When Do A Behavior Turns Into A Habit
The simplest answer is when your behavior is automatic, but it doesn’t cover all cases.
There are some behaviors that are not automatic, but they are habits nonetheless.
I like the definition Google spat out for me:
Habit is a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
Take for example my writing habit. I write every day about 1,000 words.
This is by no means automatic. I write different things, at different places and times of day. I write in English and in Polish. I write in small chunks or 1-hour+ sessions. I write a novel, non-fiction books, blog posts, articles and Quora answers.
Yet, it’s definitely a settled practice.
I think the fragment “one that is hard to give up” nails it. I identify myself as a writer. It’s hard to give up your core identity.
I also work in my day job 5 days a week, I’ve been doing it for almost 13 years. Giving up this activity wouldn’t have been hard for me at all. It’s not a habit. As soon as an external pressure would have been gone (a necessity to provide for my family and my wife’s attachment to the job’s “security”) I would have been gone as well.
So, if some behavior is hard to quit, it’s a habit.
Going back to automatic behaviors, it’s quite hard to recognize them. They are so ingrained into your personality, that you don’t notice your established habits.
A well-established automatic habit should always be a surprise for you to discover.
For example I introduced a habit of running stairs whenever I have to climb them. I wanted to introduce more physical activity into my sedentary lifestyle with this habit.
I had been forcing myself to run the stairs for some time. After some period of time I caught myself on starting the ‘stairs run’ whenever I approached a staircase. It was weird. I didn’t think of it at all. I kind of woke up at the middle of the stairs running.
No amount of days will make a behavior a habit
The time for developing a habit is different for different habits and different people. The scientific research concluded that it takes between 18 and 254 days, but from my experience I say this is only a rule of thumb. It varies more than that.
Originally published in Quora.com.