Living With Intention

Six 21-Day Challenges I’ve Taken On To Break My Bad Habits

By | Saturday, January 16, 2021

For the month of January, we’re exploring how to live with intention — how the small choices we make every day impact our lives and happiness in the long run. Click here to read more on this topic!

In 2019, a fact I came across defined much of my year: research has shown that it takes 21 days to build a new habit (and the same amount of time to break a bad one). Unlike previous goal-setting methods, this fact propelled me to aim high, but also recognize that if I was unable to build a habit within three weeks, that goal was likely unrealistic for me. As such, when I attempted this in 2019, I would attempt multiple different resolutions over the course of the year and after 21 days, I’d either abandon my goal or I’d add another resolution to a successful one, building a series of positive habits.

This year, I encourage TFD readers to do the same: take 21 days to build a new habit for 2021. In 2019, I was pleasantly surprised by what I was able to achieve, such as consistently beginning to work out five days a week, meal-prepping my weekday lunches, making my bed every morning, and identifying a realistic budget. I also attempted several resolutions I was unable to keep, however, from eating a salad a week to walking ten thousand steps a day to reducing the number of Ubers I took. Still, despite these disappointments, I still came away from the year with new resolutions—many of which I kept in 2020 (until the pandemic truly interrupted my routine). Moreover, since the idea is to attempt to build a habit by persistently sticking to an activity for 21 days, I can push myself to aim high and think of loftier goals since, if I “fail”, in 21 days I can modify it and make it more realistic. As such, I’m hoping to use the same method with success this year, too. 

Here are some of the habits I hope to form in 21 days over the course of 2021: 

1. Floss Twice A Day:

This is embarrassing to admit, but, I often forget to floss twice a day. I’m quite consistent about flossing at night, but in the morning I’m usually in such a rush that I forgo the flossing. But let’s see if 2021 is the year I can confidently walk into my dentist’s office!

2.Work Out 3x A Week:

I’ve gone back-and-forth on my workout routine in 2020, either being extremely consistent or completely forgoing my workouts for weeks. As such, I’m hoping to strike a balance and aim to exercise three times a week in 2021. While I’d love to resume my pre-pandemic five days a week routine, it just doesn’t seem as realistic and even 3x a week will be a challenge for me, at present. 

3. Cook 9-12 Meals A Week:

This is another more realistic goal, that I also know I’ll find challenging since I’ve genuinely relied on takeout or ramen this past year. As with other aspects of my pandemic routine, there were weeks where I cooked significantly and others where I didn’t prioritize that. But I’m hoping to reach a happy medium in 2021 and embrace the love of cooking that I discovered at some point during the pandemic. 

4. Get Out Of The House Every Day:

Again, a goal that wouldn’t have been difficult pre-pandemic but has felt increasingly tough in the winter. Still, I hope to get out of my apartment every day this year, even if it’s just to climb up to my rooftop or do the shortest loop around my block. The fresh air and sunshine have been incredible for my mental health and I want to push myself to form this habit, this year. 

5. Meditate 3x A Week:

I’ve slowly gotten into meditating, in 2020, but I’ve considered it a win if I’ve managed to meditate once a week. While I strongly suspect I won’t be able to meditate thrice a week from the get-go, I hope to be able to modify this goal throughout the year so that meditation is more strongly embedded in my routine than it is, now. 

6. Pick Up A New Hobby:

This is broad, but I’ve become a tad bit jealous of the number of hobbies people perfected during the quarantine. While I certainly have continued to bake, and honed my cooking skills to the point where I have a handful of dishes I feel comfortable serving to guests, I still lack a creative or artistic hobby. My hobbies right now revolve around reading or watching TV but I want to learn a few new skills, whether it be pottery or needlepoint. I hope to give a few different hobbies a try for 21 days in an effort to build them into my routine. 


Ultimately, these six goals are likely to be modified throughout the year. If all goes well, I’ll have at least these six new goals built into my routine. And, even if my first attempts don’t succeed, with six goals I have an extra month to attempt to modify my goals and make more realistic habits fit into my routine. I’ve used this method with success in the past and I hope it will make for a more structured 2021. What are new habits you’re hoping to learn, this year? 


Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.

Image via Unsplash

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