Skill development requires challenging homeostasis

To build muscle tissue, you have to push your body’s homeostatic mechanisms past their normal ability to compensate, at which point your body will strengthen your muscles to re-establish homeostasis. Our neurological structures appear to respond in similar ways, adapting connection networks to make often-used routes easier to traverse (Barnes and Finnerty, 2010).

So if you aim to develop a skill, you need to challenge homeostasis. By pushing into a “new normal” beyond your current comfort zone, your body will respond by making that state easier. At that point, the “new normal” will become the new homeostasis set-point, so you’ll need to push yourself even harder to keep growing. See Purposeful practice, after Ericsson and Pool.

Does ceasing to challenge homeostasis lead to regression?

{Woollett et al} ({2009}) found that retired London cab drivers’ performance at navigational tasks is {poorer than that of full-time London cab drivers, but greater than that of control subjects}.


Barnes, S. J., & Finnerty, G. T. (2010). Sensory Experience and Cortical Rewiring. The Neuroscientist, 16(2), 186–198.

Ericsson, A., & Pool, R. (2016). Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (1 edition). Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Peak - Ericsson and Pool

Last updated 2023-07-13.