This morning while I was meditating, I realized how easy and natural it was for me to meditate every morning. No discipline necessary. I couldn’t help but wonder: Do discipline and willpower become irrelevant at some point and habit simply takes over? Are we indeed creatures of habits – either good ones or bad ones? If so, how long does it take to let discipline retire and let habit take over?
I reflected on when I first started to meditate. After a grueling 10 days of intense meditation for 11 hours a day, our teacher gave us his heartfelt “graduation speech.” He emphasized over and over again the importance of meditating two hours a day for one full year. He said, “The first six months are crucial. They determine whether you’ll do it for the rest of your life, or not.” I was skeptical about my own discipline to impose such an outrageous goal on my already busy life. But the benefit from meditating was so great that I didn’t want to lose it.
So I began to meditate every day for 2 hours – at the expense of many fun social activities. This habit turned out a lot easier to form than my teacher had predicted. It took me about three months. After which I no longer needed my willpower or discipline. Meditating became a habit – as natural and effortless as taking a shower and brushing my teeth. If I happened to miss a few days due to life circumstances, I would pick it right up. It’s been a part of me ever since.
Experts seem to confirm my experience. According to research by the UK Health Behavior Research Center:
It takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit.
From my personal experience, it takes one month to form it, one month to reinforce it, and one month to make it your own – as natural as your own skin. So discipline may just a muscle you need to fire up consistently for a short period, and afterwards, habits take over. You are on autopilot, enjoying a smooth sail…
The New Year is just around the corner. Is there any new habit you want to form? If you really want it, make a commitment to do it consistently for three months. Then it will be yours, probably for life.