Practice Makes Perfect – NOT!

The phrase ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ supposedly tracks back to around 1550-1560. The erroneous nature of the phrase was brought to my attention by a client and the book ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg.

The book explains all about habits – creating habits that are good for us and breaking those that aren’t. Research said 40% of the actions people do every day are habits, not conscious decisions in the moment rather decisions we’ve made previously and now do automatically.

Some interesting comments from the book:

  • As the way of doing something becomes more and more automatic, our brains think less and less (the basal ganglia part of our brains stores habits even while the rest of the brain can go to sleep)
  • The brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine – known as chunking which is the basis of how habits form. Habits are the brain’s way of saving effort.
  • The habit loop starts with a CUE, then the ROUTINE happens (which can be physical, mental or emotional) and the end of the activity is a REWARD. Only when the brain starts expecting the reward – the craving – will the habit become automatic. The cue triggers the routine and also triggers the craving for the reward.
  • The easiest way to change a habit is to change the routine between the cue and reward and belief you can do it. The key is intense self-awareness to understanding the reward and cue.
  • Individuals have habits. Groups or organizations have routines.


Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes automatic. Since the brain can’t tell the difference between a good habit or a bad habit; if you practice the wrong thing you will make it automatic. It’s the difference between the habit of smoking versus going to the gym.

What habit do you want to create that serves your greatest self?