The Fascinating Truth About How Long It Really Takes to Change a Habit (Plus How My Favourite Italian Word Can Transform Your Life In An Instant) [Episode 027]

Have you ever tried to make or break a habit, and it hasn't worked, no matter how hard you've tried? Feeling frustrated about this? Want to unlock some hidden secrets to make changing your life - whether it's something tiny or something huge - so much easier, faster and more fun?

Why is it we can get a 200-day streak in a game on an app, but only a 2-day streak on a new habit?!

Here's What We'll Cover About How Long It Takes To Change A Habit

  • 3 essential factors for how to change a habit
  • the life equation that dictates whether or not we succeed in changing
  • how long does it actually take to change a habit?
  • the usual thing we normally wait for, before we create change
  • how my favourite Italian word can spare you that pain, meaning you can change your life in an instant
  • the one thing most people accidentally get back-to-front when they want to change their lives, why it keeps them stuck - and how to avoid this pitfall
  • the two energies of change, and my 'magic question' which shifts you between them

Listen Here Now:

Here Are Today's Resources: 

Prefer the transcript? Click here to read it.

This transcript is AI-generated, so please forgive any typos. I hope you find it useful.

Welcome to episode 27 of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome Podcast. With me, your host, Clare Josa, the author of Ditching Imposter Syndrome. And today we're talking about the fascinating truth about how long it really takes to change a habit. Plus how my favourite Italian word could transform your life in an instant. So this episode is for you.

If ever you've tried to make or break a habit and it just hasn't worked and it doesn't matter how hard you you've tried and you're feeling frustrated and you want to unlock some hidden secrets to make changing your life, whether it's something tiny or something huge so much easier, faster, and more fun. So I'd love to know, why is it we can get a 200 day streak on a game app, but only a two day streak when we're changing a habit? Well, in today's episode of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast, I want to take you through three essential factors for how to change a habit. The little known life equation that dictates whether or not we succeed in making that change. The one super common usual thing we normally wait for before we create change.

This is based on me having done coaching with people for over 20 years now, and how my favourite Italian word can spare you that pain, meaning you can change your life in an instant. So I talk about three essential factors for how to create a habit or change in your life. And I talked about this last week in episode 26, so make sure you have a listen to that one. It gives you the overview. I'm diving into more detail right now.

Those three essential factors. Inspiration is what gives us the idea. Motivation gets us started, but it's habit and routine that actually creates the change. I talk about this in my online training programme, Meditation Made Easy, and also in my book, the 28 Day Meditation Challenge. Now, what I mean with this is it is inspiration that makes us think, you know what, I'm going to do that something sparks an idea.

It might be something we see in the outside world, it might be a sort from inside, but something gives us that tiny spark that, oh, it could be different, it gives us the idea. Motivation is what gets us started in the world of yoga and meditation, that has a special word from the ancient Sanskrit called shakti. It's like a life force energy that gives you the passion and the motivation to make a change, but it has a finite life. And after the shakti, that, umph that right, let's get started. Day two of your streak has finished.

It might be day seven for you, it might be day 27. But once that initial orphan energy has finished, it is boring old habit and routine that actually creates the change. Now, in last week's episode, really Important, go and have a listen. We talk about how you actually need to be making the changes down at that who am I? Identitylevel down at the cores, the drivers rather than the surface level habits and behaviour at the top, and how Imposter Syndrome plays a really big role in that.

So have a listen if you've not heard episode 26 yet. But here's what I want to talk about today. Today I want to get more into how we create that habit and that routine. So there's a beautiful quote I want to share with you from Anna Nynn. So she sat and the day came when the risk to remain a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

She's talking about a rose here. And this ties in beautifully with that little known life equation I mentioned right at the beginning of this. This podcast. This life equation, dictates whether or not we succeed in changing. If you've ever done any NLP or you've worked with coaches, you might well have come across this.

We talk about how change doesn't happen until the pain of changing becomes less than the pain of staying the same. So we might have that initial inspiration and we might have that shakti, that motivation, that, umph, that energy, that drive to get started. But if actually we're more scared of the change working than we are of life staying the way it is, the unconscious mind is wired to keep us safe. And we're at risk of self sabotaging, we're at risk of not taking the actions that we need to to actually create that change, to break that habit. So one of the things I do if I'm working with clients, whether it's on our Imposter Syndrome boot camp, stepping up to lead, or if you've got Ditching Imposter Syndrome, the book you'll see I do all the way through this, is that deeper work to get to the stage where the fear of change reduces.

We get connected with that big why? Why do I want to make this change? What's in it for me? What is the exciting outcome? And we start focusing on that and we also look at clearing the stuff that would have kept us stuck in that old habit.

So, for example, psychologists have a term for something called secondary gain, which is work I do a lot with clients and in my books and courses. What is that habit doing for me? What is the hidden unmet need? What is it I fear I'm going to sacrifice or might make me feel not safe if I make this change? When you clear that stuff out, it helps you to get to the stage where the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain or the fear of changing, and taking that risk suddenly becomes the more enticing option.

So this is a really important part on changing a habit, is clearing out the unmet needs that the old habit was meeting for you and you might be able to do that easily on yourself. There's how to for that in Ditching Imposter Syndrome or go and work with a coach. There are details in the show notes of how you can work with one of my certified Imposter Syndrome fair Staiters or Certified Imposter Syndrome Master Coaches. So that is the life equation that dictates whether or not we succeed in changing a habit. How long does it actually take to change that habit?

So psychologists say it's 21 days. It's 28 days. There's been work done in neuroscientists will have a different point of view. And as a yoga and meditation teacher, alongside the other work I do, I know that it's really important to get what's called a body memory of that new habit so that your muscles, your bones, your cells, your vibration, if we're going to do some kind of engineer approved woo woo here lines up with that new habit. And as we talked about last week in episode 26, you allow yourself to become the version of you that has this new habit.

In the world of meditation and yoga, they say creating a new habit requires 100,000 repetitions. If we're doom scrolling on social media, that probably doesn't take long. It doesn't mean that literally, it just means a lot. But that's not the way it actually needs to be. What I've found in my work over the last 20 years is that changing a habit can be instant.

And I want to share with you shortly my favourite Italian word that helps you to do that. In that moment you make that commitment, you close the door on the other possibilities. You've made that decision, this change is happening and I'm simply going to do it. We can do all sorts of things, then we can anchor that, change, that new behaviour into something we're already doing. We can celebrate the successes every time we notice we're doing it.

We can set pings on our phones. Creating the habit is something that actually most of us can figure out how to do once we've made that decision and closed the door to the old, outdated possibilities. But there is something that people will normally wait for before they create change. And this is something that really breaks my heart. People wait till they hit rock bottom.

They wait till they have an experience where they simply have to change. You remember what I said about the pain of changing being greater than the pain of staying the same? They use that rock bottom, something falls apart, they have a terrible experience, they get a diagnosis, they risk losing their jobs. Somebody tells them something horrible, they hit a rock bottom and they wait till they hit that point before they bounce back and change. And this is the most painful way to create change, because it usually means we've spent many more years with that destructive habit thought pattern, whatever it is we want to release, causing us pain.

And we use the rock bottom to flip that life equation. So the pain of staying the same is finally greater than the pain of changing. So here is where my favourite Italian word comes in. And when I'm working with clients and I build this into my courses and my books, you get to the stage where you're ready to use this word so you no longer have to go through rock bottom. And that trauma again, my favourite Italian word is not vino and it's not pizza, that's my kids' favourite Italian word.

My favourite Italian word is basta. B-A-S-T-A enough. I am done. This stops here. You can use basta.

I talk about my clients having a basta-moment. You're going to have that basta-moment anytime, any place. As soon as you sit there and you say, actually, you know what? The pain of staying the same is actually pretty pants. So I'm going to use basta to say, I'm done with that.

This works particularly well if you've done the work on that secondary gain, on uncovering those unmet needs that that particular habit was feeding and meeting. If you've cleared out the fears, you can then have an instant basta-moment and it's like you've turned the ship around in that moment. You're saying to your unconscious mind, that habit is out of date. That's no longer who I am. It's not about what I do, it's about who I am.

Basta changes the way we see ourselves. We're suddenly allowing ourselves to become the version of us that has that new habit, that does that different thing. It frees us from so much of the baggage of the past that kept us stuck in the habit that no longer fits our vision of who we are. So my favourite Italian word, bastar, can spare you the pain of waiting to rock bottom and help you to change your life in an instant. And while we're on this subject, I want to share something else about changing habits is most people accidentally get this back to front when they want to change their lives.

It keeps them stuck. And I want you to be able to avoid this pitfall. So the thing is, we get what we focus on in life. So if somebody wants to give up smoking and they're saying, oh, I want to quit smoking, then what they're actually doing is imagining quitting smoking. But here's the problem is the unconscious mind, we've talked about this before, can't process a negative.

So if I say to you right now, do not think of a blue donkey in a pink tree playing a saxophone, most people listening to this will immediately think of the donkey and the tree playing the saxophone and they'll be able to tell me what the tune was. The mind processes the smoking and the stop, quit, give up, no more. That negative gets lost. So we end up every time we talk about to ourselves or to others. This habit we want to change, we end up mentally rehearsing imagining reinforcing the neural pathways of the very habit we want to quiz.

So this is a ninja tip I'm giving you today. If you're looking at creating new habits and changing your life is don't talk about what you don't want. Okay, I know I just used negative in there while all the wonderful pedants who spotted it, by talking about what you don't want, you're mentally rehearsing. You're imagining what you don't want and trying to put a knot in and it gets lost. You're reinforcing the neural pathways in the brain, which are part of what govern our habits and behaviour.

To imagine the thing that you want to get rid of. So you actually risk keeping yourself stuck. The energy we use to talk about habit change is really important. Losing weight with some people, depending on what's running in their secondary gain, could cause their unconscious mind to think, I don't want to lose anything and go and try and find it again. Yeah.

So what I encourage you to do is to let go of negative phrasing. When you're looking at changing a habit, there is a way that you can shift from thinking about what you don't want. Because if we're going back to this, changing your life is about who you allow yourself to become rather than what you do, which we talked about last week, you don't want to talk about. I'm somebody who doesn't smoke because first you have to imagine somebody who smokes you, if that's your situation, and then you imagine the you that doesn't. But that's got lost.

You talk about my magic question here, which shifts you from the negatively phrased to the positively phrased. And we're going to use this again on the final thing I want to talk about today. My magic question is what do I want instead? Okay, so if you notice you're phrasing, your habit changed negatively. What you don't want, what you want to get rid of when you quit, what you want to quit even what do I want instead?

Make that positively phrased something within your control and try that on for size. Your unconscious mind is actually brilliant at taking instructions when you are clear. Then if you go back a couple of steps on what we talked about today, and you build in a big why? What's in this for me? Why do I want to do this?

So you're building in a really strong positive emotion. You can then start mentally rehearsing. That closing the imposter syndrome gap. Ditching imposter syndrome teaches you how. So does my imposter syndrome boot camp.

Closing that imposter syndrome gap to allow yourself to become the version of you that has that new habit, that is that person that no longer even needs to think about the habit that you were ditching. And you're putting your energy into what you do want rather than avoiding what you don't want. Now, motivational theory says that some people are motivated by carrots, some people are motivated by sticks. When we talked about inspiration, motivation and habit at the beginning of this episode, that is still important, but that is what gives us the motivation to get started. When we're talking to ourselves about the change we want to make, it's really important to be using positively phrased language so that we can make sure we're creating the new neural pathways rather than reinforcing the old ones.

That would keep us stuck in the habit that we no longer want. And then the final thing I want to talk about today, when we're looking at the fascinating truth about how long it really takes to change a habit, is I talk about there being two energies to change. Change can be driven by fear or it can be driven by love. Fear past, many friends, many synonyms, many emotions that cluster around it. So does love.

It might be hope, it might be excitement, it might be anticipation. When we do change through fear, it's an option. But it means that whenever you think about the change you want to make, you're going to be triggering the fight, flight, freeze response. Those of you who like the jargon, it's the sympathetic nervous system. Now, that can be useful because it can give us energy to take action.

But if you're somebody who's got an overactive inner critic or you're ditching imposter syndrome or you're stuck in hypervigilance, which we'll be covering in a few episodes time, then making change through fear can actually sabotage the change because you are highlighting the bit of the body and the bit of the mind that says fear is scary. I don't want to do this. So you might, in that situation, want to really just gently shift it to make your change through love, through hope. How is it going to feel when this is done? What difference is this going to make for me?

What if this actually does work? How might my life feel in a month's time, six months time, a year's time? How much better will it be? What will I be enjoying? These are some of the magic questions that can shift you from fear based change to love and hope based change.

And remember, the what do I want instead magic question can also unlock so much too. And when you've done this little bit of background work, it might take you ten minutes, it might take you an hour or two. But when you think about the effort you're putting into change and how many years it can take, and actually you could then create change much more quickly, easily. It can be fast, fun and forever. As I say, when you've done that, creating the routine and the habits suddenly becomes so much easier.

If we look at the points that we've covered in today's episode, those three essential factors are there you were inspired, motivated, and you are taking action to build this into your daily routine to make this a new habit. You're taking responsibility, getting the accountability and support if you need it that life equation that dictates whether or not we succeed in changing. You have created that shift through a word like basta, having a basta-moment to make the pain of staying the same outweigh the pain of change. Which means that we're automatically, unconsciously going to put the energy, the focus and the action to the change rather than the status quo homeostasis by phrasing it positively or giving clear instructions to your unconscious mind that mean it's. Going to look for opportunities for you to be able to practise that new habit instead of reinforcing the neural pathways of the old, out of date one.

And if you're ready for a bit of engineer approved woo woo, you're actually raising your vibration. Because the energy of that change is coming from love, hope and excitement, rather than fear and worry. So I hope you found that useful today. Come and find me over in LinkedIn. There's a link for the LinkedIn discussion thread below this episode and I'd love to hear from you.

We're going to be talking about how long it takes to change a habit, how the strategies we've covered in this episode might help you. And I'm there to be your virtual cheerleader as you're getting results through this, as you're creating change in your life positively with that motivation and no longer having to wait until you hit rock bottom before you can turn things around, you might be really surprised how quickly and easily and fun change can happen. Funnily? That needs to be a word. Yeah, when you do it this way.

And that wraps up what I want to say for today. If you've enjoyed this, please share it far and wide on social media. Make sure you subscribe to wherever you love to get your podcasts. This is free. Every Wednesday, the Ditching imposter Syndrome podcast.

And if you found it helpful, maybe could you leave us a little review, let people know why you've liked it and it helps them define it too. It makes a huge difference. I will be back next week with episode 28 when we're going to be looking at why using positive Affirmations is such a popular technique for trying to overcome Imposter Syndrome. Three really common pitfalls to avoid that mean this doesn't actually work for most people. And then my personal secret on how to supercharge your success with this.

I hope you have an amazing week.


Loved This? Want More?

About the author

Clare Josa

Clare is considered a global authority in the fields of Imposter Syndrome, burnout and toxic resilience, and has been an international keynote speaker for over 20 years.

The author of 8 books, a reformed engineer and the former Head of Market Research for one of the world's most disruptive brands, she blends research-backed practical inspiration with demystified ancient wisdom, to help you create breakthroughs in ways that are fast, fun and forever.

Want to find out your Imposter Syndrome Score? Take Clare's free research-backed, quiz-style assessment and get your score plus a personalised action plan in the next 3 minutes.

Want to stay in the loop with the latest news and events? Get Clare's free occasional What's On newsletter:

What Do You Want To Do Next?