchen, and now I’m clutter free and work 40-plus hours a week to help others achieve the same. People can change, but the path to transformation isn’t always easy.
A recent weight-loss study by researchers at the University College London found that it took participants 12 weeks to develop new habits:
… participants gave a figure for how long it had taken to develop habits and the mean was 3.0 months (s.d. 1.8).
The study tracked the participants and discovered that the previously reported statistic that it takes just three weeks to develop a new habit is incorrect. The majority of the participants didn’t even have healthy eating behaviors established by eight weeks, and some of the participants took between 20 and 24 weeks to master the new routines.
In addition to teaching the participants better ways to eat, the study also recommended that people should:
… form ‘implementation intentions’ plans that specify when, where and how the behaviour will be performed because these have been hypothesized to accelerate the habit-formation process.
If changing your behaviors to help save the environment or improve your eating habits or live an uncluttered life is at the top of your priority list, then give yourself time to become accustom to your new routines. Write down your “implementation intentions,” make the changes, and then prepare for it to take 12 weeks before all of your changes start to feel like second nature. For some of you, it may even take twice that amount of time — but it will happen. Change is possible.