The 90 Days Habit-Building Model: Expanded With Detailed Stages

Most of us like to blame a lack of motivation for failure to achieve one so-called goal. Though, such failures most often have to do with lack of knowledge, self-awareness, and strategy in my opinion. I believe that we can plow through obstacles without having to rely on fleeting positive emotions and motivation by having a clear roadmap.

Many self-help gurus like to market that it takes 21 days to build a habit, though from my experience the habit is still easy to undo after this short amount. I suggest an additional constraint in order for a habit to be fully formed: A habit is hardwired only when it becomes easier to keep doing it than it is to stop doing it. Oddly enough, a habit should become like a good addiction. To achieve this, I believe we necessitate at least 90 days.

Here are the most common stages one will face on the habit building process, taken from personal experience:

90 Days Habit Building Process

[Days 0-7]: The Honeymoon Stage

  • Initial burst of enthusiasm and motivation
  • MAIN OBSTACLE: Burning out by doing too much too soon

[Days 14-21]: The Complacency Stage

  • “If I skip one day, it won’t be a big deal… I can handle this.”
  • MAIN OBSTACLE: Overconfident, giving in to complacency

[Days 40-60]: The Dip

  • “This is useless and stupid. I’m not getting any better and not seeing results…”
  • MAIN OBSTACLE: Refusing to accept the plateau, burning out, and giving up

[Days 70-80]: The Acceptance Stage

  • The feeling of no turning back, of “having gone too far” to give up.
  • The habit is done for its own sake without any expectations “just because.”

[Day 90]: The “Addiction” Stage

  • Realization that one’s life has become increasingly better from implementing this habit
  • Inability to give up the habit. “I can’t stop. If I did, I feel like there would be something missing in my day.”
  • Newfound joy in the practice

Note that days and stages will vary depending on the habit and the individual, but I have found those stages to be consistent with my habit building processes. In my next article, I address the common failure points of the honeymoon stage.


John K.