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    The underlying, big hairy goal of eye care


    Goals worth having aren’t reached quickly

    Change is never easy. It often feels worse before it gets better. Human nature being what it is—introducing change to your staff will not be accepted. You will get push-back. Extroverts will begin what experts call ‘inviting others to his or her side of the change.’ Those with natural leadership abilities might stage a mutiny, meaning someone may come to you and say, “We have talked about it and none of us want to do this. We want to go back to the way things were. Oh, and if you say no we are all going to quit.”

    Not changing isn’t an option. When emotions are high, it is important to continue to take small steps forward. Just as important, management must be able to empathize with the emotions employees are feeling.

    This is especially true when introducing a change that is linked (in the employees’ minds) with an emotional event or one in which there is a strong cultural attachment. Thus, it is important to keep moving forward. Keep tracking compliance for longer than you think you should. As my initial quote indicates, many experts think change happens in 21 days.

    This observation was first published by Maxwell Maltz. Dr. Maltz, a plastic surgeon, noticed it took patients about 21 days to get used to seeing his or her new face. Similarly, when a patient had an arm or a leg amputated, Maltz noticed that the patient would sense a phantom limb for about 21 days before adjusting to the new situation.

    These experiences prompted Maltz to think about his own adjustment period to changes and new behaviors, and he noticed that he also took about 21 days to form a new habit. In 1960, Maltz published the above-stated quote and his other thoughts on behavior change in a book called Psycho-Cybernetics.

    Maltz’ work influenced nearly every major “self-help” professional from that era—Zig Ziegler to Brian Tracy to Tony Robbins. And as more people recited Maltz's story—like a very long children’s game of ‘Telephone’—people began to forget that he said a minimum of about 21 days and instead shortened it to, It takes 21 days to form a new habit.

    But the problem is that Maltz was simply observing what was going on around him and wasn’t making a statement of fact. Furthermore, he made sure to say that this was the minimum amount of time needed to adapt to a new change.

    What’s the real answer? How long does it actually take to form a new habit? Is there any science to back this up? And what does all of this mean for your practice?

    How long it really takes to build a new habit

    Donna Suter
    Donna Suter is president of Suter Consulting Group.

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