Even More Practice to Make Perfect

I’ve always been told that it takes 21 days to form a habit. If there’s something you want to learn or a behavior you’d like to develop, give it 21 solid days and it should become second nature by then. New information tells us to throw that number out the window. Recent studies by the Medical Research Council indicate the new magic number is 66. Their research has shown that it actually takes us more than three times as long to learn to do something automatically.

According to Professor Jane Wardle, of University College London, “What we found was that it takes 66 days on average for people in our study to acquire a habit.” Though the studies varied between individuals, they were able to determine that if you do something every day for 66 days, in the same situation, it will become automatic.

Also, “performing an action for the first time requires planning, even if plans are formed only moments before the action is performed, and attention. As behaviors are repeated in consistent settings they then begin to proceed more efficiently and with less thought as control of the behavior transfers to cues in the environment that activate an automatic response – a habit.”

What does this mean for pool? Well, depending on what your personal goals are, you may want to consider this information the next time you decide to take the day off from practice.

If you’re a beginner, learning a new shot, or changing your mechanics and you do not have 66 straight days to spare in the pool room, it will now take even longer to learn this game. If you’re only committing 2-3 days a week to your training, it could take in excess of six months before changes become automatic to you. And who has that kind of time and patience?

If regular practice wasn’t important enough before, we are now reminded of just how detrimental the lack of it can be to our progress. An hour a day keeps the misses away. Even if you only have an hour or less, put in the time and continue to develop that muscle memory.