You Can’t Form all Habits in 21 Days. And Here is Why?

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit -Will Durant

From the study of habits, several findings have been made. Some say you can form a new habit in 21 days, some say 55 days, Healthline puts it at 18 to 254 days and some even say never.

The same thing applies to breaking bad habits. Experts in the field of psychology and related fields have posited time frames it would take to break bad habits.

The internet is filled with diverse information, from verifiable to simple opinions on the topic of habits.

However, when it comes to imbibing new habits or breaking bad habits. it is often relative. Some can form the habits early while some may toil hard, requiring more time. The fundamental factor that determines the formation of new habit is “interest”.

In this article, my intention is not to push down scientific data and reports from journals about how to and how long it would take to form a new habit down your throat. But, to share with you my personal experience in dropping my bad habit of smoking..

Is Knowledge Enough To Help Form A New Habit?


I am in no way trying to play down the importance of science, or the wonderful work done by greats like James Clear and Charles Duhigg. Of course, being an avid reader myself, I find knowledge helpful in all ventures.

However, I know the difference between acquiring knowledge and actually taking actions. My belief is, taking action is the best way to change bad habit or create new ones.

According to Thomsa Obing, knowledge is the first step. However it is not enough to change a bad habit or start a new one. Knowledge is powerless in most cases.

According to the CDC, smoking causes more than 90% of all lung cancer deaths. This information however, has not stopped people from smoking.

You might have read somewhere that you need 1 or 2 months of daily workout to lose weight. This information is available to many, and even gives you a sense of power. More or less like you have a key. However, like many. it stops there.

However, it is your consistency for the next one to two months that will reveal if your knowledge is true. If you do lose weight, then you have achieved. If you do not, you have also achieved. What you have gained ultimately is a new habit: exercising.

Motivation Is Never Enough

I loved smoking, just as much as the other guy. I also knew it was dangerous, but that didn't stop me. The dangers of smoking is a well known fact, as much as the fact that those who indulge in it do not care about these dangers.

This habit is responsible for tens of different types of cancers and many similar horrific medical conditions. Smokers do not only become sick, they drag their family down into their abyss!

In my quest to quit smoking, I realized motivation isn't really much help. The feeling of being motivated cannot be sustained.

I could feel motivated all through Monday, and wake up empty on Tuesday. Perhaps I was able to go the whole of monday on just a few sticks, however, I would make up for all the sticks I didn't smoke, the following day.

Hence, depending on motivation purely isn;t going to take you far when it comes to making or changing habits.

So, what do I recommend?

I advise taking the bull by the horn. To break some habits, you need to go through hell, and the quicker you go through it, the better. For an addict like me, not smoking comes with serious withdrawal symptoms.
I had to face it. I had to suffer the headaches, quakes, feverish feeling, and a whole lot, but all at once.

I believe this same thing applies to losing weight, dropping porn, changing bad money habits and a host of others. Immediate withdrawal and facing one’s fear is often the best way.

Does Schedule Work When Breaking Bad Habits?

I smoked for over 14 years and from day 1, I wanted to quit.

I tried many times to quit smoking but it was a lot tough and I never succeeded. Of course, I naturally tried scheduling my way out of it. The idea of scheduling goes something like:

Reduce the amount of sticks, I smoke per day

Skip certain days.

Smoke at only certain times of the day,

Of course, at first, it would work. But for me it never lasted a few days or weeks. I am not disputing that it has worked for others. However it is not a method I will recommend.

You see, in creating new habits, taking it one day at a time works. According to James Clear, "Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become." This is also true for creating bad habits. I gradually grew in the number of packs of cigarettes I could take in a day. I didn't start out with a bang.

This principle applies to good habits too. Take exercising for example, you would have to sart with a couple of minutes per day and then grow to be able to go hours a couple of days in a week.
Same applies for meditating, when you start meditating, you may not see the results but after a couple of months, you will start seeing results you want.

Unfortunately, when it comes to breaking terrible habits, scheduling rarely works(this is from my personal experience). I failed many times before quitting smoking permanently ( I once quit for a month, then again I started. Then again I quit for 3 months. Again I started, then quit for 9 months. And finally, I quit it in July 2019 and it has been more than 4 years). 

Unfortunately, when it comes to breaking terrible habits, scheduling rarely works(this is from my personal experience)

Withdrawal Works With Forming New Habits

I quit smoking and started running

You see, when it came to quitting smoking, I quickly realized, the best way to go about it is to stop at once and then pick up a new habit almost immediately.

Assigning new habits to established triggers is far easier, and a better way to break bad habits.

Immediately I quit smoking, I began to actively participate in sports, and indulged in more exercise. This helped take my mind off smoking, easing the side effects of quitting immediately.

However, I did not stop there.I also started eating good food and avoided junk foods. Today, I eat more whole foods and rarely eat fast food.

Today, years after quitting and having developed great eating habits, I am at a very healthy place in my life.


I hope I have helped you see habits in a new way. Bad habits are bad, bit not a spell that cannot be broken. Treat it at face value, a problem that needs solving. Immediately you commonize it, you will realize it isn't as horrible as it seems. You can cultivate good habits today and drop bad ones, it all depends on you. So, are you ready to help you out?