Published: February 12, 2018
Updated: March 24, 2021
February 12, 2018
The subtle power of repetitionWhat if I told you there was a single tool or habit you could employ in nearly every area of your life to help you reach your goals, big and small. Would you want to know it? And would you do it?
One of the guiding principles of my methods as a therapist is the power of repetition. If you repeat anything often enough, whether it’s good or bad, you can instill it into your mind. Most people, unaware of this power, repeat negative or unhelpful things, whether that’s critical self-talk, bad eating habits, or comparing themselves to others. Each day, as they do those things, they don’t see the effect that repetition is unwittingly having on their lives. But the good news is that the flipside is true too. The power of repetition can unknowingly work in your favor—provided you repeat the right actions in your daily life.
That tool you can use to change your life in so many ways is repetition. So many things we try—whether it be a new blog, a new diet, a new exercise regime—fail because we stop doing them. This seems incredibly simplistic, but it’s worth noting that there is evidence to back up the idea that the more you repeat something, the more likely it is that you’ll be doing that thing in one, two, or ten years down the line.
Indeed, it takes a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of 21 days to completely let go of an old belief. Crucially, it takes the same amount to create a new one. If you operate under the belief that you need to eat chocolate every day, and you repeat that each evening when you get home, then you will likely still be eating chocolate every day for the next year. But if you decide to repeat the habit of choosing a healthier option instead of chocolate—and you can stick to it for 10 to 21 days—your chances of kicking the habit forever are much higher.
Often, when people begin to implement the tactics I advise, they come back to me saying “how do I know if it’s working?” or “I tried it a couple of times, it didn’t work.” What these people are missing is that the power of repetition is cumulative. It’s not an instant flash of change, but rather, a slow and gradual nudging of our minds to a more positive and productive place. Often, the shift is imperceptible. When you’re trying to replace bad habits (another form of repetition) with new ones, it’s vital to stick with them for at least three weeks before you feel the effect they are having on you. We repeat negative habits all the time without knowing it; sometimes it takes replacing it with a positive habit for it to stick. Don’t underestimate the simple and enduring power of stubbornly sticking to your goals. And remember we change in one of three ways; immediately, retroactively and cumulatively so don't compare your change to that of others.
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