The 8 Week Rule

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…

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