50 Repetitions to Make a Habit Stick

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"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." — Bruce Lee

What if it’s not 7 days, or 21 days, or 30 days, or even 60 days to form a new habit?

What if it’s 50 repetitions?

Repetition Helps Habits Sink In

In my experience, it’s a combination of both – repetition + elapsed time.

I need repetition spread over a number of days.  This helps things sink in. 

I also find that daily repetition helps. 

It helps because I don’t have to wonder *if* I do it today, just *when* do I do it today.  It also helps because it keeps the feedback loop tighter and I can notice small improvements.

The other key for me is to focus on the small details of what I’m thinking, feeling, and doing, as I do it. 

This helps me really bake the new habit in, by making it deliberate and conscious.

Thinking, Feeling, and Action Habits

By thinking through the new habit, in terms of thinking, feeling, and actions, there’s an added advantage.   A sense of progress.   It also provides fine-grained feedback.  Habits are made up of many little thoughts, feelings, and actions.  Paying attention to the little changes in thoughts, feelings, and actions, helps me get a sense of progress, even if I haven’t fully formed the new habit yet.

And progress is your friend, no matter how small.

When you focus on all the little thoughts, feelings, and actions behind building a new habit, it gives you more scaffolding to hold your habit in place, and more levers to pull.

In the book, The Bliss Experiment: 28 Days to Personal Transformation, Sean Meshorer shares some research that says the magic number might be 50 repetitions to form a new habit.

21 Days, 30 Days, Sixty-Six Days, or 8 Months

What’s the magic number of days to adopt a habit?  

It varies. 

Meshorer writes:

“Studies vary in their findings, but virtually all agree that bad habits can be reversed relatively quickly.  The most optimistic report I’ve seen pegged it at twenty-one days. 

The worst-case scenario is eight months, but only for the most difficult habits in the worst situations.  A study of astronauts by NASA found that it took about thirty days.  Other quality studies have put the number at about sixty-six days.”

50 Repetitions Might Be the Key

Maybe the key is number of repetitions? 

Meshorer writes:

“Since habits are repeated behaviors, a better way to measure the formation of new habits might be via the number of repetitions.  A study in the journal Neuroscience suggested that new habits develop in as few as fifty repetitions. 

This may explain the time disparity in the above studies.  The faster we get to 50 repetitions, the faster the new habit is created.”

Well, practice does make perfect, so maybe the magic formula is conscious and deliberate repetition, while focusing on progress, no matter how small, and allowing things to bake in over time, as we learn and improve along the way.

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Image by Carla Januska.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Conscious and deliberate practice while focussing on small improvements is certainly how it works in music practice, and those small improvements make all that repetition worthwhile.
    Also, like the idea of not having to think about if you are going to do it, but just when.

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