A while ago I read something that absolutely blew my mind! It actually made me step back and rethink some of the things I’ve been taught.

Exactly how long does it take to create a habit?

It’s a question researchers have been trying to answer for years. We’ve heard everything from 3 weeks to 90 days to even longer!

But … what if that’s the WRONG QUESTION?

What if instead, we ask: how many “repetitions” of an action do you have to do before it becomes a habit?

This is SO POWERFUL because it is more action oriented. It takes you out of the “passive” mode of waiting for time to pass … to being in charge of the process.

After all, it’s the ACTION that helps rewire your brain for success. Studies have shown that your brain can physically change in just a couple of months (and maybe even a few weeks) when you learn new things or create new habits.

This is called neuroplasticity, and it’s a new area of brain science. 

Years ago, scientists believed that the brain was static – once you reached a certain age, there was no way to change it.

Well, that’s been tossed out the window, as researchers have found that adults have been able to physically change their brains based on their actions. 

For example: taxi drivers who have to navigate city streets have changed the area of their brain that involves spatial awareness.

Pretty amazing, right? And if it works for navigation, it definitely can work for creating healthy habits and a positive mindset!

There’s a specific process called REACH to help “rewire” your brain (aka create new neural pathways in your brain).

Here’s the process:

  • Repetition. The more reps of an activity you do, the more likely rewiring will occur.
  • Effort. You have to put in some work (and enthusiasm!) to make rewiring happen. Just going through the motions doesn’t count. 🙂  
  • Attention. Being “in the moment” as you’re doing the activity – paying attention to all that’s required – also helps the rewiring process.
  • Complex Activities. The more involved/challenging your habit/activity, the more your brain will rewire (i.e., learning to speak a new language requires more rewiring than drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning). 
  • Health. The healthier your body and brain are, the more ready your brain is for change. So, lay the groundwork for change by getting exercise and sleep, and eating a healthy diet.

Then … start working on those reps! 

There aren’t any hard and fast rules about how long this process takes – but the easier a habit is (like drinking a glass of water when you wake-up), the fewer reps required. And the more challenging a habit is (planning your meals ahead of time), the more reps it might take.

Personally, I find this idea of repetition so much more empowering than waiting around for a habit to “stick.” 

Being intentional about getting those reps in puts you closer and closer to making that activity part of your lifestyle!

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Rob is the owner and founder of Fitness Lifestyle Personal Training. He has been training for over thirty-three years; seventeen of those years as a personal trainer helping others reach their goals.