Updated: June 26, 2020
Buying things on impulse, not paying bills on time, buying stuff you can’t afford: these are just a few of the bad money habits that are preventing people from improving their finances.
We all know they’re bad, and we certainly try our best to change them. So why do most people fail? Is there a real secret to successfully changing bad habits?
The 21-day Myth
It’s a popular belief that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Or in this case, replace a bad habit with a good one. This is a total myth!
According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology back in October 2010, the average time to form a habit is actually 66 days.
Now given that scientifically-researched fact, how then is it possible to change a bad habit in 5 minutes? Read on to find out.
How to change a bad habit in 5 minutes
The answer is through 5-minutes of “conscious motivation“.
Let’s say you want to stop the habit of impulse buying. The next time you’re tempted to do an unnecessary purchase, stop and say to yourself:
“I will not buy this because I don’t need it. I’ll save my money instead, so I can buy the things that are actually essential to me.”
Repeat to yourself several times, turn around, and then walk away. Congratulations, you just changed a bad habit! Yes, it’s that simple!
Okay, it’s not that simple. But again, read on and you’ll understand what I mean.
One victory is all you need.
I believe that more than anything else, our thoughts have the greatest power over our actions. And a simple adjustment in our mindset can actually lead to immediate changes in our life.
Which means that even if it was just a single moment of triumph, you can now own it and claim that you’ve already gotten over your bad habit.
And so the next time you are tempted again to buy something on impulse, you can now say to yourself:
“I will not buy this because this is no longer who I am. I am not an impulse buyer anymore. Who I am is someone who saves money for the things that are essential.”
These are powerful words, and it is the truth — YOUR TRUTH — because you’ve changed for the better since the last time you were tempted to buy something on impulse.
Zero effort in 66 days
Maintaining your new status quo will take effort. Sustaining the “new habit” will be challenging.
But the good news is that if we are to take what scientists have said, the effort needed to maintain the “new you” becomes almost effortless after 66 days.
Of course, you will occasionally fall back to your old, bad habit. That is expected.
But instead of getting discouraged and frustrated, simply think of it as a new opportunity to change the bad habit once again. Which isn’t so hard to do now because after all, it just takes 5 minutes, right?
Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W. and Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 998–1009. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.674