The 8 Week Rule

Feb
17
2013

94503-91049One of my favorite quotes in the world came from my trombone teacher many years ago. I use it to this day in my own teaching and also to remind myself how it takes time to create new habits.

“Learning something new may be frustrating, and you are probably not going to execute this [technique/exercise/scale/whatever] well at first. If you stay at it and give it a couple of months… you will get better”.

As it turns out, advancements in brain study has proven this to be true. He wasn’t just giving me a pep talk.

When it comes to growing new skills and habits, 8 weeks seems to be a very important time frame. It’s the length of several top training programs in the world such as Navy SEAL’s physical conditioning program, the Bolshoi Ballet clinic, and several summer music schools (although the one I run is only six weeks), to name a few.

A recent study has shown that practicing meditation every day produced lasting changes in the brain after …. wait for it … 8 weeks.

I am not saying that doing just anything mindlessly for 8 weeks will change your life, but I am saying this:

  • Creating a new skill or habit takes time, no matter who you are (this should make you feel good!).
  • Resilience and persistence are crucial mindsets to adhere to, especially in the beginning stages of learning something new.

When I first started my journey toward debt freedom, I absolutely needed 8 weeks to change my behavior.  I also needed to understand and accept that I was going to screw up a bunch, but that it was normal to do so.

That “cushion” of time to learn by trial and error was so crucial for me to be aware of. It made all the difference in my results and allowed me to be more patient than I normally would be with myself throughout the process.

So during the first 8 weeks of financial overhaul, I did the following ( I recommend you do the same):

1. Created a budget and revisited it daily. The one I ended with 8 weeks later was way different than the one I started with.
2. Read a personal finance book every morning when I woke and evening before I went to bed. I would rotate several of them.
3. Learned about every way to sell items online and how to use the sites (eBay to sell most of my stuff, Paypal to receive payments, Craigslist for the large items, BullionVault’s Italian site for Gold, etc.).
4. Listened to podcasts by personal finance gurus at work (Consumerism Commentary and Dave Ramsey are great!).
5. Read every personal finance blog I could find. See my list here from last week.

You get the picture. You can translate this to fit any new habit, of course.

The 8 week rule is key for a lot of reasons, but most important is that you should not make judgements too early on the progress you are making. Creating new connections in the brain takes time. You must keep at it, even if you feel like you are not making immediate improvement.

Give your brain the time it needs to grow, and you will be better for it! Let me know how you did in a few weeks…

Comments

  1. Great post Tony – this year I aiming to do mini-lutions rather than one New Year’s Resolution, so small challenges to last 2-3 months each and then in February added another one and will do so right thru the year – just small things, nothing heroic but things which should help with bottom line.

    At the outset my brain obviously wanted to take the easier path but now that I’m up to week 8 (and I had to check on a calendar for how many weeks it was) I don’t even need to think about them any more, but as for the one I started 3 weeks ago, my brain is still trying to revert to the old habit!

    • OOOHHHH…I like the idea of mini-lutions! What are you in the middle of changing???

      • Tony – LOL – they are really unglamorous – for January I decided to reduce using the dryer to dry clothes and to reduce wasting food – Colleen of 365 got me to write a post on it if you check out the search field on her site – and February, reduce the amount of rubbish especially as our next annual rubbish collection bill will be coming soon and I want to downgrade our bin size further. I was going to add a herb garden to February but I felt January needed to stay on focus, so stuck with reducing rubbish.

  2. Some of the more optimistic researchers in the field would say as little as 21 days Tony. However, like you I ascribe to a two month philosophy. I think for most people it’s a far more reasonable timeframe to expect all that neural-rewiring to take place in. And the great thing is, armed with that knowledge it’s possibly to commit to the most onerous of habit changes safe in the knowledge that any mental discomfort or conflict will be of a finite, pretty manageable length. So empowering news indeed.

    Thanks for sharing. All the best, Gareth
    Gareth Mitchell recently posted…Of course…It’s not all about looksMy Profile

  3. Great post, Tony, and I like your financial freedom example – very concrete and something we are very interested in.

    I can attest to the eight weeks of meditation. Although I have not had any brain scans lately, I have noticed a big change in my ability to maintain attention to task. I have been meditating since December.

    Two months is easy to remember. I am not sure the 28 days I’ve read about is enough for me to make a permanent change. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks Tammy….meditation is definitely my next project. I did it a long time ago, and it is time to revisit. Talk soon!

  4. Totally enjoyable and useful post, Tony. You are a brave man. I am scared to tell my students something may take 8 weeks to learn. They may faint.

    Glad you said the FIRST 8 weeks of financial overhaul because when you get into serious debt, you’ll need a second, third, and perhaps 10th 8 weeks to get a handle on it. It’s quite the process.

    I wish I could learn how to play one of my own compositions in 8 weeks, but it just isn’t the same as learning tremolo, for example. Well, back to my happy plucking!

    Thanks for a post full of top-notch info!
    cj recently posted…The Joy of Upscale JunkMy Profile

  5. I think with anything as long as their is an inherent desire to learn in time skills will improve. It’s the same with anything we do in life just as your trombone teacher says. Our budget has changed so much over the course of 2 years it’s just final this year that we are at a happy place with it. Don’t get me wrong we are always updating as needed. Giving ourselves time to see even small gains, will be, or should be the pat on the back to keep on truckin! Cheers
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted…Mr.CBB’s Stuffed Crepes With Lemon, Sugar And YogurtMy Profile

  6. Brilliant post! I also agree that 8 weeks is a great time-frame for almost any goal. I especially like to run fitness goals into 8-week slots. I also plan to master Afrikaans in mini slots (maybe 8 weeks) too to complete another New Year Resolution!
    Savvy Scot recently posted…Savvy Scot does the Carnival of Financial CamaraderieMy Profile

  7. I wish Consumerism Commentary were still weekly. When we had Flexo on our show, though, the buyer of the site didn’t see the value. He’s still going to podcast, but not as much. It’s a loss for all of us.
    AverageJoe recently posted…The Power of Big Fat Audacious GoalsMy Profile

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