Reality Check: Habit-Forming

It’s commonly said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. It’s tempting to believe that if you rigidly adhere to a new behaviour for a set number of days, then it magically becomes engrained in you. You have a new habit! You don’t have to think about it anymore; it’s not painful anymore; it’s just a new, improved you.

Ahhh…if only it were true.

Each of us has habits; some positive, satisfying ones that work well for us, and probably a few others that don’t work so well. Those may cause us dissatisfaction or even pain.

One interesting habit is that of being happy or unhappy. You may have noticed that some people seem happy, or at least satisfied, even when bad things happen in their lives. When they experience setbacks like everyone does, they still seem to remain fundamentally contented.

There are other folks who seem to never be happy. Even with love, success, health, and other good things in their lives, they complain. There is always something that they can find that’s lacking or imperfect, and they respond to that with unhappiness.

Is it the situation that defines the level of happiness? Choice theory promotes self-evaluation: the idea that it is up to you—your choice—to look at your own habits and behaviours and evaluate how well they are working for you.

If you find yourself habitually unhappy and you don’t like that, then you have the opportunity to make changes. I’m not suggesting that it’s a simple matter of saying, “I will now choose to be a happy person.” However, could adopting some new habits be worth a try? Just think of the payoff!

If you want to try making happiness more of a habit in your life, there are resources that can help. One is a choice-theory based website at    It offers “Your Daily Challenge” to help folks build habits that can help make life happier and more satisfying.

If you do visit the website, you’ll notice an ad for an ebook. Please note that you don’t need to buy anything to sign up for the daily happiness challenge.

Of course, you don’t need a website or a computer to form a new habit. You can come up with your own happy-habit creation routine.

Need inspiration? Here are some suggestions similar to those from the happiness challenge. Try one or more for a day, a week, or a lifetime!

  • Focus on what brings you joy rather than what brings you irritation.
  • Remember what really matters to you. If you’ve been out of touch with a friend or if you’ve been putting off doing something you truly value, take a deliberate action to address that.
  • Have a challenging situation that comes up over and over? Try responding in a way that’s different than what you usually do.
  • Examine how your life would be different if it were exactly what you wanted it to be. Then try living as if it you had that life.

Do you consider happiness as a habit? Do you have the habit of happiness? What actions do you find helpful to stay happy and satisfied?

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