Cement New Habits Into Unbreakable Routines

How gamification an a simple technique can supercharge your habit formation

On April 2005 a Steve Pavlina published a blog post that would be read by hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Habits formation wasn’t as mainstream as it is today. But with a simple observation Pavlina created a powerful strategy for habit formation.

Using this technique he became a vegetarian, then a vegan, then went into a raw foods diet. He did all this with a simple technique.

If you search “how long does it take to form a habit” you will come up with James Clear’s article “How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science)”. Great read.

In his article Clear debunk’s the myth that it takes 21 days or 30 days or any fix number to form a new habit. If you want to know we arrived to that conclusion I recommend you read his article.

If you really want to know the exact figure on how long it will take to create a new habit you can check this study by Phillippa Lally. The average number is a little bit over two months by it varies greatly.

Creating a habit changes a lot from person to person. It’s really difficult to pin point and exact number of days. It will depend on your qualities and how difficult is the habit.

In that same study Lally observes that “missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process.” Clear seem’s to agree that it doesn’t matter if you miss one day.

For me, there’s a big problem here. “Not breaking the chain” can be a powerful force to motivate you in the path of forming the necessary neural connections to create a new habit.

The Beauty of the System

Pavlina’s system advocated for 30 days trial periods for cementing a new habit. You would choose the behaviour you’d like to acquire and repeat it for 30 days.

Once you complete the 30 days trial you will:

  • Have confidence that you can make it.
  • Have 30 days of experience so you will be able to know if you want to change something in the habit.
  • Have new inertia in the creation of the habit or in the replacement of an old one.

But the process doesn’t stop there, the beauty of the system is that if you miss 1 day, you will have to start again from scratch. That little push will be enough to generate the motivation to keep on with your habit.

When you achieve the 30 days you will be in a much more stronger position to decide if you want to continue with the habit or if you want to drop it.

Doesn’t matter if you drop it, that can certainly happen. The key is to follow through during the 30 days to see if you really want the new behaviour.

One Little Extra Spice

If you really want to crush your habit formation I would add one little tweak to the system, taken from BJ Fogg, PhD and his book Tiny Habits.

The basic idea is that you have to make the new behaviour so small that the resistance to follow through every day gets to a minimum.

This way you are combining the 30 days technique with tiny habits approach to create magic.

After you finish the 30 day period you can choose to increase the load and be a little bit more ambitious further on.

For example if going to the gym every day for an hour is too much, try starting with going for 15 minutes.

After 30 days when the habit of going to the gym is formed you will find it easier to increase your workout duration.

Habit Formation as a Game

I like Daniel Gross’s ideas about gamifying everything.

If you take habit formation and 30 days trials as a game you will:

  • reduce the emotional load of creating a new habit,
  • approach the process with a beginner’s mind,
  • have more energy and,
  • increase your chances of success.

If you focus all your strength, all your energy in one month, then you will be able to truly transform your mind and your behaviours.

Only by committing to be unbreakable for 30 days you will have a chance to do it. That’s how you win.

Tricking the Mind

The trick of the 30 day trial is to make you think that you can drop the new behaviour any time in the future because you are only committing to 30 days.

The mind goes for it.

That is really amazing! Even I tell you (in an explicit way) that we are going to trick the mind, it still works. You have to try it by yourself.

Some Ideas

Now that you know the trick what would you do with this new power? Just make a commitment and go all the way.

Ideas for 30 days habits:

  • start the gym
  • give up TV
  • give up instagram
  • give up social media
  • give up mobile phone
  • meet someone new every day or start a conversation with a stranger
  • write a new blog post every day

Final Thoughts

Combining the best ideas from the greatest experts in habit formation you have a powerful skill. A way of effortlessly deploying behaviours into your wetware.

What will do you with this new skill?

There’s this excellent phrase by Warren Buffet that says:

Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.
Warren Buffett

Break the chains of your old habits with this technique. Choose a new behaviour for the next 30 days and see what it happens.