We have been told over and over and over that it takes 21 days to form a new habit.
Gasp. What a thing to wrap one’s head around!
Not only is the 21 days a mis-representation of the habit-forming timeline, but some people only need 18 days and some people need more than 250 days to form a new habit. That’s 12 times the age-old adage.
James Clear, arguably the expert on habits in this decade, shares the average time is actually 66 days, a little more than two months. He cites a study from Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London.
The good news in all of this? A longer window – two to eight months instead of just three weeks – gives us time to focus on the process and take failures in stride. Missing a day here and there of something we wanted to do daily looks like a hiccup in the grand scheme of things. And we just try again the next day.
There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs. –Zig Ziglar
I recently heard a sports psychologist share that success is boring, because it’s a process. It’s made up of little habits done daily and weekly and monthly for years and years in one’s career. Oh how that resonates! Especially with how often teams and leaders are wanting to talk about getting back to basics and focusing on the fundamentals. With our clients. With our relationships. With our business. With our sales processes.
Whether the new habit is small and relatively easy to incorporate, or more lofty and difficult, each of us has much more control on the outcomes than we realize (or maybe want to admit).
Tracking your progress will be vital if you really want to see if you accomplished what you set out to do. Nothing elaborate or fancy. Even a Y or a N on a calendar each day (or week) to visually indicate if you did or didn’t do what you had wanted.
Breaking bad habits isn’t as difficult as it can sometimes seem. A wise and close friend of mine shared with me that it’s all about replacing the bad habit with a good one. And James Clear shares the same advice. He has eight recommendations for specifically breaking a bad habit.
- Choose a substitute for your bad habit
- Cut out as many triggers as possible
- Join forces with somebody
- Surround yourself with people who live the way you want to live
- Visualize yourself succeeding
- You don’t need to be someone else, you just need to return to the old you
- Use the word “but” to overcome negative self-talk
- Plan for failure
For those of us specifically in sales and sales leadership – what habits could we identify as critical to success in our industries and businesses to meet or exceed our sales goals? (Or, what bad habits do we really need to break as soon as possible?)
I have a million (ok, not literally a million) ideas on this. Each person and each team is different. And different metrics and goals mean different potential new habits for each of us.
Starting with what your goal metrics look like, and what you are doing habitually already, might help you evaluate where a new habit or habits could be vital in achieving your goals.
- Number of outbound calls made each day or week
- Number of prospective clients or current clients connected with each day or each week
- Number of presentations made per week or per month
- Number of handwritten notes sent to those important in our world (key contacts, best customers, referral sources, etc.)
- Number of networking events attended per week or per month
Wrapping up this quarter and reflecting on the numbers above, maybe something jumps out as a potential game changer.
I’m a big fan of small incremental changes leading to big exponential results. If they are the right changes, at the right time.
How will you challenge yourself? With a new habit or two? Or replacing a bad habit with something else?
Starting right now?
Starting next week…maybe after the July 4th holiday?
Remember, you’ve got this!
(Photo credit Drew Beamer)