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    The underlying, big hairy goal of eye care


    How long it really takes to build a new habit

    Phillippa Lally, in a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, examined the habits of 96 people over a 12-week period. Participants chose one new habit for the 12 weeks and reported each day on whether or not they did the behavior and how automatic the behavior felt.

    Some people chose simple habits like drinking a bottle of water with lunch. Others chose more difficult tasks like running for 15 minutes before dinner. At the end of the 12 weeks, the researchers analyzed the data to determine how long it took each person to go from starting a new behavior to automatically doing it.

    The answer?

    On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic—66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally's study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. 

    In other words, if you want to set your expectations appropriately, the truth is that it will probably take your employees anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behavior into their life—not 21 days.1

    Where to go from here

    At the end of the day, how long it takes for your employees to get into the habit of reaching out to patients who haven’t been seen by the practice in 2 to 10  years doesn't really matter that much. Whether it takes 50 days or 500 days, you have to put in the work and celebrate their progress, not just the results. Do this by remembering the following and working on being a better coach and leader every day.

    1.     Know your practice is making the patient’s world a better place.

    2.     The practice values helping patients see clearly and not go blind. This value undergirds all your plans, decisions, and actions.

    3.     Employees’ thoughts, feelings, needs, and dreams are respected and listened to while management demands their best.

    4.     Coach them through their mistakes. Allow them to learn and move ahead.

    5.     Cheer each other on. This brings enthusiasm to the change process.

    In conclusion, the only way to get to Day 500 of a new habit is to start with Day 1; forget about the number and focus on doing the work. Measurement shared with everyone generates excitement. You cannot use your degree, your office’s amazing diagnostic technology, one of the array of digital spectacle lenses your optician knows how to select, or prescribe vision-altering pharmacology if you never see the patient it would benefit.

    Throughout the change process, feed your team’s spirit with congratulations.

    I’m cheering you on!




    1. Adapted from James Clear’s article in Behavioral Psychology, How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science) http://jamesclear.com/new-habit


    Donna Suter
    Donna Suter is president of Suter Consulting Group.

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