One Hundred Days Of Practice

Golden Flower Meditation Aristotle said that excellence is not an act but a habit.   It is the result of ongoing practice, a pattern of behavior rather than a single effort of will.  Just how much practice is required for something to become habitual?  How long for some excellence (arête) to become a natural part of ourselves?

Malcolm Gladwell wrote that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to truly master a complex activity.  In order to reach that rather daunting figure one would have to build some disciplined habits along the way.   There are lots of numbers offered through history and in more recent psychology.   These seek to tell us how much time and effort is required to make something a true habit.

There is a pop psychology meme that floats around offering 20-something days as sufficient to establish a habit.  I’m not sure where that originated but I find it unconvincing.  Three weeks isn’t much time to change patterns and overcome resistances.  According to the Bible, the prophets of old spent 40 days and nights out in the desert.  Similarly, the Buddha was said to have meditated beneath the bhodi tree for 49 days until he attained enlightenment.  Then again, devoted wilderness ascetics may not represent a norm in human behavior.  A UK study published in The European Journal of Social Psychology cited 66 days.  That might seem helpful until you read that the average was taken from a range of 18 to 254 days.

Some years ago in my study of Chinese martial arts and Taoist concepts I came across another number.  100 days of training comes from Taoist Chi Gung practice.  Specifically, I found it in reading Thomas Cleary’s translation of The Secret of the Golden Flower.  This text of Taoist meditation introduced me to one hundred days as a number for building a foundation of continued meditation, health and martial study.   It was a number mentioned by my Sifu as well.  Over time I have returned to one hundred day periods of practice and training when I have felt the need to give myself a swift kick in the right direction.  Some of these practice periods have met with great success.  Some……well….not so much.

I’m feeling like it is time to go once more unto the breach and commit myself to a one hundred day period.  I want to establish (or reestablish) habits that are part of my personal efforts towards arête and agathos.  I am perhaps mixing cultural metaphors in using a Chinese Taoist method to attain a Greco-Roman ideal.  I’m comfortable with being shameless that way.

I’m trying to keep it simple.  Too many goals and too many daily items in the program just add opportunity for things to break down and lose focus.

  • Daily martial/Chi Gung practice.  This doesn’t mean a killer workout every day.   Some days are hard conditioning and training while some days focus on study of technique and application.  Some days are external and some are internal.  It’s a balance but the desired habit is practice as part of daily life.
  • The game of Go.  My study of the game is erratic.  Consequently, so is my progress.  Some period of time will be found each day to play and/or study games, patterns, etc.
  • Mental exercises from Stoicism.  I’ve talked about being influenced by the Hellenistic philosophical school of Stoicism in this blog.  I want to continue with the daily practices such as those in the Stoic Week experiment I described here and here.
  • Business.  Isn’t a business a daily practice by necessity?  It is in the sense you have to show up and do the work.  That can be just a routine and not a habit that promotes arête.  The habit here is to take some time each day to refine and build through conscious knowledge building, networking, exploring new revenue opportunities, etc.

It may seem like these things don’t all really connect as a coherent program.  But there is a way that they are all unified in what I hope the practice period to accomplish.  All of these contribute to the study of strategy (and or tactics) as part of the conduct of myself in my environment.  They collectively contribute to physical and mental expressions of arete and the agathos ideal.  At least they do for me as I choose to live it.

I’ll talk about the progress (or lack thereof) as the days progress.  If nothing else, it gives me something to write about.

One Response to “One Hundred Days Of Practice”

  1. I am an option trader of one year of experience and lost 60K.I was googling people who lost fortunes and made it back and stumble on your article a,then read more topics.Fascinating!

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