“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken”
When Nic and I started our 365 days of giving to start our daily giving habit, I had decided as a mom there was not way we would miss a day. My mission was not only to give for 365 days but teach my son to make giving A daily habit. At age 3 Nic had no idea this is what I had intended, he just knew that we were going to start giving daily for a week, which turned into another week, and another week, and another. Giving did become a habit, and has remained a habit for our entire family ever since.
I have been fascinated by the process of forming good habits. How long does it take, what do you need to do to form good habits, what is the science behind it. I dug in and did some reading so that I could understand and explain to others how to successfully form a daily giving habit. But first I needed to understand what a habit really was. Nic was going to ask me, and I needed an answer.
James Clear sums up what a habit is extremely well. His work has been covered by dozens of major media outlets including The New York Times, CBS, Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes, TIME Magazine, and more. This is how James defines a habit.
‘Habits are the small decisions you make and actions you perform every day. According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day.
Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits. How in shape or out of shape you are? A result of your habits. How happy or unhappy you are? A result of your habits. How successful or unsuccessful you are? A result of your habits.
What you repeatedly do (i.e. what you spend time thinking about and doing each day) ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality that you portray. When you learn to transform your habits, you can transform your life.’
When Nic asked me what a habit was, which he did, I could easily describe the concept to a three year old. Yeah mom! I told him that habits are things we do over and over again without really thinking about them. Brushing our teeth was the example I used. We talked about the first day he started brushing his teeth. I asked him if I needed to remind him today to brush his teeth. He said, no mom, it is just what I do.
The idea that it takes 21 days to form a habit came from Maxwell Maltz in the 1960’s through his book Psycho-Cybernetics. His 21 day theory was based on his observations of amputees who took an average of only 21 days to adjust to the loss of a limb. If it took 21 days to adjust to this change than it must take 21 days to change a habit. Hmmm.
The 21 day theory has been widely believed for many reasons. One, 21 days feels and sounds like a reasonable amount of time to create a good habit. This is do-able for many and does not seem overwhelming. It is an easy sell, lets people take on a new habit without feeling burdened. But what Maxwell Maltz did not take into account is the complexity of different habits and that habits can take on many different forms. 21 days did not fit all habits. Double Hmmmm.
The study of habits, the time it takes to form a habit and the best practices to actually cement a new habit in our life, have been tackled since this best selling book was published. Today, the 66 day rule fits the reality of forming a habit with scientific studies to back up that data. Now before you groan and think, geez 66 days, that is far longer than 21 days, there is additional information that makes the 66 days easier than the original 21 days. How the heck can 66 days be easier than 21 days? Lets dig in and have a look.
I am going to credit both James Clear and the authors, Gary Keller and Jay Papasa, of the best selling book The One Thing, for explaining the 66 day rule. Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project also came across the same research and used the 66 day rule in her writing. Their explanations are similar.
If you want to create a new good habit (bad habits can be formed in two days) start small, track your progress, and if you miss a day, don’t worry. Missing one day does not break the momentum. Get back on the program and just keep at it. Habits are about manageable tasks, setting goals, doing it every day, and documenting the your actions.
And sometimes we miss a day, and that is okay. Why do people fall off their habit forming momentum? They change their daily lifestyle. Going on vacation is a good example. Or the task becomes complex. Or it becomes time consuming. If any of this happens, you just look at what you are doing and re-evaluate. If your daily task takes up too much time, trim it back a bit. If it gets too complex, simplify it. Go back to actions that were manageable and stick to that. Just because a habit becomes difficult does mean it has to be ditched, you just look at what has worked and you do that.
James Clear is big on setting your goal, starting with a small task that has small actions you can add to it each day. Continue with this pattern until you reach your goal and you have created a habit forming activity. You know it is a habit when you can’t finish your day without doing the action. It could take 65 days, it could take 67 days. The fact is you are working towards the habit focusing on completing the task each day.
Schedule One Week of Gives at a Time – We have created giving sheets for this very purpose. Download your giving sheet in your membership area and create one week of gives.
Start Small – A give is a give and does not need to be huge to count. In fact, to start a giving habit it is best to start small. Start with Click to Give options on the Greater Good site for 7 days. This can be done right from your computer or phone.
Make Small Changes Each Week – Challenge yourself a bit every week. If you started with Click To Give the first week, start looking at daily gives that you do publicly. Smile at people, open doors for others, pay a compliment to someone you know, or someone you don’t know. Send a text of gratitude to a friend, or family member.
If You Miss A Day – Don’t Fret – Nic and I missed a day. Everyone will miss a day. If you miss a day, notice how you feel (perhaps a bit less happier that day) and just pick up the next day. It is okay. Give yourself permission for being busy that one day.
Document Your Daily Giving – We built our Impact Map for members. Submitting your daily give to the Impact Map is a great way to document your daily gives and from that daily give habit. When all members submit their gives we all see what a global difference we can make through one simple give every day. Now that is inspiration!
Soon you will be giving every day, feeling happy every day and just instinctively giving to others when the opportunity arises. We are hard wired already to give, we just have to act on it. Within no time 66 days will pass, than another 66 days will pass, and all of a sudden, you will reach the 365 days like Nic and I did. And another 365 days, and so on and so on.
What these authors do not talk about is the ripple effect of your daily habits. When others witness your progress and see how easy it is, how great you feel, and what a difference it made in your life, they will follow along. Good habits shine and others will want to follow your lead.
Get inspired by other members gives listed on our impact map or daily giving log. Sign up for your free membership to start your daily giving habit using all of our resources to get you started. You can even sign up for daily giving inspiration to get that habit going.