The 21 Day Reality Project: Realizing Self-Determination

“If you do an act, you will reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a character; sow character, reap destiny.”

Do you want to form new behavior or get rid of old automatic actions? I would like to learn how to get up at the first ringing of the alarm clock, write a page a day, learn 5 foreign words every day, do not forget to do self-massage every free minute... I would like to quit smoking and get rid of parasitic words, stop getting irritated and rude at the slightest provocation, and break the habit throwing things around and staying up late at the screen... What is a habit? Which habits are bad and which are good?

There is a version: there are no good habits because they are automatic actions. They occur without the active participation of consciousness. But living not consciously, not thoughtfully, not being in the moment here and now is almost like not living at all, and you can break a lot of wood like that. The opposite version: developing habits is also part of personal development, which helps to bring certain actions to automaticity. Thanks to this, intellectual and energy resources are freed up to focus on important tasks that require a more conscious decision. It's a double-edged sword.

Dr. Maltz's "three weeks" system

The concept of “21 days” was introduced by the American doctor M. Maltz in the 50s of the last century and was based on his personal observations of patients. Dr. Maltz wrote down his findings based on the health status of surgical patients. He came to the conclusion that patients need exactly 3 weeks to realize and accept themselves in a changed form - after amputation, plastic surgery or removal of certain organs.

After a while, other specialists continued work on the new concept, and the doctor’s theory that a habit is formed in 21 days received many confirmations.

What do habit and reflex have in common?

A correctly chosen habit becomes a reflex that forces the body to rebuild. The following experiment was carried out. A volunteer who liked to be different from other people decided to change his biorhythms and sleep during the day and stay awake at night. For 21 days, he rested during daylight hours and worked at night. After the habit developed, he decided not to sleep during the day for one day. By evening he was sleepy and lethargic, but as night fell, he felt cheerful and active again. This proves that habits are part of reflexes. That is, under certain circumstances, the body ignores the setting and performs its usual actions.

Bowen's concept of change

Much later, another scientist, priest W. Bowen, armed with the findings of doctors, created his own method of getting rid of bad habits in 21 days, which he outlined in the book “A World Without Complaints,” and this also became a sensation. In the version of the self-improvement technique he described, a person was asked to tie a purple thread on his wrist and wear it without removing it for 3 weeks. During this time, the subject had to control his consciousness, avoiding negative words and emotions, and if there was a “mistake,” the thread was changed to the other hand, and the countdown began again.

The theologian proved that a person who managed to maintain character and hold the thread on one wrist for a full period of time changed for the better and felt much lighter and freer. This marked the beginning of the development of a special “Bowen List”, the points of which a person was obliged to apply to himself in 21 days and as a result get not only relief from negative emotions, but also a lot of useful habits.

Keep in control

When you control the process, you are consistent and committed. Hang a piece of paper or a board in your room and draw a large chart on it, broken down by days (for example, 21 days to develop a new habit) and habits. In it, somehow mark the days when you stuck to the habit you were developing and the days when you didn’t. You can also track the process using special web services such as:

HabitForge helps you monitor your habit formation process within 21 days. If you miss one day, the countdown starts again.

Rootein - unlike Habit Forge, this is a continuous tracker; if there are too many missed days, it warns you about it. You can also use its mobile version.

Joe's Goals - Similar to Rootein. You can set the option to check the same task multiple times during highly productive days.

A contract with yourself according to Bowen

By tying a purple thread on his hand (even if the “dressing up” happened more than once), a person must solemnly write on paper a kind of “agreement” with himself and subsequently try to comply with it as much as possible. These are the rules for 21 days:

  • remove from the house everything that you have not used for more than a year;
  • never leave cabinet doors, drawers, or entrance doors open;
  • everything that can be repaired is fixed; everything that cannot be repaired is thrown away;
  • within 5-7 days, draw up a detailed timeline of time spent without real benefit, and in the remaining period, reduce these losses to zero;
  • set up your family finances and draw conclusions;
  • come up with 10 ways to reduce household expenses and apply them all;
  • find additional income that also meets personal interests;
  • learn something new every day;
  • read a strictly defined number of pages of a good fiction book per day;
  • Dedicate 1 hour daily to a hobby;
  • play sports in a group;
  • give up 1 bad habit every 7 days;
  • exclude obviously unhealthy foods;
  • try to see only the good in others.

To clearly understand the duration of the experience and experience a positive uplift from the feeling of positive dynamics, you should keep a “21 Day Habits” calendar. Approaching the completion of the project, a person will begin to feel proud of himself, and the possibility of “failure” will become minimal.

Find out why your previous attempts at creating a habit failed

Find the cause of the problem rather than wasting time analyzing the consequences. A desperate struggle with yourself every morning to wake up at 5:30 am is already a consequence. Understanding why you are unable to wake up at 5:30 am is the reason.

For example, you are unable to wake up early in the morning, you strive to change this, but every day you fail. This can go on for months, and eventually you will come to the conclusion that you are not succeeding. Try to analyze the situation and understand why you can’t wake up early. Ask yourself why this happens and answer yourself:

Why can't I wake up early? Because I'm tired.

Why am I tired? Because I didn't sleep much.

Why didn't I sleep enough? Because I went to bed late.

Why did I go to bed late? Because I had too much to do.

Why did I have so much to do? Because I couldn't finish them.

Why couldn't I finish them? Because I plan to do more during the day than I can.

Finding the cause may lead you to understand that: 1. All our habits are interconnected (bedtime, wake-up time, on-time performance). 2. We underestimate the time required to complete all tasks (accordingly, we overestimate how quickly we can complete them). It often happens that we plan to finish many things in one day, which, in fact, is simply not possible.

In order to wake up earlier: 1. It is necessary to change the habits that affect early rise. 2. Be more realistic in your planning. Don't set many tasks during the day and not complete them, make a realistic to-do list and complete them on time.

Once you get to the real cause of the problem, you can immediately solve the problem itself.


All your achievements and victories need to be written down in a diary specially created for this purpose, where you can paste both your photographs that motivate you to move forward, and positive pictures from magazines. In addition to your own impressions, your daily diary entry should contain the following 5 points with a detailed report on each:

  1. “What important thing did I do today?”
  2. “Who did I help today?”
  3. “What new have I learned?”
  4. “Can I reproach myself for anything?”
  5. “What conclusions have I drawn today?”

By answering the questions asked, a person will be able to better understand his actions and learn to learn lessons from each situation.

Plan your day (with time)

A schedule will help you know whether you're on track or off track. First of all, you need to plan the first day of your new lifestyle so that you can stick to a similar schedule in the following days.


You need to make a list of things that need to be done that day in advance. You can use, for example, Gcal.

Divide them into categories: major projects, tasks of medium importance and minor tasks. Add them to your daily schedule. More time must be allocated to complete major projects. You can, for example, use the following principle and allocate 60-30-10% of the time to complete tasks of categories 1-2-3, respectively. You need to know how long it takes to complete this or that task. In most cases, we allocate less time to completing tasks than necessary. Try to realistically assess your capabilities. It is also worth leaving a short break (5-10 minutes) between tasks, which is necessary to switch from one task to another.

Principles of methodology 21-40-90

In total, there are 6 stages, during which a person forms and strengthens new good habits and abandons those that have become inconvenient. The first three phases of a long procedure are called “minor”, ​​the next three phases are called “key”. What are they?

Before taking action, a person must clearly understand for himself, and best of all, write down what goals he wants to achieve.

Opposite the notes made, you need to note all the negative factors that prevent him from becoming better, and vow to get rid of them by any possible means.

Involve the people around you

There are several ways - active participation, where you tell your friends who want to develop the same habit and work on it together, or passive participation, where you tell others about your plans and they give you moral support in your endeavors.

For example, share your desire to develop certain habits on your blog and describe in detail your program for changing yourself, and you will most likely find a lot of followers. Describe in detail the feasibility of your program, its benefits, list the habits you are going to develop, and how you want to achieve what you want.

Your relatives and friends may also want to help you achieve your goals. For example, in your desire to eat healthy, they will want to fill your refrigerator with fruits and vegetables, and in a cafe they will try to order dishes made from vegetables.

The main thing to remember is that you are not alone at this moment, there are always people around you who will cheer you up and support you.

Stages of Habit Formation

Going through the stages during which a habit is developed in 21 days follows the following algorithm:

  1. Spend 1 day without resorting to old habits, try to behave as if the goal in the future is just a step away.
  2. Maintain 2 days in the same state of self-control.
  3. Mark the first week of changes in the diary and sum up the first results - what turned out to be difficult, what was easier, what still needs to be seriously struggled with.
  4. Congratulate yourself on passing the first serious threshold in 21 days. During this time, the rejection of bad inclinations will already take the form of conscious overcoming and the person will be able to work more towards accepting positive qualities.
  5. Maintain the plank for 40 days. The practitioner of the technique already feels freed from past negativity and is moving in the right direction with good dynamics.
  6. On the 90th day of following the technique, everything unnecessary from the “past life” ceases to remind of itself, and the person, looking back, realizes that he is completely renewed.

Psychologists warn people who decide to follow the concept against self-imposed “vacations” between completing stages. It has been proven that even after deviating from the established restrictions for just 1 day, a person runs the risk of not returning to the fight against bad habits and letting things take their course.

Get ahead of your schedule

Getting things done ahead of schedule is a motivating factor. Waking up at 5 a.m. puts you ahead of the world (and your old self who lived according to the old schedule), and this motivates you to work faster and stay ahead. Finishing work ahead of schedule and starting a new task before the scheduled time gives you extra momentum. Knowing that you are getting things done ahead of your schedule will help you be naturally motivated to complete all your planned activities, including your habits.

If completing a task takes longer than necessary, you should make a choice:

Hurry up and do everything in time.

Postpone unimportant tasks or Take advantage of the time allocated to complete the following tasks and continue the current one. This also means that you will have to work faster for the rest of the day. This decision-making process is important because otherwise you will spend the rest of the day trying to catch up, which will affect your planned tasks/habits. Subsequently, this will also affect your desire to maintain habits. Do everything ahead of schedule and you will find that it is easier to stay motivated.

The ability to refuse

Often bad habits, disguised as an annoying necessity (can’t relax without a cigarette, can’t cheer up without a cup of coffee), hold a person so firmly that he begins to give them the status of a manifestation of personal individuality. When it comes to giving up parasitic actions, the individual defends them with all passion, claiming that without the said cigarettes or drink, he cannot make decisions and will generally “lose himself as a person.”

A paradoxical situation arises - a person seems ready to develop and improve, but at the same time he is aggressive towards an imaginary encroachment on his comfort zone. Nothing good will come from trying to “pull” an object out of its shell, seeing such obvious resistance, because addictions are just the tip of the iceberg, visible on the surface. The reasons for this behavior are known only to the person himself, and until he wants to hold himself accountable, all attempts to improve his life are doomed to failure.

Self-control in the first stages of overcoming is very important, but it does not play such a decisive role in giving up bad habits as the person’s own desire to do so. You can’t lose weight by denying yourself the cakes you dream about at night. But you can convince yourself of the harmfulness of this product by watching a video that shows the unsightly side of their manufacturing technology. You need to hate the habit, and only then there is a chance to be able to give it up forever.

How the 21 day rule works

Every day, millions of people try to develop a wide variety of skills, but not everyone succeeds. Psychologists have come up with one simple rule that, in their opinion, helps achieve the desired goal.

If you repeat the same action every day for 21 days, it is recorded in the subconscious, and we begin to do it unconsciously, i.e. automatically . To bring it to automation is our goal.

Experts in the field of psychology argue that daily work during this particular period deposits an attitude in the subconscious, thanks to which a habit is developed.

A habit transforms into a need over time. How? Let's look at an interesting example. Parents force a small child to relieve himself in a designated place. Over time, the importance of this process “reaches” his subconscious and he begins to ask to go to the potty. The habit of going to the child's potty, over the course of several years, develops into the need to go to the toilet.

Ability to accept

As has already been said, the opportunity to accept something good appears only through the rejection of something bad, otherwise a person will find himself torn by contradictions. It is impossible to start playing sports and at the same time smoke, destroy yourself by drinking and at the same time lead yourself to a bright life. Therefore, the next significant point in the method of forming a habit in 21 days is accepting your unsightly side.

A person needs to see himself as if through someone else’s eyes and allow himself to fantasize about “What is his future?” Is it possible for this individual to live long if he eats only fast food, or to attract the attention of a good girl if his main interest is computer games? This person needs help and protection, because only from the outside you can see how pathetic he is.

After several such trainings, there will be no doubt that the unfortunate person (yourself) needs to be saved.

What to do with “breakdowns”?

Undoubtedly, a person who has a very strong motivation to develop a habit will find the strength not to “break.” For example, if you have to go to work by 8 am, and it takes at least an hour to get there, then you will have to get up no later than 6 am, even if you are a hopeless night owl. But, if you really like your work, you get sufficient moral and material satisfaction from it, most likely, you will easily develop the habit of getting up early. And no special coercion is needed.

But if you don’t have very high motivation, it’s very easy to break down. I overslept once and off we went. One cake is not scary. And two, three, four... and now the habit is gone.

What can you advise in this case? The recipes are not new at all:

1. Work with motivation. If you want to form a new habit, knowing that “this is how it should be,” you won’t deceive your brain with this wording. He will answer you: “Who needs it? To me? For what? I already have a good life,” and he will be right.

People for the most part tend to do only what is necessary, what they cannot do without. Why improve something that already works?

To cope with this situation, come up with good motivation for yourself. Realize for yourself what this or that new habit will give you. What prospects await you in the future thanks to her? How will your life improve? How much brighter and richer will it become? You must imagine this as clearly and clearly as possible. This is the only way you will really want to achieve, firstly, your goals, and secondly, consolidating the habits leading to them.

2. Maintain regularity. Even if you do something for 21 days, but skip the fifth, eighth, twelfth and twentieth days, this is not yet forming a habit. Each omission devalues ​​the previous efforts spent. You have to start from day one again. Therefore, try to survive all these days without “absenteeism”.

3. Put in enough effort. Nobody said it was easy. On the contrary, it will most likely be very difficult. Use all your willpower, and victory will definitely be yours! After all, you understand why you need this, what it will lead to, which means you probably have enough strength and patience to achieve the desired results and not give up!

Step-by-step technique for getting rid of excess

The method of how to develop a habit in 21 days and give up everything unnecessary during this time is designed in such a way that a person has time to gain confidence in the need for important changes. However, the path to complete “cure” takes three months, throughout which you should continue to practice and not give yourself any slack.

In order to correctly distribute your forces, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with and put into practice the following algorithm for starting to implement your plans:

  1. First, on one large sheet of paper, the shortcomings that a person sees in himself and the good human qualities that could eliminate these shortcomings are written out in two columns. This list can already be considered a direct guide to action.
  2. Below the list you should large-scale, in a few phrases, describe your desired ideal state (complete harmony, internal magnetism, etc.)
  3. It is necessary to find a stimulus that can serve as a permanently attractive bait on the way to the goal. At each stage of habit formation (21 days, 40 and 90) you can find new, more and more daring motivations.
  4. You need to create a checklist of your achievements or keep a diary (how to fill it out is described above).

A beginner does not need to be upset if, when starting to improve himself, he cannot see big goals and achievements ahead of him. When a person remains in a “sleeping” state for a long time, it is generally very difficult for him to realize himself as a person with inexhaustible potential. Even if your first dreams don't go beyond a new dress, as you move forward and gain confidence, motivation will also take on larger forms.

Formula for success

Conventionally, people can be divided into two types - those who accept criticism and those who reject it. For people of the first type, the formula for success in self-improvement can be described as follows:

  • maintaining a “21-day habit control diary”;
  • reprimanding the shortcomings;
  • drawing conclusions based on errors.

For people of the second type, any criticism will only prevent them from moving forward, because they would rather fold their hands and consider that they “failed” than risk receiving a secondary reprimand. For them, the formula for success looks like this:

  • keeping a “diary of achievements for 21 days”;
  • encouragement of every successfully taken step;
  • assessment of possible errors with a detailed analysis of the cause of the “failure”.

In no case should a person blame himself for negative events that have already been experienced or are currently being experienced. That is, before the 21 days to form a habit are up. It is necessary to try to get out of a bad situation with dignity, without internal reproach, and with the awareness that such difficulties will not affect him again.

I'm starting a new life... on Monday

Frankly, all these numbers tire me. With all due respect to their accuracy, in the context of the current topic, some of them are not accurate. So inaccurate that you definitely don’t want to rely on them. After all, everything is individual. Experiments show that the time it takes to form a habit depends on a huge variety of factors. In particular, on the type and complexity of the habit, on the type of person’s temperament, on his health, degree of development and set of other personal qualities, on his place in life and environment. Therefore, I suggest not to rely on deadlines. And since you have decided to start a “new life”, then just be honest with yourself, a responsible curator of your body. Feel that your actions are developmental and not destructive.

Tips and life hacks that will give you a better chance of picking up a new habit or getting rid of an old one.

  1. Three pillars with which everything will work out : Regular repetition. Maintain periodicity without days off or rest. If you missed it, analyze why, draw conclusions and try to avoid gaps in the future.
  2. Reinforcement – ​​positive and negative. Once you have completed an action (which you want to make a habit), reward yourself with something pleasant, the brain will produce dopamine (the pleasure hormone) and the action will be easily repeated next time. For omissions or poor performance of an action there is a punishment. Important: respond promptly, in a timely manner, and not after 3 hours.
  3. Emotional readiness to perform actions (useless to do through “I don’t want”). Any behavior can be divided into 2 components - the action itself and the emotional attitude towards it. A positive attitude reinforces the underlying action and helps form a habit. Negative – hinders. Even though you repeat it 300 times, if the emotions are negative, then nothing will work. This is the answer to why a child is forced to brush his teeth every day, and even though he walks while rolling his eyes, freaks out, gets angry, but the habit is not developed. When there is no desire, a person is more likely to get into the habit of protesting against what should be a healthy habit.
  • Look for real motivation. The strongest when there is a real threat to health or psychological discomfort. For example, not eating tangerines because of an allergy, urgently losing weight due to worsening heart problems, quitting smoking in order to be able to communicate with your newborn granddaughter.
  • Choose habits that fit into your lifestyle and worldview. If new behavior is alien to your nature, there is no need to break yourself.
  • If you can't keep up with regular repetition due to forgetfulness, set a reminder .
  • If you lack willpower, you can resort to the “help” of social networks . Announce to your subscribers that from now on you are starting to work on developing such and such a habit (or giving up an old one) and commit to reporting daily. In this way, you will develop new behavior and show the audience that you are a man of word and deed, responsible, consistent, and purposeful.
  • Help your neighbor . Do you know why people go to trainers and don’t train on their own? Not only because a coach can teach and point out mistakes, but also because a person works harder under pressure than when no one controls. If the idea of ​​​​social networks is not your option, then contact your loved ones. Ask a friend or family member to constantly monitor you as you work to form a habit. Either take the initiative and help your neighbor change for the better, or you can arrange a competition/bet on who will be the first to achieve automaticity in the chosen behavior.
  • The habit of living without a habit

    Getting rid of an old behavior pattern is always harder than forming a new one. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to periodically audit your repetitive actions to see if harmful ones have crept in among them, or if they have reached the point of automatism. Yes, yes, sometimes this happens - a little habit that takes root as if by accident, imperceptibly.

    For example, your loved one is on a business trip, you miss him and are constantly waiting for news from him, so you check messengers every free minute. There are all three pillars here - regularity, emotional readiness and reinforcement in the form of an expected message. So, checking the messenger becomes a habit and is done automatically. Moreover, you can accidentally form bad habits for your child - cartoons while eating, turning to another person for help (“I don’t have time, ask my older brother”), candy just to stop making trouble... So be attentive to yourself and your loved ones!

    Difficulties on the way to a new life

    From the experience of psychologists observing the internal struggle of people striving for their ideal, we can conclude that half of all episodes of failures and “breakdowns” of patients occur due to the indirect fault of “public opinion.”

    The social environment of a person, in which he previously felt comfortable, is an established cell that has its own norms of behavior and way of thinking of its participants. An individual for whom this shell becomes small has every chance of feeling universal condemnation and returning to past habits for fear of being left alone.

    Experts recommend that an individual who expands the boundaries of his consciousness and is committed to change gradually introduce into his social circle people who have achieved mental balance or are close to the ideal to which the person strives. Over time, his need for people from his “former life” will completely disappear and the temptation to “fall into old habits” will disappear by itself.

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