The 21-Day Myth

It’s Day 21 of my Transaction Cleanse.  Since conventional wisdom holds that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, you may be wondering if being mindful about transactions has become ingrained in me yet. Alas, this is one area where conventional wisdom seems to have led us astray.  Recent research suggests that the number 21 might be off by a factor of at least 3!  According to the study, it takes on average 66 days to form a new habit, with study subjects taking anywhere from 18 to 254 days.   Yikes! It’s almost enough to make you want to give up before you start.

Having said that, I didn't actually start the Cleanse to change my habits per se, but rather as an experiment to increase awareness.  It certainly has done that. But it turns out it's impossible for a self-improvement junkie such as myself to do an experiment in which I learn of some behavior gap and don’t subsequently want to try to close it. Looking back over my observations, the number of gaps (read: opportunities to save money) is impressive, and the potential resulting To Do list daunting but powerful.  

For now, I still have another 9 days where staying aware is good enough… and daunting enough. Anecdotally, I’m finding 21 days is enough time to lose steam around an experiment like this and become lackluster in your efforts, especially after you break your zero transaction streak.  That’s exactly what's happening to me.  I.e. 21 days is enough to fall off a wagon!

So in order to get the most from this exercise, I’m redoubling my efforts for the final week, aiming for 7-day string of zero transactions. It's a big ask, for sure, as that would be my longest streak.  But my guess is there remains a lot to be learned.  I’ll keep you posted!