I recently rescued a dog from the Humane Society. Peanut might have appeared more like a loofa than a dog, but he was just pathetic looking enough that I had to have him. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Three days after bringing Peanut home, I gushed to a veterinarian friend about how easy life with him was and how all he seemed to do was sleep with me and gaze at me adoringly. “Six days, six weeks, six months,” she said. “Call me after you’ve had him for half-a-year.”

So how do you get over the hump? Plan to fail.  Tweet This Quote

Six weeks later—while cleaning up vomit after Peanut had eaten a bag of chocolate kisses, foil and
all—I not only saw the truth of the six-day, six week-, six-month rule but realized that it applies to other life changes. Whether you’re adopting an exercise program or or trying to eat better or, yes, launching a company, the first few days are an exhilarating rush. Then, about six weeks in, the excitement that has sustained your new behaviors starts to wane before the habits have really set in. And before long you’re fighting your dog for a bag of chocolate.

There’s no avoiding this, but being aware of it will help you get through those initial hurdles. There’s actually good research on this. Fifty percent of people who start an exercise program will drop out by six weeks. Yet six weeks is just about the time we start seeing positive results of new behaviors. Stick with it, and those behaviors will become part of who you are.

So how do you get over the hump? Plan to fail. My path to better health has been a series of short-term failures, tweaks, then long-term successes. I don’t approach any new behavior as an all-or-nothing proposition. Rarely do things turn out exactly as planned, and if you get bogged down in a quest for perfection, you’ll see only a string of failures rather than a series of real—if imperfect—improvements.

Peanut still sleeps by my side, but he also barks like a fire alarm every time a leaf blows across the lawn, and he eats more socks than dog food. Were I to measure our time together in noise and vomit, I’d be pretty frustrated. But when I look at where I am now compared to where I was six months ago, my life is absolutely better.

The heart wants what the heart wants. It just takes about six months to figure it out.

Ann Garvin

Author Ann Garvin

Ann is an author, speaker and educator. As professor of health, stress management, research methods and media literacy at University of Wisconsin Whitewater, she has worked extensively in psychometrics, statistics and psychology. Ann is the author of On Maggie’s Watch & The Dog Year (Berkley Penguin, 2014).

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