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6 Lessons I Learned From Finishing a 21-Day Habit Challenge

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Over the past few years, I've really focused on growing my financial planning practice, my blogs and my other online ventures. After enrolling in a coaching program and talking with mentors and other successful entrepreneurs, I realized that successful people make strong positive habits part of their daily routine to help them achieve great things.

Dan Sullivan, the founder of the Strategic Coaching Program, developed what he calls the 21-day positive focus. The basic concept fairly simple: focusing for 21 days straight on one key habit that you want to either introduce into your life or get rid of.

I chose two habits to acquire -- doing push-ups and reading the Bible -- and started the 21-day habit challenge on my blog, hoping to inspire my readers to incorporate new positive habits into their daily lives, too. I was surprised at the results.

1. It's Possible

Many people want to do good things -- like working out, eating right or writing in their journals -- but instead, they just talk about them. My public commitment made my goals much more attainable, and having the clear idea that I was going to finish the 21 days or bust also helped make it possible. While some days were harder, I'm excited to say that I completed the 21-day habit challenge successfully.

2. Writing It Down Makes All the Difference

As part of the challenge, I had my readers print off the Bad Habit Destroyer worksheet. It's a simple PDF that has 21 boxes that were to be crossed off for each day that you accomplished your daily habit goal. This was huge for me. Simply having to mark an X each day was a constant reminder to stay on point and finish this challenge. If it was late in the day and I was short on my push-up goal or hadn't read my Bible yet, I kept thinking about having to mark that X off, and it pushed me to get it done. What has since made incorporating those habits more effective is when I give myself a deadline during the day.

Science backs this, notes James Clear, who blogs about habit transformation and shared research that reveals a simple trick to double your chances of achieving any goal. In a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, researchers were trying to determine the most effective way to get people to work out. The study found motivation wasn't the largest factor for people to work out more; it was having a clear plan about when and where they were going to work out that had the most significant affect. "Over 100 separate studies in a wide range of experimental situations have come to the same conclusion: people who explicitly state when and where their new behaviors are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals," he writes.

3. Why Didn't I Do It Sooner?

These habits are ones I could've easily integrated into my daily routine months, if not years, sooner. For whatever reason, I didn't. I'm now thankful that I went through the challenge, because I feel like I now have introduced positive habits in my life that I hope never go away. Is there something that you've been wanting to get started, there's not a better time than now. I love this quote from Zig Ziglar: "You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great."

4. Make It Public

Many people who joined the challenge were sharing what they were hoping to accomplish via Facebook (FB), Instagram and Twitter (TWTR). Any time you want to accomplish something new -- such as working out three days a week, for example -- I think it's a good idea to share your goal with your friends, your family and your co-workers. Heck, put it on Facebook. Why? You now have others who will hold you accountable.

5. Don't Let Your Goals Out of Your Sight

When I was working on my bad habits, I made sure that I carried the Bad Habit Destroyer worksheet with me everywhere. I made sure that I would see it each day to remind me what the habit I was focusing on. It's so important to constantly remind yourself what exactly you're trying to achieve.

A good buddy, Ben Newman, author of the best-selling book "Own Your Success," keeps the positive habits he's working on listed in his bathroom so he's reminded regularly what he's striving to achieve. When you don't have a visual reminder of the habit you're trying to break, you forget, tend to get lazy and fall back into your old rut.

6. Be Realistic

Each time you try something new, you have to be realistic with your goals. For example, a few challengers who hadn't exercised at all in the last year were trying to work out 30 minutes a day, seven days a week. They were setting themselves up for failure.

Darren Hardy, the author of "The Compound Effect," suggests dividing your goal by two. Say, for example, you want to work out six days per week. Make three days your minimum goal achievement. People who tend to set their goals too high will end up giving up if they don't meet that goal for that week. Same thing applies with this habit challenge.

It's Your Turn

What's one new positive habit you would like to add to your daily routine? Reading more about personal finance, writing in your journal, tweaking your budget, stop biting your fingernails, exercising more?

If you tried before with little success, make the 21-day habit challenge part of your daily routine. But also keep in mind that it may take up to 66 days for a new habit to become automatic.

Jeff Rose is a certified financial planner and has an unusual obsession with In-N-Out Burger. He created the Money Dominating Toolkit and filled it with awesome resources to show your money who's boss.

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didnt eat bread,rice,potatoes,sugar,soda or any candy ,pastry for 3 years. one day i just had it., still dont eat rice or pasta but i do eat everything else.
that crap about not eating white foods help lose weight? bull! i lost about 15 lb in 2 years and i was over 200 lb. and i worked retial on my feet all day unpacking boxes and waiting on customers and moving racks.

May 09 2014 at 3:23 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Vimala Nowlis

That was a complete bunk with no truth in it whatsoever.
If you are inclined to do something, it will become a habit after 3 days.
If you are not inclined to do something, it will not become a habit after 3 months.
Who are these stupid "life coach" who give ridiculous advice for money?

May 09 2014 at 11:30 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

When I get out of the shower I grab the towel, dry my face, get my hair as dry as possible, go to my lack then my left arm then my left leg, over to my right arm and right leg. I've done it that way as long as I remember and it will not change unless of course I skip a shower and just wash my hair.

May 09 2014 at 11:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You can not get rid of habit and can not modify a habit . But you can add new habits in place of former habits. Up to 70% of what a person does in a day, he/she does not know, it is all habits. What people call 'personality' is nothing but a bunch of habits

May 09 2014 at 9:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

well....excuuuuuuuuuuse me

May 09 2014 at 9:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Doing something for 21 days does not mean it has become a habit. The 21 days myth was started by Dr. Maxwell Maltz years ago when he found that it took an average of 21 days for his plastic surgery patients to adapt to the surgery change. It's been touted as 21 days ever since. And the note at the end about it taking 66 days is simply an average number of days to develop habit formation based on the British research looking at simple habits (drinking a glass of water after each meal) to complex habits (such as doing 50 situps every day). There are also several free apps out that trigger habit development such as Habit Masters. Nice article but a little naive in content.

May 09 2014 at 8:41 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

All excellent reminders of "how to succeed".
I use the -
"plan your work, work you plan" -
"write it down" -
"tell others" -
strategy and have succeeded because of it.
But reaching your goal (s) and then maintaining them is a little tricky.
"don't let your guard down" -
should be included in your long-term maintenance plan
so your success will continue.

May 09 2014 at 7:53 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

sorry but i'm not sure who you are

May 08 2014 at 3:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply