Speed of Personal Development

Hello there! I hope everyone had a good start to their week!

I just finished reading ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ by Robin Sharma. I had a couple of issues with the narration but what I want to talk about here is the issue with some of the content. Overall, I think the author had good intentions and wanted to convey as many ideas as possible. But I had an issue with the parts where there were mentions of how much it would take to transform your life.

If you have not read it yet, it is a book about a workaholic lawyer eventually selling every possession and leaving for India to find himself after he had a heart attack in court. He comes back a few years after with a fully different personality and he looked much younger. This is already very unrealistic. A few years is most likely not enough to change everything about your life and personality. And looking much younger after a few years is also an issue for me. But this was made extreme on purpose to create shock value, perhaps. What bothered me more is when the main character gave practical tips on how to improve life, he kept saying that if his listener does all he says, he will have completely change in his patterns in a month, based on the idea that it takes 21 days to form a habit. But for one, we usually struggle to transform our habits, so take time to settle into a new habit after we put the intention. I tend to take a few weeks to even start applying the new pattern in its full force. When I first started meditating, it took me a year to find what really worked for me. Another thing is that even if you apply a habit perfectly for 21 days, human beings’ complexity often does not allow complete changes in a short time because other things come up when we change one thing. Personal development is a journey and often it takes years. Sometimes, even after years, we still have a lot of things to improve.

Anyways, I usually do not like it when people make claims that are too unrealistic or too optimistic. But let’s see what you have to say: how long do you think it usually takes to change a pattern and eventually your life?


36 thoughts on “Speed of Personal Development

  1. I think human behaviour or personality development cannot be categorized into one single pattern. I think the book’s claim of 21 days stems from some previous scientific research which was later proven to be not so accurate. Personally, for me, it all depends on the motivation, environment, and degree of change required. Assigning a number to the time required for making a habit isn’t possible for me too.

  2. I imagine it depends on who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Some stuff doesn’t take long to get used to, others take forever. Meanwhile, life is difficult to predict, so some small easy stuff turns out to have drastic results impacts on your life, while some of the difficult and big stuff turns out to be relatively minor.

  3. I too struggle with books that promise my life will be completely transformed within a certain amount of time if I follow their guidelines. It took years to go through my transformation, and I was highly motivated.

    I do best with baby steps, and a gradual dripping-in method, anything too drastic and I start to feel anxiety, even panic.

    I did do research into changing our habits, and I learned about Neural Pathways.

    Every thought we have, and every action we do creates a new Neural Pathway. When we repeat a thought or action over and over, the pathways become more and more ingrained, because they are basically laying one over the other over another, effectively creating roads and then highways. Our brains use these as a wonderful helpers in life so we don’t constantly need to think every step through.

    This is why older habits and thought patterns feel much more difficult to overcome because those neural highways become an automatic go-to.

    When we start thinking new thoughts or doing new actions, the neural pathways are so thin and narrow in comparison to the old ones, but with repetition and perseverance, they become stronger and wider.

    What happens to the old ones?

    With disuse, over time they start to fade away, becoming less and less of a natural go-to for our brains. It does take mindful repetition of the new actions and thoughts for them to get to the stage where they feel natural enough to become a go-to.

    Often we give up when we’re only partially through this process because the old neural pathways are still exerting a powerful pull.

    People often criticize people who start, stop, start-stop, many times, feeling the person just isn’t trying hard enough, but in reality, every time we start and stop, we’re still laying down some new neural pathways. With enough attempts, many people do finally succeed, because the accumulation of the neural pathways has built up enough to provide the traction needed to keep going.

    So the trick is, to keep going! Keep picking yourself up, and keep trying! Eventually, we create enough neural pathways to keep on that pathway, meanwhile, the old ones have a chance to fade more and more!

    This is inspiring a new post, so I will link back to this post!

    1. Excellent response. The idea of the neural pathways has fascinated me for years, every small or large thing you do differently that before creates a new path in your brain, change your route to work, put your watch on the other hand, have a tea instead of coffee… its amazing.

    2. Very well-explained and I agree to every word of it! I also tend to take time with changes for the reasons you mentioned. It is not easy to change an established pattern.

      And thank you for the compliment and sharing the post!

  4. Interesting and thought provoking post. I’d say there are many variables that influence how long it takes to develop a habit – how regularly the habit is practiced to develop into a routine; our personality. I’d also say how many things we have going on in our lives and how motivated we are. I also believe that going away to simply focus on changing behaviours might make a difference, but when you return to the real world with old/bad habits etc you’ve not been exposed to, it can be difficult to maintain the new habits back in your old life.

    1. I tend to think of establishing a habit as a process in which the habit perseveres. Otherwise, it is just a temporary pattern. And I agree that time might depend on many factors, but mostly, change does not come easily.

  5. I read books where the authors claimed about the 21 days to change one of your habits. But then other authors said up to 60 or even more. I think it entirely depends on your personality and will to change. There are for sure studies that established a range based on research but I think that our differences as human beings shall be considered.

  6. I enjoy your point of view and agree with you very much. One not having read the book yet am only commenting on my feeling of your post and the topic. The title itself seems too extreme from one end to another. In normal behavior and in most of us with opportunities and choices in abundant, changing habits does take a long time to accomplish. I also say that from experience. But also from experience, I can tell you that it is totally possible if your circumstances change in extreme ways. Let’s say you are accustomed to living lavish and with anything your money can buy. The moment you end up in a prison without money and all money can buy, you are put in a completely different situation than you are accustomed to. So living in a mansion with a farrari to living with nothing but the clothes on one’s back would make it possible to make severe changes. However, if you still have the money to change back to the live of ease and pleasure over this new life, then most likely there will be a moment you will want to cave in and go back to your natural way of being and your normal good or bad habits.
    I was raised in a time when it was easy to tell me that things can’t be done. I refused to believe and have done many things that others say can’t be done and have focused on teaching my daughter that it can be done. But imagine, it is taking a whole generation to change those thoughts of can’t to can, and I am positive that much more positivity is yet to come for the next generations.

  7. I’m also a skeptic when it comes to any strategy that’s one-size-fits-all. And while a change in habit might be formed in 21 days, my understanding is that’s not entirely accurate. Most certainly not in every case.

    I also found what Tamara said about neural pathways fascinating, which further challenges the 21 day premise. And… makes sense as to why change isn’t generally quick or easy.

    Thank you for the review, Betul, and for sparking some thought about habit breaking/making!

    1. I think 21 days could perhaps work for smaller changes but definitely not enough for ground-breaking, life-changing habit formation. And I also loved Tamara’s point on neural pathways!

  8. Finally, somebody said it. I read his 5 AM club which felt unrealistic just like the Monk book. That’s when I realized motivation/self-help books is money mining business, it may help you once or twice not always.

  9. It sounds like the other writer’s narrative is different but equally important as yours. I do appreciate your points. For what it’s worth, I have a longitudinal perspective about the life cycle. Truly, people get stuck. And the wisdom that learning opportunities tend to revisit us till we learn them- whether in this lifetime or another, particularly feels apropos to callback at this moment in time. Thank you for speaking your truth Betul.

  10. I read this book 6 years ago. It was a game changer and I loved it very much. However, my time working on myself and helping others establish good habits as a life coach have made me realize that a lot of these books package their stories making them appealing. Like you said, it may take way longer than 21 days to build a habit and what works for one may not work for others. That book and every book for that matter should only motivate us to find what works for us.

  11. I haven’t read this book but I do find that to change a habit that can change your life I need to stick to my routine for at least 30 days. But as a counsellor and life coach I have seen first hand that it can take people a lot longer than this to build a healthy habit. But as long as they are moving in the right direction I think that’s a positive. I really want to read this book now! Thanks for the article.

  12. I think time is a construct that creates the illusion of agreement. I do believe someone can drastically change in a short amount of time because I have done it. I share my personal and professional development on my blog in hopes to inspire others. This was a great piece. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I think, having “21 days” in the name was done purposely so that it can create excitement in readers to pick up the book. if you read some more of his books the patterns are similar

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