6 Ways to Break or Create Habits


People have always wanted a magic recipe to achieve goals without effort; some say that victory comes after 66 days.

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This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When I was a child, I imagined that I had powers that helped me in key moments; for example, I could make myself invisible and play pranks on my sister or listen to “the big talks” going completely unnoticed.

I could also fly (one of my favorite powers), but among all of them, there was one that was my favorite because with it, I could enjoy and do many things. That power was the ability to stop time. 

Now, I miss the possibility of stopping time and turning it back when I regret not having done something. 

However, while we can’t all turn back time to avoid regrets, we can all exercise the technique of turning habits into routine.

How many times do you promise yourself that you will exercise, but you never do? This is a common situation, and scholars say that a habit repeated a certain number of times becomes a routine, and therefore a lifestyle, wherein you complete a certain activity “automatically.”

Related: 35 Habits to Be More Efficient

There is no magic number that tells you “after a certain time you will achieve it,” but there are scholars who say that it can be 21, 66 or 84 days; it all depends on the motivation that drives you to repeat the action. Much also depends on the results you get because we always want everything immediately. We do not know how to wait (it seems to me that tolerance and patience are habits that many should practice), and when we don’t see the results we want, we deceive ourselves and justify giving up the habit.

Jeremy Dean, author of the book Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t and How to Make Any Change Stick, explains that on average, a habit takes 66 days to form, but it depends on the task. For example, if they are simple habits, it can take 20 or 21 days, but if it’s something that requires more effort, such as daily exercise, it can take up to 84 days.

Dean proposes a series of steps to create or break habits:

1. A little is a lot. Focus on modest changes; you don’t want to change something big because, in the end, you will sabotage yourself. Make the change manageable.

2. Be objective. Be firm with what you decide to change, but at the same time be realistic; understand the difficulties that may come and how you will not give up.

3. Repeat. Nothing is as “magical” as repeating what you want to form a new habit.

4. Don’t hold back. Many times, we try to suppress thoughts to “forget” them, but obviously the opposite always happens. For example, if you want to quit smoking, and you avoid thinking about cigarettes, suddenly you will see cigars everywhere.

Related: 10 Habits of Happy People, According to Science

5. Substitute. Instead of suppressing, replace the habit with something else. For example, if you used to move your foot uncontrollably, instead of thinking about not moving it, when you feel the urge, stand up and walk for a minute.

6. Reaffirm. Creating a habit has to do with your self-control and commitment. Think that as long as you manage to achieve it, you will be doing something beneficial for yourself.

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