It Takes Nine Months to Build a Habit

Have you ever heard the old adage that it only takes 21 days to build a habit? We don’t know whether it’s true or not but we have learned that people can indeed build new habits.

At Junto, our Apprentices and Alumni build their leadership and emotional intelligence habits continuously over the course of our nine-month program. The habits range from learning how to become a better listener, to how to read people and how to become a better communicator. While they differ in nature, number of steps, and likely outcomes, each Apprentice practices the habits in the same way, following the same instructions. Furthermore, between each Forum session, they receive one reminder text message per weekday in regards to their habit. 

These text messages are sent at random times. Part of the reason is to prompt the Apprentices to think about their habit amidst all of the other obligations and tasks they complete during the day. Many of the habits involve engaging with their employees and colleagues, so it’s important for the Apprentices to receive reminders when they are in those settings. The other reason for the random timing is to make it a bit of a surprise and prevent them from simply ignoring it if it arrived at the same time each day.

Many of the habits also ask the Apprentices and Alumni to keep a journal of their progress. The act of keeping a journal--either in writing or digitally--encourages more mindful processing of each habit. When individuals put their thoughts to paper, they are able to articulate their emotions and feelings in ways that they would not be able to verbalize. Though keeping a journal is not required, many of our Forum members find that keeping a journal helps them share their experiences during their Forum sessions with greater detail and engagement.

As we get closer to JuntoNight, the graduation night for our third cohort, it seems like it was only yesterday that I sent the current Apprentices their first habits. Since that time, they will have learned and practiced nine new habits to improve their emotional intelligence and leadership skills, and received 192 text messages as reminders. Over that time, we regularly hear from them how much the habits and texts are helping them be more mindful with the habits which, over time, become new behaviors for them.

From the time I spent getting to know the Forum members, to the cohort’s progress that I hear from the JuntoTeam in Chicago, it appears that every Apprentice has taken full advantage of the habits and is seeing immense changes in their companies and in themselves.