“It takes three weeks to form a habit,” says the familiar adage, “but only three days to break one.” Like all rules of thumb, that advice isn’t necessarily backed up by hard science—but the principle holds true. That is why most New Year’s resolutions aren’t kept: one day does not a habit make.
An essential of success
Habits take consistency, day after day repetition, before they are formed. But what else does it take to get yourself to do what you intend? Have you ever tried to get on a daily exercise regimen, make changes in your eating habits or get better organized for work? Most of us want to do better in one or more of those areas, but just can’t seem to get going.
Another adage to remember is this: The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is in getting up one more time after a defeat. Entrepreneurs, especially, know the importance of perseverance.
Three suggestions for success
Collected from research on the science of habit formation, the following principles and suggestions can help you achieve your goals:
Principle: Success is related to desire. The more reason you have to achieve something, the more likely you are to follow through.
Suggestion: List your own motivations for wanting to change—not the reasons why your spouse wants you to change, but why YOU want to change. Read the list daily.
Principle: Success is won a day at a time.
Suggestion: Determine to do what you say you will do until you want to do it—taking only one day off per week. If you have decided to walk for 20 minutes every day, for instance, it is alright to pick one day of the week for rest (even the Creator took a day off), but don’t take any more than that. Consistency is important. Moreover, it is fine to commit for 21 days or 28 days or 90 days…but whether you choose a set mile point or not, the most important day is the one in front of you. Miss that, and you’ve missed the boat.
Principle: Stuff happens.
Suggestion: If you do miss more than one day in the week, don’t fret. Get up and keep going. You can start over anywhere and anytime you wish. The important thing is just don’t quit.
You are what you do
Think about it, the sages have told us for thousands of years: Your habits form your character. You may judge yourself by what you intend—but others see only what you do. Successful entrepreneurs know that success takes hard, consistent work.
Know what you want and head towards it unflinchingly. You will succeed.
(Thank you to Kakisky for the Creative Commons photo)
Author Lane Goodberry focuses on small business and entrepreneurship.