Why does regular repetition become a habit?

Why does regular repetition become a habit?

Humans have the tendency to develop habits. Habits of an individual can be different, same, or unique.

Some have a habit of talking too much (chatty), drawing a box around the answer of mathematical problem, etc.

Why does regular repetition become automatic or habitual?

Here are some excerpts from Wikipedia you might find helpful for the (somewhat too-) general question:

A habit… tends to occur subconsciously.[(Butler & Hope, 1995)]… [Andrews (1903)]… defined [habits as]: "… acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience." Habitual behavior often goes unnoticed in persons exhibiting it, because a person does not need to engage in self-analysis when undertaking routine tasks. Habits are sometimes compulsory… Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form because the behavioural patterns we repeat are imprinted in our neural pathways… but it is possible to form new habits through repetition [(Rosenthal / Psychology Today)].

As behaviors are repeated in a consistent context, there is an incremental increase in the link between the context and the action. This increases the automaticity of the behavior in that context [(Wood & Neal, 2007)]…

Habit formation can be slow. Lally[, Van Jaarsveld, Potts, and Wardle] (2010) found the average time for participants to reach the asymptote of automaticity was 66 days with a range of 18-254 days…


Andrews, B. R. (1908). Habit. American Journal of Psychology, 14(2), 121-149. Available online, URL:

Butler, G., & Hope, T. (1995). Managing your mind: The mental fitness guide. Oxford Paperbacks.

Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C. H., Potts, H. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998-1009.

Wood, W., & Neal, D. T. (2007). A new look at habits and the habit-goal interface. Psychological Review, 114(4), 843-863. Available online, URL:

Why do often repeated behaviors become automatic?

=> Because that is efficient.

Human behavior is often modelled in a dual process theory:

  1. if possible, act without thinking
  2. only if necessary, carefully consider the situation at hand and think about the best reaction

If you do the same thing over and over again, then obviously it is either the best possible or a sufficient reaction to the situation in which it occurs. To free some of the limited and valuable cognitive capacity, that behavior becomes automatic. Only if the situation is different and the habitual behavior does not properly fit, will you have to think.

The best known dual process theories are


The American Journal of Psychology (1903) defined a "habit, from the standpoint of psychology, [as] a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience." [4] Habitual behavior often goes unnoticed in persons exhibiting it, because a person does not need to engage in self-analysis when undertaking routine tasks. Habits are sometimes compulsory. [3] [5] A 2002 daily experience study by habit researcher Wendy Wood and her colleagues found that approximately 43% of daily behaviors are performed out of habit. [6] New behaviours can become automatic through the process of habit formation. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form because the behavioural patterns which humans repeat become imprinted in neural pathways, [7] but it is possible to form new habits through repetition. [8]

When behaviors are repeated in a consistent context, there is an incremental increase in the link between the context and the action. This increases the automaticity of the behavior in that context. [9] Features of an automatic behavior are all or some of: efficiency lack of awareness unintentionality and uncontrollability. [10]

Turn an average customer into a loyal customer with basic psychology principles

The benefits of having loyal customers are obvious – slightly less obvious is what business owners can and should do to turn an average customer into a loyal one. What aspects of human psychology should be evaluated when considering your potential loyalty programs? What types of rewards should be offered and how should they be structured to maximize the likelihood of getting a customer to return and minimize the time in which they do it?

1. Use repetition to become a part of your customers’ regular routine

One of the biggest reasons loyalty programs work is that we humans are creatures of habit. We enjoy routines and at our core, like repetition. Your goal as a business owner should be to establish yourself as a part of your customers’ routines, so coming into your business and purchasing items becomes habitual. This is obviously a bit easier for certain businesses (i.e., people are much more likely to develop a weekly or possibly daily habit of coming by your coffee shop or bar than they will your tire shop or accounting firm), but the concept remains the same.

Business owners hundreds of years ago realized that the best way to engrain their wares into our daily/weekly/monthly routine was to reward customers for repeat behavior and purchases. The customer earns valuable rewards for repetition, and this repetition soon turns into habit… as long as the rewards earned are compelling.

2. Offer enticing rewards that are worth it, for your customer and your business

This is a crucial part of any successful loyalty program – the rewards proffered to your loyal customers have to be worth their time and more importantly, their money. When putting together your rewards program, try to constantly draw the line between truly enticing rewards and ones that make good financial sense for you to give out.

Too luxurious of a reward might draw in tons of people to enroll, but it may actually cost you too much if everyone quickly reaches the top-tier prize levels. If you go too chintzy with your rewards, it won’t be worth it for your customers. Ithaca College consumer psychologist Michael McCall suggests used the example of a coffee shop implementing a buy-nine-cups-get-the-tenth-cup-free program:

I am going to buy that 10th cup anyway, so the fact that I get it free is nice but all you are doing is giving me 10% of your product free. That’s great for the consumer, but for the retailer that may not be so smart. There may be other rewards you can give that don’t cut into a purchase I would make anyway.

A popular option that gets around this predicament is to partner with another business to offer their goods or services as a reward – you can acquire them at a substantially reduced cost (possibly free) in exchange for promoting them in-store, or possibly by offering YOUR goods or services to THEIR rewards program.

3. Use a point system to make earning rewards seem easier on the wallet

What about a points system? They have become more and more popular over the years, especially with credit card companies, and for good reason. Not only does a proprietary points system allow you to set up your own parameters and currency ($X spent earns you Y points), but it’s a perfect scenario to partner with other businesses and retailers, as mentioned before. Setting up an online page where customers can redeem their points, for example, is a great means of advertising the products that are up for grabs – you can offer up products from partners at an even further discounted rate in exchange for highlighting or feature them on the site.

Casino chips are easier to spend than real money, think of earning points the same way

When setting up a points system though, think about what you want the value of the points to be, in real-world dollars. There has been a lot thought put into changing currency from dollars to a proprietary system, and how that psychologically affects how we perceive value. It’s a big reason why casinos mandate that you use chips instead of dollar bills (seeing a $100 bill on the table makes you concretely understand what you’re wagering, whereas a black plastic chip is a bit different) and a big reason why Microsoft uses Microsoft Points instead of dollars and sense for all of its Xbox LIVE Marketplace transactions.

You can earn one OR ten points for your purchase. Which sounds better?

“Who thinks more is better than less?” Like the little girl in the funny AT&T commercial puts it, “We want more!”

study that offered two groups of consumers two different loyalty programs – each group would receive the same $6 discount after spending $100, but one group received 10 points for each dollar spent and the other received 1 point for each dollar spent. Even though both groups would receive the exact same reward, the group that accumulated more points to reach that reward felt they were getting a better deal.

According to the press release about the study published in the University of Chicago Press:

‘Consumers are cognitive misers and do not do the necessary calculations to assess redemption costs. Instead, they use step-sizes to form impressions,’ the authors write. If step-sizes are large, the reward appears attainable as the progress-rate appears high (10 points/dollar). Because of the giant step-sizes, perceptions of those closer to the reward do not differ from those farther away. However, when step-sizes are smaller (1 point/dollar), those close to the reward believe that they have made a lot of progress, given the baby steps, relative to those farther away.

4. Create balanced rewards that benefit both frequent and high spending customers

Another aspect to consider when implementing your rewards program is how to target your most profitable customers. If you owned and operated a casino, which would be more valuable to you: someone that comes in 3-4 times per week and plays $10-$20 on nickel and penny slots while consuming free drinks and snacks, or someone that comes in once or twice per year and plays high-limit table games and slots for days at a time and eats meals at your finest restaurants? The obvious answer would be the second person, the “high roller”, but the way many loyalty programs are set up, the first person may very well receive more points/rewards.

Take into consideration not only how often someone comes through your doors, but how much total money they spend in a given year. Even if our “high roller” gambles less in two days than the first person does throughout the course of the year, he or she is more likely to spend money elsewhere at the casino (restaurants, bars, gift shops, activities, etc.). Drawing a balance between frequency of visit rewards and money spent rewards is key as it provides a benefit to all of your customer types – just try to keep overall revenue generated per customer in mind when establishing your program and reward tiers.

The Essential Psychology Of Habits

Aristotle said it first, and it’s been true ever since:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Your life, your work, your happiness—it’ll all be determined by the good habits you build and the bad ones you eliminate along the way. If you want to make regular progress to become a better, stronger, smarter person and improve your daily performance, focusing on the little automatic actions you take will yield the biggest results.

But habits are hard. Really hard. When you know the science behind how they’re created, maintained, and eliminated, creating good ones and removing bad ones gets a little bit easier.

Here are 10 articles you should read and adhere to if you want the best chance to create good, long-lasting habits in your life.

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“I’ve taken so many ‘stupid risks’ in my life. I love your smart, success-focused version of them. – Jason Fonceca, Toronto

One reason new habits are so hard is that, when you start, it’s hard to know what to do. You worry about saving money if it’s expensive. You worry about saving time if it’s complicated. You worry about saving energy if it’s labor intensive. What you should really worry about, though, is simply doing it over and over again regardless of the cost. You can optimize those other things once you’ve succeeded.

Success, like money, compounds when used wisely. The more of it you have, the easier it is to keep it growing. So, it makes sense to use the habits you’ve already succeeded at to jumpstart new ones. The “habit ladder” is a formula I created to explain how to easily add new habits to your routine. I also really like the drawing that illustrates it.

This piece is focused on diet, but the underlying principle is powerful: You fail at your habits when you expect too much from yourself too soon. This article is all about how to set yourself up for success with a new habit by making room for failures along the way.

If you think you don’t have time to build a healthy habit, the truth is you probably don’t have time not to. Exercise doesn’t just strengthen your body, it sharpens your mind. And the boost you get from it can carry you through an entire day. Read this if you want to learn how to get healthy and be more productive.

Once a habit is set, it’s hard to break. That’s fantastic for keeping up good ones, but it’s terrible for breaking bad ones. In this article, learn one, small action you can take that will put you in control of your bad habits and help you break them faster.

One of the most powerful influences on your behavior (that you don’t even realize) is your environment. When you’re in a familiar space, studies show your brain and body go into autopilot and there isn’t a lot you can do about it. If you want to build a new habit or break a bad one, just getting yourself out of your familiar space can help tremendously. Why do you suppose it’s called a “habit-at” after all?

If you’ve ever said, “I need to exercise more,” you’re in good company. But the people who actually do it and stick with it are a much smaller group. What sets them apart? Motivation, and it can come from two places. If you focus on the right one, nothing can stop you. If you don’t, nothing can help you.

Another major barrier to building habits for long-term success is information overload. When you know everything about two choices, you’ll normally pick the one that pays off the fastest. If you want to make choices that will benefit you for a long time, you’re actually better off making decisions on incomplete information.

Motivation is the key to success in almost anything. So why do we spend so much time fighting to do things we’re not motivated to? If you want to build a lasting habit, try this method for creating it around the things you’re truly motivated to work on.

Every day you make a series of choices. What to eat for breakfast. When to prioritize your work. What route to take home from the office. All of these choices add up to make your life. Are you making the ones that put you in charge? Are you leading your life or is life leading you?

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“I’ve taken so many ‘stupid risks’ in my life. I love your smart, success-focused version of them. – Jason Fonceca, Toronto

The Foundation of Acquiring a Habit

At its very core, habits are routine, automatic, and sequential movements of our bodies. After all, all of our “habits” that we seek to create involve some form of movement of the body—whether it is writing, reading, eating, or exercising. The brain likes to take a sequence of actions and convert them into an automatic routine, where it goes into the unconscious portion of the brain. For instance, brushing your teeth is a sequence of complicated motor skills that you do everyday without consciously thinking about each step. The habit of brushing your teeth is a learned one, just like any other habit. The act of brushing your teeth every morning was made into a routine when you were a child. And as it was done repeatedly, it became automated.

This automation and the automation of many other habitual activities, is stored in the basal ganglia of your brain. The basal ganglia, located in the telencephalon region of the brain, plays an important role in the development of emotions, memories and pattern recognition. More than that, basal ganglia also play an important role in movement control, cognition, and reward-based learning.

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How easy or hard it is to form a habit really depends on the “achievability” of the habit and the person’s personality. For those who have great prospective memory (the ability to remember to do things in the future) or those who are able to establish routines easily, creating habits come easier. For those that are impulsive or are not used to having routines, establishing habits will be harder. In addition, those who will try to create one habit at a time will have an easier time. So if you are finding that it has been a few weeks and it is still extremely hard to create a habit, it is not because you have no will—it is because the habit has not had enough time to become ingrained in your brain yet. To most people, habits aren’t created in a month. In actuality, it takes a little over two months to create habit, according to the study referenced above. But once a habit is formed, the action will become automatic and second-nature. But until then, you will have to consciously try to repeat the action everyday.

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Predicting habit: The case of physical exercise ☆

Habit has been an undervalued concept in the behavioral sciences during the past few decades. One reason may be that habit has been equated with behavioral frequency. This leaves out an important characteristic of habits, i.e., the fact that repeated behavior may acquire a degree of automaticity. The present study aimed to demonstrate that exercising habit can be reliably measured, can empirically be distinguished from past frequency of exercising, and can thus be adopted as a meaningful criterion.

Design and methods

A longitudinal study was conducted with two measurements one month apart among 111 students. Intentions to exercise, perceived behavioral control of exercising, past exercising frequency, and exercising habit were assessed at both measurements through an internet-based questionnaire. Exercising habit was assessed by the Self-Report Habit Index [Verplanken & Orbell (2003). Reflections on past behaviour: A self-report index of habit strength. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33, 1313–1330]), which breaks down the habit concept in the subjective experience of repetition and automaticity.


The results showed that exercising habit can be reliably measured, is stable over time, and can be distinguished from mere exercising frequency.


In addition to frequency of behavior, measuring habit provides information about the way behavior is executed. An important element of exercising behavior is the decision to go exercise. It is argued that the habit concept is therefore particularly relevant for the initiation of and adherence to exercising. Implications of distinguishing behavioral frequency and habit for interventions are discussed.

10 Study Habits Every Successful Student Should Follow

Ten study habits every successful student should follows: 1. Will to learn, 2. Clarity of purpose/goal, 3. Planning the learning periods, 4. How to read text, 5. Make profit from lectures, 6. Make use of charts, 7. Follow economic methods, 8. Need for proper physical surroundings, 9. Rest, 10. Avoid drugs and alcohol.

Success of any student depends upon good study habits adopted by that student.

Though other factors like motivation, intelligence, aptitude, attitudes, learning abilities, etc. are important and essential, to make proper use of these abilities, the following study habits are considered to be beneficial.

This is the most important aspect. The learner should have strong will to learn. If there is a will, there will be motivation and interest. The student will have attention and concentration and will make sincere efforts. Even adverse environmental conditions like cold, heat, noise, etc. can overcome with learner’s willpower.

2. Clarity of purpose/goal:

If the student knows the purpose of study, then he/she can focus on the learning and the study will be goal directed. Goal sets our mind to attain and achieve.

3. Planning the learning periods:

The student should spread the learning periods over the entire semester or academic year. Develop regular habits to study before and after the classes, morning and night. Study at regular hours.

Start reading from the beginning of the year or course without unnecessary postponement. Remember that good beginning is half done. Keep all the required learning materials ready before starting to read, so that distraction of mind may be avoided.

4. How to read text/notes:

Do not read the text or notes casually like a newspaper/magazine, where there will not be any intention to learn and remember. While reading any lesson, think about the meaning and significance of that lesson.

The student should develop the habit of using dictionary to know the meaning of words and concepts. Get clarifications for doubts. Try to understand the formulae, laws, concepts, diagrams, etc. Make meaningful notes and outlines and underline the headlines and other important points.

Read until you become perfect (over learning). Read 45 to 50 minutes in one stretch. Change the subject to avoid monotony. How a student reads is more important than how many times he/she reads. Logical learning helps for assimilation of ideas and in turn for better retention. Do not feel shy or hesitate to clarify doubts with teachers /friends /experts.

Follow SQ4R method of reading:

This method was developed by Thomas and Robinson (1972). In this technique the learner’s are taught to develop a systematic approach to study. This method includes the following steps:

After making a survey of the entire material, the learner should ask and list out questions like why, what, when and how concerning the material he is going to study.

Keep the mind active and read the lesson to find answers to questions raised in second step.

The learnt material should be made meaningful by organising the facts, relating them with previous knowledge, comparing and correlating them with latest facts.

The learnt lessons should be remembered through recitation and recall. Recitation is a rehearsal or repetition of lessons and recalls them by closing the book. If the student cannot recall any point, open the book and read again.

Reviewing is the process of asking questions about the learnt materials, get answers, read, recite and remember at regular intervals. This is nothing but a checking process.

5. Make profit from lectures:

As far as possible the students should try to sit in the class in front benches to avoid distraction of mind. Pay attention to lectures. Take down notes and outlines while listening, to keep attentive and alert. Note down the questions and doubts that arise during lecture and get clarifications immediately. Review the class notes on the same day. The students should not miss classes.

6. Make use of charts, maps, OHP and other audiovisual aids to use more senses like vision and audition for better grasping.

7. Follow economic methods like spaced method in between reading, whole method if the lesson is short, and part method if it is lengthy, along with recitation and reviewing.

8. Need for proper physical surroundings:

Select clean and quiet place for study. A comfortable chair and a table can be used, but placed away from window. Avoid use of bed, sofa and easy chair while reading. Avoid TV, radio, chatting, etc., as they lead to distraction. There must be sufficient light and ventilation.

9. Rest, recreation, sleep, exercise, yoga, good nutrition are essential for good health. Avoid shocks, stress and anxiety while reading. Peace of mind is essential for study.

10. Avoid drugs and alcohol, because they cause damaging effect on learning and memory.

What to Do

If you are or someone you love is struggling with changing habits of dieting, purging, binge eating, or compelled exercise, there are things that can help break these destructive habits.

Adjust Your Attitude

Habits are hard to break, but any repeated action may become a habit this applies equally to actions that align with healing and recovery from eating disorders and disordered eating. Instead of viewing attempts to enact desired change as “failed” or “never going to change,” recognize that the habit part of your brain might be really strong.

Keep Trying

Use your ability to form a strong habit as a benefit. Keep practicing new, more desired, potential habits. For ideas about how to change behaviors, learn more about delays and alternatives. Distracting yourself or engaging in alternative activities is one way to start making a change in your habits.

Remember That It Isn't Easy

This doesn't mean that creating new or breaking old habits—especially those related to eating disorders or disordered eating—are simple tasks. Instead, we are looking at the brain’s powerful role when it hijacks choice and shifts something to habit, often without the person’s permission or awareness.

Be Patient

There is no hard and steadfast rule on how long forming a new habit—for example, one that aligns with healing and recovery from eating disorders and disordered eating—can take.

One study found that it took participants between 18 and 254 days for new behaviors to become automatic habits.  

So be patient with yourself and understand that this is something that will take time. It won't be a sudden change, but you will start to notice improvements the longer you keep working toward your goal.

Get Help

Anyone who is engaged in eating disorder-related behaviors is strongly encouraged to seek professional guidance for support, techniques, safety, and oversight while trying to break these difficult and sometimes dangerous habits. People’s bodies handle stress differently, and there can be serious mental and physical health consequences from what can seem like benign dieting, purging, binge eating, and exercise habits.

A Word From Verywell

Please note that eating disorders are complex psychological illnesses that often come with physical consequences and cannot be oversimplified as habits. Viewing related behaviors through the lens of habit is a way to better understand the automaticity of some eating disorder-related behaviors that people have a hard time decreasing or stopping.

How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science)

Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 1950s when he began noticing a strange pattern among his patients.

When Dr. Maltz would perform an operation -- like a nose job, for example -- he found that it would take the patient about 21 days to get used to seeing their new face. Similarly, when a patient had an arm or a leg amputated, Maltz noticed that the patient would sense a phantom limb for about 21 days before adjusting to the new situation.

These experiences prompted Maltz to think about his own adjustment period to changes and new behaviors, and he noticed that it also took himself about 21 days to form a new habit. Maltz wrote about these experiences and said, "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."

In 1960, Maltz published that quote and his other thoughts on behavior change in a book called Psycho-Cybernetics. The book went on to become an blockbuster hit, selling more than 30 million copies.

And that's when the problem started.

You see, in the decades that followed, Maltz's work influenced nearly every major "self-help" professional from Zig Ziglar to Brian Tracy to Tony Robbins. And as more people recited Maltz's story -- like a very long game of "Telephone" -- people began to forget that he said "a minimum of about 21 days" and shortened it to: "It takes 21 days to form a new habit."

And that's how society started spreading the common myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit (or 30 days or some other magic number). It's remarkable how often these timelines are quoted as statistical facts. Dangerous lesson: If enough people say something enough times, then everyone else starts to believe it.

It makes sense why the "21 Days" myth would spread. It's easy to understand. The time frame is short enough to be inspiring, but long enough to be believable. And who wouldn't like the idea of changing your life in just three weeks?

But the problem is that Maltz was simply observing what was going on around him and wasn't making a statement of fact. Furthermore, he made sure to say that this was the minimum amount of time needed to adapt to a new change.

So what's the real answer? How long does it actually take to form a new habit? Is there any science to back this up? And what does all of this mean for you and me?

How Long it Really Takes to Build a New Habit
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 decided to figure out just how long it actually takes to form a habit.

The study examined the habits of 96 people over a 12-week period. Each person chose one new habit for the 12 weeks and reported each day on whether or not they did the behavior and how automatic the behavior felt.

Some people chose simple habits like "drinking a bottle of water with lunch." Others chose more difficult tasks like "running for 15 minutes before dinner." At the end of the 12 weeks, the researchers analyzed the data to determine how long it took each person to go from starting a new behavior to automatically doing it.

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. [1]

In other words, if you want to set your expectations appropriately, the truth is that it will probably take you anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behavior into your life -- not 21 days.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that "missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process." In other words, it doesn't matter if you mess up every now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process.

Finding Inspiration in the Long Road
Before you let this dishearten you, let's talk about three reasons why this research is actually inspiring.

First, there is no reason to get down on yourself if you try something for a few weeks and it doesn't become a habit. It's supposed to take longer than that! There is no need to judge yourself if you can't master a behavior in 21 short days. Learn to love your "10 Years of Silence." Embrace the long, slow walk to greatness and focus on putting in your reps.

Second, you don't have to be perfect. Making a mistake once or twice has no measurable impact on your long-term habits. This is why you should treat failure like a scientist, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and develop strategies for getting back on track quickly.

And third, embracing longer timelines can help us realize that habits are a process and not an event. All of the "21 Days" hype can make it really easy to think, "Oh, I'll just do this and it'll be done." But habits never work that way. You have to embrace the process. You have to commit to the system.

Understanding this from the beginning makes it easier to manage your expectations and commit to making small, incremental improvements -- rather than pressuring yourself into thinking that you have to do it all at once.

Where to Go From Here
At the end of the day, how long it takes to form a particular habit doesn't really matter that much. Whether it takes 50 days or 500 days, you have to put in the work either way.

The only way to get to Day 500 is to start with Day 1. So forget about the number and focus on doing the work.

Does repetition really work?

If you haven’t already convinced yourself through years of using repetition yourself, don’t worry – science has proven repetition to be an effective method of boosting memory.

The University of Texas hosted a study on repetition. In this study, subjects were instructed to use repetition to commit things to memory. The study observed several of the most important regions of our brains in regards to memory.

The group that was using repetition consistently showed improvement in many areas of the brain. This is probably because of the new neural pathways that are strengthened during the use of repetition.

Connections that are repeatedly used not only become stronger, but they become more durable. This means that they are less likely to fall into disuse, even after long periods of time. This particular fact is very useful for long-term memory recall. If you strengthen your neural pathways to the point that they don’t degrade, you’ll have a much easier time recalling information – even from a long time ago.

Learning new things can help you remember old things, as we’ve mentioned, through assimilation. This means that one of the keys to developing and maintaining a healthy memory is to continue learning as much as you can.

Not only should you learn about things you’re interested in, but you should study a variety of topics. Learn abstract ideas. Associating new or abstract things to what you already know forces your brain to build strong new pathways to relate these ideas, and this improves not just your memory but your general cognitive function.

This works because it expands your sphere of reference. If you learn something new and only have one idea to relate it to, you can imagine it as if there were only one connection built to that idea. Learning more and more things, and building more and more connections, allows you to pull things out of your long-term memory more easily.

Habit Formation: The 21-Day Myth

The habits of highly successful people allow them to consistently perform behaviors that breed success. Everything from eating well to responsible spending to task completion and beyond requires habits that make such behaviors part of our daily life. Michael Jordan spent his off seasons taking hundreds of jump shots a day. Cy Young award-winning Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay routinely does a 90-minute workout before practices. The young Venus and Serena Williams would wake up at 6:00 am to hit tennis balls before school. Highly successful people have learned to develop good habits, and it takes discipline, courage and hard work on a daily basis to keep those habits in place. It makes perfect sense to adopt habits that will facilitate success, yet, why are some so difficult to adopt?

Most people believe that habits are formed by completing a task for 21 days in a row. Twenty-one days of task completion, then voila, a habit is formed. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. The 21-day myth began as a misinterpretation of Dr. Maxwell Maltz’s work on self-image. Maltz did not find that 21 days of task completion forms a habit. People wanted it to be true so much so, however, that the idea began to grow in popularity.

Tom Bartow, who successfully started advanced training for Edward Jones and has since become a highly sought after business coach, developed the following model of what habit formation really looks like:

The 3 phases of habit formation:


This phase of habit formation is characterized by the feeling of “this is easy.” As all married people will tell you, at some point even the greatest honeymoon must end. The honeymoon phase is usually the result of something inspiring. For example, a person attends a highly motivational conference, and for the first few days after the conference the individual is making positive changes in his or her life.


Inspiration fades and reality sets in. A person finds himself struggling with the positive habit completion and old habits seem to be right around the corner. The key to moving to the third phase of habit formation is to win 2 or 3 “fight thru’s.” This is critical. To win the fight thru, use the following techniques:

  1. RECOGNIZE: Recognition is essential for winning the fight thru. When you have entered the fight through, simply say to yourself, “I have entered the fight thru, and I need to win a few to move past this.” Winning each fight thru will make it easier to win the next. Conversely, when you choose to lose a fight thru, you make it easier to lose the next one.
  2. ASK 2 QUESTIONS: “How will I feel if I do this?” and “How will I feel if I don’t do this?” Bring EMOTION into the equation. Let yourself feel the positive in winning the fight thru and the negative in losing.
  3. LIFE PROJECTION: If the above 2 techniques haven’t moved you to action, then imagine in great detail how your life will be in 5 years if you do not begin making changes. Be totally honest with yourself, and allow yourself to feel what life will be like if the changes are not made.


Entering second nature is often described by feelings of “getting in the groove.” Once in second nature, the following are 3 common interruptions that will send a person back to the fight thru:

  1. THE DISCOURAGEMENT MONSTER: An individual allows negative results discourage him or her into thinking, “This isn’t working, and there is nothing I can do.”
  2. DISRUPTIONS: An individual experiences significant change to his or her current pattern (e.g., vacations, holidays, illness, weekends).
  3. SEDUCTION OF SUCCESS: An individual begins to focus on positive results and begins to think, “I’m the special one. I have finally figured out how to have great results with not so great process.”

If a person experiences an interruption that sends him or her back to the fight thru, winning 2 or 3 fight thru’s will bring him or her back to second nature.

Most people want positive habits to be as easy as brushing their teeth. HELLO…LET’S BE ADULTS HERE…being great isn’t easy. In fact greatness requires sacrifice. It requires doing things that others won’t or can’t do. GREAT HABITS ARE FORMED DAILY. Truth be told, good habits require consistent commitment. Highly successful people have learned to develop good habits. Make the commitment to make it past the fight thru, no matter how many times you go back to it, to reach new levels of success.