It Takes 21 Days To Create A Habit — Hogwash!

You may have heard the same thing as I did. That it takes 21 days to create a habit. And like many coaches, I’m mimicked that information —even to my clients.

Often it took them more than 21 days to create a habit or change a mind-set. For some, it may have taken a week or so, but for others it took a longer amount of years. In my own life, I was working on creating a new habit and after 21 days, it was still far away from becoming a habit. I felt very defeated. Try as I did, 21 days were over, and the habit I’d been working on wasn’t a habit.

Then just this week I watched a news story on TV about that updated me on this topic. Today I went online to see if I can chase down this habit thing.

As you’ll see in article 2 below, it could be that the 21 days rule was taken out of context. And thanks to a UK college, this information has been updated.

So if during your personal or business development, you’ve felt frustrated because it took you a long time to create a new habit, give yourself a break. Because now you have the REAL story! It’s usual for a new habit to take 66 days to develop… and some of us know that even that number is too small.

2 Articles On This Topic

University College London’ll-take-21-days-make-your-resolution-habit-try-2D11826051

&copy 2014 Maria Marsala, Elevating Your Business.

Two Unique Ways To Solve Perplexing Problems

As an independent financial advisor or business owner, you shoulder many responsibilities, probably wear too many hats at work, and often have an “I’ll get it done myself” attitude.  If that’s you, this outlook usually spills into your personal life, too.  Even if you are one of the few advisors who run their practice as a business and delegate tasks to your team, there will be situations in business — and life — where the answers to a situation aren’t clear or just aren’t there at all.

doorssmIf you have a business coach or consultant on your “team”, your regular sessions will often provide insights and solutions.  But some situations need a different solution. When it seems like no one can help, your desired outcome eludes you, the situation is out of your control, or when you want to give up, let your problem go!  But how?

If letting go isn’t working, the best place to put it away is a “God Box”. Call it whatever floats your boat:  a Universe Box, a Prayer Box, a Serenity Box.  It is a container that holds your written requests for solutions to the problems and situations you encounter that you need special help to get though.

I have used this concept for 20-plus years.  Creating and using your God Box frees you to take action on the things you can do something about instead of fretting over the stuff that has no immediate answers.  What I can tell you for sure:

  • It works — although not always the way I want!
  • It’s an excellent arts and crafts project to do with your family.
  • The boxes are private, never to be opened except by the person who created it.  That goes for children’s God Boxes, too.

I didn’t create this innovative concept, although I wish I had!  In the late 1990’s, I had attended coaches’ training and learned about a concept called “tolerations”.  In short, this is about identifying and purging what we’re tolerating in our lives — people, places or things that zap our energy, or somehow distract us from our goals or actions.  We were to create a list of 100 tolerations and then start zapping them out of our lives!  Many tolerations were things I could do something about.  Register for our next Integrity Day and we’ll provide you with additional information on tolerations.

Things that I could control, like cleaning an office, fixing something that was broken, taking classes, etc., I could do and then cross off my list.  However, there were people, places or things that I couldn’t control, but knew I had to let go of.  I then remembered a concept I learned when I had attended a 12-step group for families of alcoholics.  I found my God Box and started using it again.

The truth is that neither you nor I can control people, places or things, or fix everything — but you can create a place or space where you can let go of whoever or whatever is holding you back.  Your God Box is the place where you can let go, even if for a little while, and let God take care of things.  It’s what the Serenity Prayer says about accepting the things you cannot change.  You can read the prayer here:

The concept of creating a God Box is something that has proved helpful to my clients. Their first use of their God Boxes usually revolves around relationship problems — with a spouse, a significant other, an ex, a co-worker, a child, a vendor, a client, etc.  There is something about writing a problem down that is so beneficial.  Then, when it flashes in your mind again, you can just say to yourself, “It’s in my God Box”, and then move on knowing that it will be taken care of — somehow.


How to Create a God Box

solutionssmMake it yourself:  My first God Box was an old shoe box.  I slit a hole across the top, big enough for cards and paper to get through.  I covered the box with pretty wrapping paper.  You can use any type of paper, or even old wall paper that you like.  Make it as pretty or as plain as you wish — hobby shops have a million ways to decorate it.  Or, look around your home for a special box to use.

Buy it:  You can purchase a box that catches your eye at a local store or online.  You want it to be wide enough for cards or notes.  Or you can purchase a God Box from one of the resources listed at the end of this article.


How to Use Your God Box

Here are examples of notes to place in your box:

  • Help you let go of a trait or person that you need to let go of
  • Pray for someone who needs your prayers (especially people you don’t like or get along with)
  • Let go of someone who annoys you and describe the positive outcome you desire
  • Give God your difficulties, fears, and character defects to work on
  • Write your hopes or goals
  • Manifest a dream you’ve been wishing for
  • Give praise for something or pat yourself on the back for something

Then forget about the problem or situation, confident that “someone above” is listening.


Taking it a Step Further

outoftheboxsmLetting go is not easy. After trying to do it on my own, I decided to invite others to join me and created a Letting Go Party.  Many of my clients have created their own version of a party, sometimes by inviting their family members, other times with friends, etc. Here’s how to start:

    1. Invite a small group of people you trust to participate. You can send them invitations. (If you’d like the one I mail out, contact me.) Ask them to bring a list of things they need to let go of, photos, etc.
    2. Find stories and quotes about letting go and celebrating life.
    3. Start the barbecue and ask each person to burn one thing they want to let go of, go around in a circle until all items are burned. Some people may talk, cry, or have their own quotes/stories to add. Then allow for some quiet time.
    4. Next, celebrate life. Move to a different area and spend time writing your wants, wishes, and goals for the upcoming year. Place them in your boxes. Again, read a poem or quote that fits the occasion and end with more quiet time.
    5. Have a pot-luck meal and continue celebrating life.

Having such a ceremony, with others committed to letting go, was so freeing.



While I researched the concepts in this article online, I found these resources that may interest you.


Book: The God Box: Sharing My Mother’s Gift of Faith, Love and Letting Go by Mary Lou Quinlan

After her mother passed away, Mary Lou went searching for her God Box.  But rather than one box, Quinlan found 10 containers stuffed with hundreds of origami-like folded papers.  Covering the last 20 years of her mother’s life, the notes contained a treasure of brief prayers for family, friends, and people she had never even met.  Note by note, Quinlan discovered the greatest lesson her mother could impart: the importance of letting go in order to live.  Poignantly written and beautifully designed, The God Box is a gift for every parent, every son or daughter, every person who trusts in the permanence of love and the power of prayer.  Find the book on Amazon here:


Mobile App:  The God Box mobile app is a companion to the bestselling book by Mary Lou Quinlan, who tells the story about her mother’s simple note-writing ritual for caring for friends and family.  This hopeful and personal app allows you to write your wishes, prayers, and worries and place them in your own God Box while on-the-go.  It’s a wonderful way to show people you care and create a legacy, too.  Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad with many useful features.


Fancy God Boxes:  I always enjoy helping other business owners out; here are some online resources for God Boxes:



Other articles of interest, especially at this time of the year:

Create a Dream Board

Design a Theme for 2014

How to find serenity during the holidays, when serenity is the last thing on your mind!

To create your 2014 Business Vision and plan for profit, efficiency, and more free time next year!   Go here: 

©2013 Maria Marsala guides independent financial advisors to reach their 5-year business and personal goals in 24 months.  She is a business coach, speaker, and a former Wall Street Trader. Named one of the Top 30 International Coaching Gurus in 2011, Maria has been recognized as a thought leader whose ideas have been published in Financial Planning Magazine, RIA Biz, Advisor Max, Dow Jones, The Street, Entrepreneur Magazine, and numerous books, trade journals, and magazines.  She has authored four business-building workbooks including, Attracting Clients You Love Working With: 6 Steps to a Profitable Client Base.

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Doors and Solution with ? and !: Salvatore Vuono, Out of the Box arrows: jscreationzs



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10 Steps to Turn a Vision into Reality

By Thomas Leonard

Step 1. Get that it is now becoming normal to have a vision.
Having a vision is not weird. Having a vision used to be a ‘woo-woo’ thing, but as more people have more time, space, money and reserves, they can afford to think bigger and think beyond themselves. And part of thinking bigger is to sense more of what’s possible. I believe that the terms vision and visionary will become natural and commonplace in the next 10-20 years. To NOT have a vision will be unusual. Even if your vision is “just” an intuitive feeling or intangible sense at this stage, it IS a vision and it’s worth discovering, articulating and experimenting with.

Step 2. Find someone who can hear you.
Dreams, visions and ideas are often dashed and diminished by well-meaning friends, family and colleagues. They tend to ask questions in their quest to keep you ‘safe.’ Or, because they don’t have a vision of their own, they don’t know how to listen or hear you and your ideas properly. And it’s that special type of hearing that the person with a vision needs more than anything at this stage. Visionaries see and feel on a different frequency than the average person. So, being a visionary and having a dream can be a very lonely experience. You feel the magic and the excitement of your idea, its potential and its likely reach, but until your vision has become a reality, it’s often difficult to find enough other people who ‘get it’ and who will adequately encourage you to clarify and develop your idea and bring it to life. That’s where a vision-trained coach comes in.

Step 3. Before you develop a plan, start experimenting.
Most people think that when you have a vision, you should first come up with the strategies and a plan to properly position and implement it. But my view is that it’s better to first experiment-and-learn for a period of 1-6 months. By experiment, I mean to involve others – those who would benefit from your vision. By doing this, you stay focused on people instead of getting ‘carried away’ with just an idea. This approach also provides a reality check and a chance to see your idea be used and benefit others. And they, in effect, become your R&D Team, if you let them. How many people are we talking about during the experimentation stage? I’d say between 25-1,000 individuals. That’s enough to get a sense of the viability and attractiveness of your vision. I believe in this “experiment first” approach because of the immediate feedback and support loop that it provides. And it takes you out of your mind and into the lives of others, which is where the best ideas come from anyway.

Step 4. Identify the outcomes to the beneficiaries.
Now that you’re engaged with the people who can benefit from your vision, it becomes easier to clearly identify how people benefit from your idea. And by focusing on THAT (instead of your own benefits, or on the project or on the vision itself), you tap directly into where the energy and fulfillment is. You’ll need this energy to sustain yourself during the 1-20 years it takes to implement your vision, so it makes sense to discover and tap into it early on in the process. And there’s another benefit as well. It helps you to evolve through any of the ‘causiness’ that often is what prompted a person to have a vision in the first place. In other words, if you had an abused childhood, you might find yourself having a vision to reduce/eliminate child abuse. You’ll be fueled by the fact that you’re still not healed or complete with what happened and this ‘charge’ is both emotionally and financially very expensive. But by focusing on the outcomes and the benefits (instead of the problem), you transition from a person ‘with a cause’ to someone with a clean vision. In other words, you become a person who is at choice about what you’re working on, instead of being driven by the past.

Step 5. Come to fully understand the relevance and timing of your vision.
Visions don’t just ‘appear.’ They become ‘seeable’ and possible because people evolve and civilizations develop. Part of what I do with clients is to help them discover the link between their vision and the events and trends occurring in their country and/or in the world. This larger perspective and context can make the difference between success and failure as one seeks to forward the vision. In a highly connected world, it’s hard to make something happen ‘all by itself.’ Tapping into trends and events can provide the boost you’ll need to accelerate the implementation of your vision. Relevance provides a path for people to understand what you’re talking about and how to get involved.

Step 6. Do some research.
You probably aren’t the only person to have this vision or something close to it. Take 30 days and research – on the web and in related magazines/books – everything you can about the area of your vision. You need to know.. –Who is doing something similar? –How is your vision/project different/better? –What can you do that stands on the shoulders of what others are doing?
–What newly emerging niche hasn’t yet been served?
–What large niche isn’t being served well?
–What trends are occurring that will affect the people that your vision seeks to serve?

Step 7. Pick some numbers.
At this point, you have enough information and experience to pick some numbers. -The number of people you want to affect/touch (your audience)
–Revenue targets –Costs/Budget –3-5 year plan/performance
I generally recommend that you pick bigger numbers (50,000-50,000,000). Just trust your intuition and body – there is a number there. Just say it. You may not know how you’ll reach those numbers, but that’s not the point. The most important thing to do is to pick the audience number that occurs to you and then work backwards to see how you would reach those numbers. That gap is good – it will stimulate your creativity.

Step 8. Package your vision.
People have to ‘buy’ your vision – whether it’s an idea, concept, product, service, company, approach, method, tool, invention, business, agency or skill set. Obviously, the positioning and packaging of your idea is key to its success. But by this time in the cycle, you already have a sense of what does work (thanks to the experimentation phase), so most of the time here is spent on scaling up what already has proven to work.

Step 9. Develop a plan and timeline.
At this stage, you are already in momentum, so the plan and timeline you develop will be a lot more accurate and realistic than if you tried to do this planning before you knew the market as intimately as you do now. Here are the elements of the plan to identify:
–The Team. Who will help you in this project?
–External Expertise. What information or experts do you need to advise and deliver?
–Cash. How much capital do you need to start? To fund your project annually?
–E-Systems. Do you need a website? Email newsletter? Internet marketing?
–Strategies. How will you position, market and create buzz for your vision/idea?

Step 10. Orient your life around your vision without losing touch with your life.
People used to “give it all up” for a cause or their business or an idea. They’d eat, drink, sleep, and breathe it until their life essentially disappeared into the vision. But this isn’t necessary today. Thanks to increased awareness, improved communication/networking technology, better understanding of stress and self-care, and overall smarter ways of living, the person with a vision CAN have it all – themselves, their life, their families and the vision. Nothing need get lost in the passion of the vision. Part of the coach’s job is to support the client to fully integrate the vision in with the client’s life so that it doesn’t ruin, but rather strengthens, the client’s life.

Copyright 1999 by Thomas J. Leonard.