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The Formula From Pythagoras To Chaos Theory

This article is an excerpt from a new book about collagen and habits, which you will find soon on our site!

“What is impressed in the subconscious is expressed.” – WILLIAM JAMES.

Want to know more about the formula? Have you wondered why people love shortcuts? Everywhere around us, we hear the word “formula” in different ways and with different meanings, but what is really “a formula”?

According to Merriam Webster (1), the first known use of formula as “Noun” was in 1618, in the meaning defined at the sense “a set form of words for use in a ceremony or ritual” and as “Adjective” was in 1951. 

As a Noun, we found on Merriam Webster the following definitions:

  • 1 a: a set form of words for use in a ceremony or ritual,
  • 1 b: a conventionalized statement intended to express some fundamental truth or principle, especially as a basis for negotiation or action,
  • 2a: recipe,  
  • 2b: prescription, 
  • 3a: a general fact, rule, or principle expressed in usually mathematical symbols,
  • 3b: a symbolic expression of the chemical composition or constitution of a substance,
  • 3c: a group of symbols (such as letters and numbers) associated with expressing facts or data (such as the number and kinds of teeth in the jaw) concisely,
  • 3d: a combination of signs in a logical calculus,
  • 4: a traditional or set form or method allowing little room for originality.

OK, I know what you’re thinking. What is the connection between collagen, health, beauty, and formula?

 “Our eyes only see, and our ears only hear what our brain is looking for.” – DAN SULLIVAN.

So, we have many meanings and many possible applications of THE FORMULA in daily life.

Check this out: in the History of humanity, we have a lot of examples of formulas that changed the world like Pythagoras Theorem and Logarithms (John Napler in 1610), The Law of Gravity by Newton, and The Square Root of Minus One (Euler in 1750), The Second Law of Thermodynamics (Boltzmann 1874) and The Relativity of Einstein, Schrodinger’s Equation in 1927 or Chaos Theory by May in 1975.

Do you see where we’re going with this? Why is THE FORMULA so crucial in our life? What is behind the “formulas attraction”?

Everywhere around us, people talk about “what formula you use?” or “what was the formula of your achievements?” or “we will give you a secret formula to make money easily and without risk” or “the secret formula to lose weight without effort or money”! In this way, everybody wants a specific formula to solve a particular problem as fast as possible and as cheap. But, it is not always “the secret formula” work, especially when concrete scientific proofs do not back it. 

THE FORMULA we want to give you is backed only by science and academic research and has seven steps. Why Seven Steps?

Because a survey launched by a British mathematics writer (2), Alex Bellos, has found that seven is the world’s favorite number. The writer suggested that the reason for seven’s popularity is its prevalence globally, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to seven days in a week.

“Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.” – TONY ROBBINS.

Let’s get this show on the road. The Acronym that is behind THE FORMULA, and of course backed by science, is:

• F = FIND what you want in a specific area of your life (but with a meaningful impact on your health and beauty),

• O = OPPORTUNITY for health and beauty (why this habit is an opportunity for your health and beauty and please provide yourself as many answers are possible), 

• R = REWARD on long term (respectively what are the exact benefits associated on a long time),

• M = MOVE to implement (what is the minor step now and here and with what you have already),  

• U = UN-FOLLOW bad habits,  

• L = LOVE the process (and give time for your new practice to develop automaticity),

• A = ADMIRE your results (and become The Expert).

I’ll walk you through the whole process, and I will be next to you in each step. About every topic, we will discuss it on the following pages.

Keep reading, and you’ll find out “How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science)”.

First of all: “The average modeled time to plateau in this sample was 66 days, but the range was from 18 to 254 days (3)”. If you read only the first part, you will think that you need “only” 66 days to install a new habit, and sometimes the wrong citations of conclusions from a scientific article could give us a lot of frustrations!

The “danger” of the half-true is sometimes more terrible than we could think! But, if you read all the words, you will understand that you need time to install a new habit, and it is vital to check every affirmation we hear and to check in reliable academic sources!

Let’s be honest. Habits are actions performed automatically, with little forethought or effort, which persist over time, and they form through repeated performance of an action in the same setting (4).  Most importantly, habits can be defined as psychological dispositions to repeat past behavior. They are acquired gradually as people repeatedly respond in a recurring context (e.g., performance settings, action sequences) (5,6).

Let me say this straight:

  • “They are acquired” = so we are not born with them,
  • “gradually” = not overnight,
  • “as people repeatedly” = we need repetition of the action,
  • “respond in a recurring context (e.g., performance settings, action sequences)” = we need a stable and recurrent context.

But remember this: contemporary accounts of habit converge upon three key elements:

  • History of action repetition in a 
  • Consistent cue context slowly results in the formation of a 
  • Cue-response association in memory. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is consensus that habits are acquired through the gradual strengthening of the association between a situation (cue) and an action, i.e., repetition of behavior in a consistent context progressively increases the automaticity with which the behavior is performed the situation is encountered (5,7). 

Think about it this way:

• Incremental means NOT overnight,

• We must have “a definition of cue and action” but strongly connected with a clear goal,

• Consistent context indicates stability, and respectively we don’t make habits in an unstable situation.

Think about this: how long does it take to form a habit? Individuals who want to acquire healthy habits or those who wish to promote behavior change (3). The answer might surprise you.

Here’s another way to think about it, and I will give you a new concept. “Automaticity” is evidenced by the behavior displaying some or all of the following features: efficiency, lack of awareness, unintentionality, and uncontrollability (8). 

But first, a warning: Verplanken’s findings have suggested that complex behaviors achieve lower levels of automaticity than simple behaviors (7). Automaticity strength peaked more quickly for simple actions (e.g., drinking water) than for more elaborate routines (e.g., doing 50 sit-ups) (4). 

Before we go any further, we will talk about unrealistic expectations becausethe duration of the habit formation process can lead the person to give up during the learning phase. Some persons may have heard that habits take 21 days to form. This myth appears to have originated from anecdotal evidence of patients who had received plastic surgery treatment and typically adjusted psychologically to their new appearance within 21 days (9). 

 “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” 

But here’s something exciting. More relevant research found that automaticity plateaued on average around 66 days after the first daily performance, although there was considerable variation across participants and behaviors (3).

Phillippa Lally is a health psychology researcher at University College London. In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Lally and her research team figured out how long it takes to form a habit. On average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days, to be exact.

And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit!

And the critical conclusion of the research was that repeating a behavior in response to a cue appeared to be enough for many people to develop automaticity for that behavior.

“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinions of himself than on the opinions of others.” – MARCUS AURELIUS.

In conclusion, new habits develop relatively slowly (e.g., range of time it took to characterize a frequently-performed behavior as “habit” in one study was 18-254 days) and require a specific set of circumstances be met that are conducive to habit formation (3, 10, 11).

The time (3) it took participants to reach automaticity ranged from 18 to 254 days, indicating considerable variation in how long it takes people to get their automaticity limit and highlighting that it can take a long time. 

Your life does not get better by chance; it gets better by change.” – JIM ROHN.

This is the point where we have the inflection. Want to know the best part? The change is possible for everybody, including YOU! What’s the magic formula? We will talk step by step about this.


1. “Formula.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jul. 2020.


3.Lally P, van Jaarsveld CHM, Potts HWW, Wardle J. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Euro J Soc Psychol 2010; 40:998-1009. 

4. Gardner, B., Lally, P., & Wardle, J. (2012) Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit- formation’ and general practice. British Journal of General Practice, 62, 664-666. 

5. Wood, W., & Neal, D. T. (2007). A new look at habits and the habit–goal interface. Psychological Review, 114, 843–863. 

6. Wood, W., & Neal, D. T. (2009). The habitual consumer. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 19(4), 579–592. 

7. Verplanken, B. (2006). Beyond frequency: Habit as a mental construct. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 639–656. 

8. Bargh, J. A. (1994). The four horsemen of automaticity: awareness, intention, efficiency, and control in social cognition. In R.S. Wyer, & T. K. Srull (Eds.), Handbook of social cognition: Vol 1 basic processes (pp. 1–40). Hove: Lawrence Erlbaun Associates Publishers. 

9. Maltz M. Psycho-cybernetics. New York: Prentice Hall; 1960.

10. Gardner, B., & Lally, P. (2018). Modelling habit formation and its determinants. In: B. Verplanken (Ed.), The Psychology of habit (pp. 207-228). 

11. Lally, P., Gardner, B. (2013). Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review, 7(sup1), S137-S158.

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