There seems to be a lot of change in the air at the moment – kids going to child care or kindy or big school or high school for the first time; new jobs; new homes; new directions; new goals, etc.
I’ve never been particularly comfortable with change, in fact I’m a resister from way back. One of my high school reports even said so – something about a tendency to complain when scheduled activities change. Yeah, I’m that person. I complain, I resist and then I adapt but usually begrudgingly. And then eventually, the adaptation becomes the new norm and all moves along swimmingly until the next change.
But how long does it take to get used to change?
If you’re googling it, like I just did – you’ll find the story of Maxwell Maltz (who most people call Dr but because he’s a surgeon was probably a Mr but that’s a whole post of its own really). Dr/Mr Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 50s who noticed that after an operation (face-lifts, nose jobs, amputations, etc) it would take a minimum of 21 days for the patient to get used to their new face, nose, leg. Even the phantom limb phenomena tended to subside around the 21 day mark.
Twenty-one days. What do you think? Is that all it takes to adjust to change?
A study published in 2009 tested the theory about how habits are formed. They looked at 96 people over 12 weeks and got them to do some pretty boring stuff on a daily basis (drinking water, doing sit-ups) and then assess how they felt about it. Had it become an automatic behaviour? On average, it took more than two months for the new behaviour to become a habit, to adapt to the change. By average, of course, this means it took the 96 people anywhere from 18 to 254 days to adjust - but 66 days was the mean.
Other interesting facts: a sub-group from the study took much longer than the others and threw up the possibility of habit resistance (hi!); missing a single day didn’t reduce the chance of forming a habit (so don’t give up even if you stumble); and some habits take longer than others (much easier to get into the habit of drinking a glass of water than doing sit-ups every day).
The point of all that is this: if you’re struggling with change, hang in there.
Be realistic about how long it’s going to take to get to your new normal. Maybe you’ll be an outlier and get there in 18 days; maybe you’re on the other end of the scale and two thirds of the year will have gone past by the time you get it. But the bigger the change, the more complex the habit you’re developing, the longer it will probably take.
One day at a time, and all that.