When Do A Behavior Turns Into A Habit

How do you know when you have developed a habit?

Michał Stawicki
2 min readAug 4, 2023

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Photo by Trần Long from Pexels.com

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.

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Michał Stawicki

Authorpreneur. Progress fanatic. I help people change their lives… even if they don’t believe they can. I blog on http://ExpandBeyondYourself.com/