Dear Reader,

Does it take 21 days to change a habit? We all know how hard it can be to either change a habit or develop new ones but how long does it take, and what can help us to change?

More morsels of information at the end of this Inspire about ...

  • Free Managing Challenging Interactions Taster WorkshopThursday 5th December, 9 – 11am – book your free place on this popular taster session.
  • Friday 10th January Free Goal Setting Webinar A date for your 2014 diary – see below for more details.
  • Free Coaching Audit: Ever wondered how coaching can help you to achieve your goals? Email to take my free coaching and find out how coaching can help you.

If you enjoyed today’s edition of Inspire, please feel free to share it with friends and colleagues. They can sign up for free at

Best wishes

Melanie Greene

Does it take 21 days to change a habit?

Background to this edition As usual there is a story behind this edition of Inspire. I am putting together an online development programme to start in January, which I was thinking of calling 101 Days To Make A Change, borrowing the name from my colleague, Roy Leighton’s book. Then someone said, ‘Doesn’t it take 21 days to make a change, why don’t you do a 21 day programme?’ We have all probably heard about this idea that it takes 21 days to change a habit and I have often said to clients, ‘It is said that it takes 21 days to change a habit’, although I also say that this is talking about changing simple habits. Whereas, if you are trying to develop new behaviours which are more complex, for example, attempting to be more assertive, it will take longer. But this time I decided to do some research as to whether there is any validity in the 21 day claim.

Where does the 21 days idea come from? I found mentioned in a number of articles regarding research into this, that the 21 days comes from Dr Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon turned psychologist, in the preface to his 1960 book ‘Psycho-cybernetics’, he wrote:

‘It usually requires a minimum of about 21 days to effect any perceptible change in a mental image. Following plastic surgery it takes about 21 days for the average patient to get used to his new face. When an arm or leg is amputated the “phantom limb” persists for about 21 days. People must live in a new house for about three weeks before it begins to “seem like home”. These, and many other commonly observed phenomena, tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.’ (pp xiii-xiv)

However, there have been a number of research projects, which de-bunk this 21 days myth.

So how long does it take? Different research projects have shown different things but most show that 21 days is not a good yardstick for most people to follow.

Research from UCL in 2010 involved people choosing to make a daily health promoting dietary or behavioural change. The average for the change to become automatic was 66 days – they point out that if you make a New Year’s resolution and stuck to it, it would mean 6th March is when the average person would find that it had become automatic. However, someone in the study took 18 days while one person took 254 days before the new habit became automatic!

So I have decided to create The 66 Day Challenge: ‘Transform difficult interactions into productive working relationships’. More details will come shortly in a separate Inspire, so watch out for it. You can also follow the Twitter count down to the start of the programme on the 10th January, which starts today 5th November, follow: MelanieInspires.

New habits becoming an automatic behaviour Once something becomes automatic we don’t have to exert self-control to make it happen, it happens automatically. There will be some good habits that you have which you automatically do without thinking, e.g. brushing your teeth everyday, drinking when you feel thirsty, saying thank you when someone does something for you. However, there will also be some bad habits that you have fallen into which you do without thinking. I remember one client, a senior manager, who, when he answered the phone, would bark, ‘Steel’ (which was his surname), which was fairly off-putting and not exactly going to build rapport with the person at the other end of the phone! Until it was fed back to him, he had no idea what he was doing, and what the negative impact of this was (along with some of his other behaviours) on his working relationships.

What automatic habits do you have which are good for you and others around you? What automatic habits are bad and you would like to change?

‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’

Albert Einstein

Repetition and context The UCL research showed that missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process. However, repetition of a behaviour in a consistent context increases your chances that the new behaviour will stick and become automatic. Which is good news if you are looking at something like: eating a healthier breakfast, exercising regularly, as you can fix a time and place for ‘repetition of a behaviour in a consistent context’. However, with more complex changes it might need a little more help, hence The 66 Day Challenge.

Is there a context to your negative automatic habits which can act as a trigger to change? Or can you create a context which will trigger the new positive habits?

What do you need to change on the inside? A couple of years ago I held a webinar on Changing Habits of A Lifetime and talked through Robert Dilt’s ‘Logical Levels of Change Model’ to help explain why we sometimes find it hard to change, and if we approach it at the right level, then change becomes easy. For example, if you want to be more assertive but you have the belief, ‘I’m just not an assertive person’ or ‘If I am assertive with my boss he’ll fire me’ or ‘If I am assertive, people won’t like me’, these beliefs will hold you back, however much you learn assertive behaviours. See the PowerPoint and listen to the webinar recording: click here.

Using the Logical Levels of Change model, at what level do you need to make a change?

‘Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.’

George Bernard Shaw

Being mindful Yes, I know I keep on writing about being mindful but that is because it is the key to changing a lot of things in our lives. If we are aware of our thoughts, mood and state of mind, we can take action to manage what is going on within us and not just sleepwalk though life, falling into the old well-worn paths of negative behaviour which we want to change but year after year appearing to not be able to.

Think about when you can check in with yourself to encourage yourself to be more mindful.

‘When the whole situation makes you unhappy and confused, choose one thing, however small, that you would like to change.’

Anne Dickson

Moving through the learning line I am doing some fascinating work with a colleague of mine, Roy Leighton, who has been working with schools for a number of years developing students’ emotional intelligence, resilience and ability to manage their own learning. One of the ideas he introduces is the learning line, based on the Hero’s Journey, which I wrote about in February this year, see here

When we start to learn something or change a habit, we are in a state of unconscious incompetence, not realising what we don’t know or how difficult things are going to be. Let’s take the example of learning to drive a car, think about how you felt before you learned to drive a car, it is easy to think, ‘Millions of people do it, it can’t be that hard!’.

Then you have your first lesson, you realise that there are a 101 things to learn, think about, do with your hands and feet, and you wonder how anyone ever masters it. This is the state of conscious incompetence. For a number of lessons it seems to get even worse as the instructor gives you even more things to do, and at times you just want to give up. And some do. But most don’t, they persevere, they practice, and they get to a stage of conscious competence, where they can drive competently and even pass the exam. But you are having to think about it the whole time and wonder how people drive and speak at the same time! Usually after we have passed our test, with more experience, we get to a state of unconscious competence, where we naturally change gear, look in our mirrors, indicate without thinking. It has become second nature. And the same can be said for becoming more assertive, exercising regularly, choosing which food to eat in a mindful way, managing our moods, etc.

However, like with driving, we can slip back into unconscious incompetence, where we pick up bad habits. We might not crash our cars but we probably wouldn’t pass a test again if we had to take it today.

Think about something you are trying to change, which level of competence are you: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, unconscious competence?

‘That which we persist in doing becomes easier - not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Managing Challenging Interactions Free Taster Workshop Thursday 5th December 9 – 11am

Do you find yourself …

  • Dealing with some clients who run rings around you?
  • Avoiding difficult conversations as you don’t know how to approach them?
  • Wondering how to handle sales interactions to bring in more sales?
  • Struggling to manage staff or associates’ performance?
  • Dealing with suppliers and finding that they do not understand your needs?
  • Communicating with colleagues or business partners, and feeling like you speak a different language?

Whatever your business, part of your success will be dependent on how well you communicate with others, whether they are clients, customers, suppliers, staff, associates or business partners. This workshop will help you to enhance how you communicate in challenging situations.

Reserve your free place on this taster workshop on Thursday 5th December at the Harwell Innovation Centre, from 9am to 11am, providing you with practical and easy to use ideas for managing challenging interactions at work. Places are limited so contact me on to book your place.


The 66 Day Challenge: Transform difficult interactions into productive working relationshipsstarts with a free Goal Setting Webinar

On Friday 10th January 3 – 4pm I will be hosting a free Goal Setting Webinar, open to anyone who is interested in making a change in their life, regardless of whether they are going to go on the The 66 Day Challenge.

Do you find yourself:

  • Setting goals each year, but not achieving them?
  • Having goals which you think you should do, but that don’t excite you?
  • Facing obstacles whenever you set goals and falling at the first hurdle?
  • Isolated in your job, and wanting more support and encouragement to achieve your goals?

If you have said ‘Yes’ to one or more of the above email or call me on 01865 377334 for more information about the webinar and The 66 Day Challenge.


Free Coaching and Training Audits – helping you to decide what development you need

Free Coaching Audit If you are running your own business, working on your own, or struggling with working within an organisation, then coaching can support you in tackling the day to day issues you face. The free Coaching Audit is designed for individuals who are wondering whether coaching will benefit them and wanting to think through what they want to focus on during a coaching programme. The Coaching Audit involves the following:

  • You complete a pre-coaching questionnaire and return it to me.
  • We have a 45 minute telephone conversation to discuss your needs and what coaching might be necessary to meet your needs. I make sure that you get something practical from the free audit.
  • I send a proposal of what training, coaching or counselling might be suitable.
  • You make the decision as to whether you wish to proceed.

Free Team Development Audit If you are a manager of a team, this is a new service to help you to review your team’s performance and think through what development they might need. The Team Development Audit works in the same way as the Coaching Audit above, but with a questionnaire which is focused on you, as the manager and your team.

Email or call me on 01865 377334 to discuss your coaching or team development needs.

‘You cannot teach people anything.

You can only help them to discover it within themselves’.



Do you want speakers for your business network event? 

I speak at a range of events, and always make sure that the talks are interactive and practical, with people learning something that they can directly apply back at work. Recent talks have included:

  • Managing Challenging Interactions
  • Mastering Your Inner Critic (based on my book)
  • Changing Habits of a Lifetime
  • Learning From Your Mistakes
  • Managing Your Mood and Motivation
  • Your Brain At Work


Listen to recordings of my free webinars

Over the last few years I have conducted free webinars and you can listen to the recordings here on the following topics:

  • Your 2013 Goals: Enjoy The Journey and The Destination
  • Mastering Your Inner Critic
  • Changing Habits of A Lifetime
  • Learning From Your Mistakes

Recordings are approximately 30 – 40 minutes with a PowerPoint presentation to go with them.


For more information about Inspire Transformation visit our website: or call Melanie on 01865 377334 or email and follow Melanie on Twitter: MelanieInspires.


Why not share Inspire with colleagues and friends? 

If you know of anyone else who might be interested in receiving Inspire for free, pass this on to them or they can sign up on my website:

Melanie Greene
01865 377334