21, 66, 254
In 1960 Dr. Maxwell Maltz wrote in his book Psycho-Cybernetics that “…it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” That quote eventually led to the common thinking that it takes 21 days to build a new habit. However, more recent scientific studies have shown that it can take anywhere from 66 to 254 days to build a new habit. That’s a significant difference, especially in a world where we’ve come to expect or wish for immediate results.
Of course, exactly how long it takes to build a new habit varies depending on the student and the complexity of the habit. But this more recent scientific evidence is a fresh reminder that it takes consistent practice, persistence, and time to build new habits. This updated data should help us set better and more realistic expectations for our children and ourselves.