How long does it take for a habit to form? A plastic surgeon named Maxwell Maltz published a quote in 1960 that a lot of significant minds accepted as truth. Psycho-Cybernetics sold more than 30 million copies and, according to the Huffington Post, the myth became widely accepted truth. What myth did the book teach people like Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy and Tony Robbins to accept as truth? That it takes 21-30 days to form a new habit. According to recent science, that number was way off.
So what is the real answer and why does it matter as we contemplate our post-Christmas, pre-New Year choices? The European Journal of Social Psychology decided to figure out how long it takes to form a new habit. 96 people were studied over a 12-week period. On average, it took about 66 days for a person to develop a new habit. Some developed a habit in 18 days, others took 254 days – but the average was about 66 days.
So, what new habit would you like to form in 2015? If you commit yourself to that choice, you should be there by Easter. The study said it is okay if you blow it a time or two. As long as you start up again right away, you should still be able to achieve habit status in two or three months. Did you make a resolution last year that went by the wayside?
The top ten resolutions for 2014 were as follows:
- Lose Weight
- Get Organized
- Spend Less, Save More
- Enjoy Life to the Fullest
- Stay Fit and Healthy
- Learn Something Exciting
- Quit Smoking
- Help Others in Their Dreams
- Fall in Love
- Spend More Time with Family
Something tells me the top ten list for 2015 will look very similar. It is good to look forward and aspire to do better in the coming year. I’m sure all of us have personal goals, but I would like to suggest one spiritual goal we can adopt which will impact all the others. Remember, it will take most of us until Easter to make this a spiritual habit. Here is a goal each of us should aspire to accomplish: We should keep the greatest commandment every day.
The Sadducees had failed to trip up Jesus so the Pharisees got together and planned their attack. One of them asked Jesus to explain to them the greatest commandment in the Law. Jesus gave the perfect answer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Jesus told them that was the greatest commandment. But then he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40).
Every resolution, every goal, every aspect of your life will be changed if loving God and loving others becomes a daily habit. Examine your personal goals. How would keeping the greatest commandment each day help you achieve or alter those goals?
I think making the greatest commandment a daily habit would change the world. The Denison Forum would like to help you form that new habit. Print this year’s resolution and place it somewhere you’ll see it each day– on your mirror or in a frame on your desk. Make it your morning prayer every day, from now until Easter – remembering, “all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” You can develop a stronger love for God by spending time with him each morning. My youngest son, Craig, has written an online devotional that is designed to help you grow in your love for God. First15.org is a daily meditation that will help you turn the greatest commandment into your most important habit. We hope you will spend 2015 with First15 and that God blesses your new year with his amazing love.
Finally, all of us who serve with the Denison Forum are grateful for your encouragement throughout the year and for your support of our ministry. Please know that we are thankful for each of you who help us fulfill God’s calling through this ministry. We are blessed by your gifts and carefully use them for God’s Kingdom work. If you are able and would like to make a secure, online donation you may do so here. Thank you for helping us bring God’s word to our world.