One million people have watched Lifter Karen Cheng’s time-lapse video about her one year journey learning to dance. The transformation is jaw-dropping.

Watch her performance at Danceinayear.com

What’s fascinating is that it only took Karen 500 hours of practice to get this good. How? By incorporating important behavior design principles into her dance routine.


Karen’s Tips for Learning to Dance

1. Do it Daily.

“Practice every day, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. No exceptions. If I’m not feeling well, I’ll practice exercises that use only my fingers or arms. If I’m really sick, I’ll close my eyes, listen to music, and visualize myself dancing.”

When you build a habit, you’re conditioning your body and brain to perform the behavior automatically. The more frequently you do it (or even think about it), the faster you’ll build the habit loop in your brain. You’ll get so used to performing the habit that you’ll start to crave it, like Karen did.

2. Set yourself up for success.

“Set goals you can control…I started with a promise to dance at least 5 minutes every day. When I got more into it, I upped my goal to 14 hours a week, about 2 hours a day…Weekly goals offer more flexibility than daily ones. It’s not always feasible to dance 2 hours every day — work and life happen. But if I miss a day, I know I’ll have to make up those hours later in the week.”

If the plan you’ve laid out to achieve your goal seems easy, then you’ve designed it right. Start with the smallest step. Karen started with 5 minutes a day but BJ Fogg would suggest something as simple as putting on your dance shoes. Karen set a frequency goal she could achieve (daily practice, total hours per week) but let the duration of each practice change to fit with her schedule.

3. Follow Deliberate Practice

Be smart about how you practice. Don’t just mindlessly dance the same moves over and over. Critique yourself and identify the things you need to work on. If you can coach yourself, you’ll learn much faster.

Karen’s performance is more stunning after you realize that she’s only put in 500 hours of dance practice. Deliberate practice was the key to her quick transformation. Sure, filming yourself takes a lot of work and fear of failure might make you cringe at every incorrect move, but research shows it’s the most effective way to master a skill. And as you can see, you’ll see incremental (or in this case, phenomenal) improvement way before you hit 10,000 hours.

How to start the habit:

Right now: Watch Karen learn to dance in a year.

Then: Get up and dance! Join the habit on Lift and read tips at danceinayear.com